I wanted to be writing a “Book Thoughts” post today, but I haven’t quite finished The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork.
Oh my. This is a book to savor. Gorgeous, evocative, and worrisome. Plus, I am dragging my heels (eyes?) a bit – I am worried about the ending. I’ve been worried about the ending for quite a while. So much that I am actually NOT reading the last page/chapter before I get there – which I have been known to do.
The other night we had a critique group meeting and one of my brilliant fellow critiquers made an off-hand remark that dialogue should reveal emotion more than plot. And that the action/story needed to be told outside of dialogue. It was in the midst of another important discussion and not long after we were booted from our spot, so I didn’t tackle her and force her to tell me more, but this comment has stuck with me the last few days.
Well, the dialogue in The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is brilliant.
Because so much of the story is based on the developing friendship between tough guy boxer Pancho and philosophical and frail D.Q., there are a lot of conversations between the two of them as they journey out into the world – and also inward, into their hearts and souls.
Book Description: When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony’s Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he’ll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister’s killer. But then he’s assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his “Death Warrior’s Manifesto,” which will help him to live out his last days fully–ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister’s murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q. said she would be; and he is inexorably drawn to a decision: to honor his sister and her death, or embrace the way of the Death Warrior and choose life.
Nuanced in its characters and surprising in its plot developments–both soulful and funny–Pancho & D.Q. is a “buddy novel” of the highest kind: the story of a friendship that helps two young men become all they can be.
Some ways dialogue is used to enrich this story:
- Early in their relationship, Pancho and D.Q. talk, except that each boy is talking about something different. There is a gap of disconnect between them.
- While traveling in the car, Pancho sits in the back seat and listens to a conversation between D.Q. and Father Concha – there are few to no dialogue tags and yet we don’t need them. And, even though Pancho is mostly silent, he’s a part of the conversation through his inner thoughts.
- What is NOT said between the two friends is often as important as what IS said.
- Later in the book, when their friendship is more solid, there is a conversation between them as they lay in their beds in the dark. There are no fillers here – no action, no inner thoughts, no sensory reminders, just talk. As it would be in the dark. Intimate, straight conversation.
And any writer needs to read this post by Francisco X. Stork.
Dole out gentle mercy to yourself…
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK