The Sound of One Hand Reading

The Killers are delighted to welcome bestselling suspense author
Eric Stone to the blog today. Eric writes the Ray Sharp series of detective thrillers, which are set in Asia and based on true stories.

There are 36 Spenser novels by Robert Parker. (I just counted them on his website.) I know a whole lot about what Spenser and his girlfriend (or maybe she’s his wife by now, I haven’t read one in quite some time) Susan Silverman eat. I know pretty much about what they wear. Or at least what they used to wear; fashions change, maybe even for them. I know they have sex, because often as not, after they’ve whipped up some pasta and a salad or grilled something and opened a bottle of reputable wine, they pad off to bed, closing the door discreetly behind them.

Now it could well be, it likely is, that after all those books together Spenser and Susan have pretty dull sex. Sure, in those earlier books, behind those closed doors, they probably took turns tying each other up, they got out some toys, indulged in some role playing. Maybe Spenser liked to try and squeeze into her panties or had a thing for leather or latex or a bit of the old bite and punch and tickle. But they’ve been together for quite some time and if their relationship is like most people’s, well, you know, they’ve probably got other things on their minds.

But we’ll never know.

I want to know.

Maybe not so much about Spense and Sue anymore, but you know what I mean. Call my interest prurient if you will, but I think the details of what people do in the sack with each other are at least as interesting and important to understanding what makes them tick as the fact that they’ve just consumed a spring garden salad, pasta primavera and an insouciant early harvest Bordeaux.

Sex is important. Biologically speaking, it’s the only reason we bother to survive at all. It’s the deep down dark dirty driving force behind a whole lot of plots and schemes and actions.

When and where and what and how someone feels and what they do when they – and yes, I’m about to be crass about this – want to get laid, pursue getting laid, get laid and have got laid – tells you something about them. It can tell you a lot. I think it tells you more about them than what they had for dinner does.

But it’s mostly off limits. Many of the books that are considered quite sexy, are really rather tame, not very explicit. It’s okay to tease, tantalize or titillate your reader, but apparently not to fully turn them on.

Why not? I’ve read more than a few reviews that refer favorably to mouth-watering descriptions of meals that sent the reader straight to their refrigerator. I have yet to read a review in which the reviewer owns up to having happily read the book one handed. (There, wasn’t that discreet of me?)

There’s a lesbian sex scene in SHANGHAIED, my new book that is coming out at the end of June. It’s the first one I’ve ever written. I think the details (the very basic mechanics) of it tell you a lot about the characters involved. But then, not being a lesbian, or even a woman, I was nervous about my qualifications for writing the scene.

So I sent it to a lesbian friend of mine for her critique; technical and otherwise. The next day she told me that she and her girlfriend both read it, then ended up in a nice, long, hot, steamy, soapy shower together. Maybe I should ask her for a blurb.


Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Paul Levine, Tim Maleeny, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

19 thoughts on “The Sound of One Hand Reading

  1. Welcome Eric! For my softboiled books, sometimes I’ve been grateful that the audience doesn’t want too much detail in the sex scenes. When I do go into mechanics, they’re usually played for humor, which can take away the steam! I’m dying to read that lesbian sex scene in your book, though. You said how you got a review–but how did you do your initial research, grin?

  2. In my books, I like to make the sex not only graphic but with inappropriate people at inappropriate time. A good sex scene is a joy in and of itself, but done right, it can also complicate the charaters’ lives in wys that affect the story for the rest of the book.

    Also, you just sold a copy of Shanghiad to me. Looking forward to it.

    Victor Gischler

  3. Happy Easter Sunday.

    I bet the Virgin Mary is spinning in her tomb under the inverted Pyramid in Paris.

    Personally I don’t know how many people want to read a graphic lesbian sex scene, or any other graphic sexual encounter, but I’m sure I’d be surprised by the numbers. I don’t go into graphic details of sexual liaisons in my books. With sex, although I’m certainly not a prude, I’ll let the pornographers keep me informed.

  4. Great post! I recently read The Secret Tunnel by James Lear, which was a pretty heady mix of mystery and gay erotica. I always have a sex scene or two in my books because I think they’re important to character development– in my case, because I write about a gay homicide detective and his personal life is just as important as his professional one.

  5. I also think authors forget that sex isn’t always good. Fictional sex that’s uniformly hot and porno-perfect can be boring and silly, but I really enjoy reading ugly, painful, awkward or unfulfilling sex scenes. Even good sex with occasional glitches or less-than-stellar moments can be very intimate and revealing. I agree 100% with Eric when he says the things that turn a character on (and the way they go about making those things happen) can give real depth and complexity to your characters.

  6. I’m no expert on lesbian sex, and I’m of the “discreetly closing the bedroom door” school of writing myself. I have read one of Eric’s books, however, and his descriptive skills are considerable, as his lesbian friend can likely attest.

  7. Hmm, well Eric, I’ll just look it over when you come in and I’ll give you my opinion!


    Honestly, I tend to skim past sex scenes in most books, since they appeal (insofar as sex scenes appeal) to the majority, and that I ain’t, but I will certainly take a good. . .long. . .look at this particular scene. In the interests of accuracy, naturally! LOL.

    Well done on trying something outside your area of expertise, Eric! It’s taking on a challenge like that that keeps writing fresh and new and fascinating, in my opinion.

  8. Hi Eric-

    I’m afraid I follow the Spenser method of sex scenes in books, maybe because I’m still painfully aware that my parents are my first readers. But also, in my thrillers there isn’t usually a lot of spare time for the characters to break from chasing a killer/disarming a bomb/etc for a good solid romp in the sack.

    That being said, in David Corbett’s book “Blood Of Paradise” there’s an amazing knock-down, drag-out sex scene early on that’s just killer, and really sets the tone for the book.

  9. An interesting variety of comments. I do very much like the point Christa made about sex in books all too often being too perfect. I’m probably somewhat guilty of that myself. Next book, I promise to write a really sloppy, messed up,clumsy sex scene, awkward, inept, so bad they just give up part way through it and put their clothes back on. That should be fun. I mean it.

    It was fun trying to write a sex scene that I have no personal experience of. On the other hand, I have some personal experience of some of the elements of it, and I like to think that I do pay attention to what’s going on with my partners.

  10. Christa’s got a great point. I wonder if Susan Silverman has ever thought about getting down with Hawk?

    God knows I have.

    I’ll leave Eric to imagine, and write, any further details!

    word verification (I swear this is true): fooducto

  11. Oh, Hawk was always more sexy than Spencer, lol!

    I enjoyed your article Eric. As for sex scenes, it depends upon the story line. Writing sex or violence, and language for the sake of spicing up a book, is never good. But if it fits the characters and storyline, yes. Then it adds to the story.

    I don’t have a problem with hot sex scenes if the author also skillfully builds the sexual tension so the reader is ready for, or wants to see, the scene when it happens. Otherwise, it’s like too much like go to the bedroom, insert A into B without any foreplay. Sex doesn’t have to be graphic unless the story calls for it.

    And you’re correct good, bad, or awkward sex can tell you much about what makes a character tick.

    I’ll have to look at Shangai, I haven’t seen it before today.

  12. Okay, to an extent I have to agree. What’s the point if no one reads it with one hand? Just like what’s the point of writing a highly emotional scene and the reader doesn’t cry?

    But first and foremost, a sex scene is just a scene with sex in it. It still needs to move the plot and reveal character.

    Lastly, I think Susan could take me, so I’d settle for Hawk.

  13. Very few writers can do justice to sex. It’s usually clumsy instead of smooth or hilarious instead of passionate. It’s usually cliched and it’s almost always boring as hell.

    Janet Evanovich is one writer who has written some decent sex scenes in her Stephanie Plum series. (I’m a Ranger girl;~) By employing an economy of description and leaving out blow by blow accounts, the results are effective.

    Unless you’re writing erotica, or down’n’dirty porn, less is more when it comes to sex scenes. I will easily paint my own mental pictures, thank you very much.

    PS… I can do without the menus, too. And why don’t the characters ever watch TV?

    But that’s just me.

  14. There are sex scenes in books? I thought only National Geographic and the Kinsey study covered those topics……

    Seriously, if it’s not part of the character, don’t force it on the story.

  15. I used to do some creative editing for newbie writers, back when I had time. One guy wrote a sex scene where he had so obviously inserted himself (pun intended) in the role of the third person protagonist, it was embarrassing to read. On top of that (pun intended), the premise of the scene was so unintentionally preposterous, it was hysterical. I laughed myself to tears. I wish I could share the details, but of course, it would be unethical.

    It’s wise to get a second opinion.

  16. A fantastic topic. In my first effort at writing a novel, I glossed over the obligatory sex scene, since I felt it didn’t add to the story so much and would have seemed tacked on. And, I wonder if I had included it, if I would have simply written a generic play-by-play scene or something of literary merit. 🙂

  17. I see nothing wrong with sex scenes. In fact, I do think they add more regarding the characters. Why we can go into detail on everything but sex is ridiculous to me.

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