Essay on Silent Joe
by T. Jefferson Parker
Student: Eric Kasum
Advisor: Rachel Pollack
February 21, 2004 - Winter/Spring
I first heard about Silent Joe at the Bare Bones Writers Retreat, held in the mountains above San Diego by the Sisters In Crime. T. Jefferson Parker, its author, was invited to speak. The buzz: "I couldn't put the book down." Everyone seemed to agree that Silent Joe was the best-written character they'd ever seen. I never read murder mysteries. Don't like 'em. But I picked up a copy of Silent Joe.
From the first page, T. Jeff Parker salt-and-peppers every paragraph, every line of dialogue, with hints about Joe's character. By the inciting incident - his adopted father, Will, is murdered by gang members and Joe vows revenge - we are fully hooked into the story. After spending 20 pages with Joe, I want to kill the guys who murdered his adopted father too.
It's my belief that the secret desire of every reader is to unwrap a story like a Christmas present. First they inspect the outside of the package, then they shake the box and try to guess what's inside, then they pull off the bow, then they tear at the paper. It's a process of discovery. And we love the "tickle-tickle ha-ha" of being forced to wait until Christmas morning. T. Jeff Parker could have served Joe's life to us on a TV dinner tray. In his ninth novel, he could have gone for the jugular of Joe's ugliness, appealing to our pity or to the macabre curiosity that forces us to slow down and ogle a fatal accident hoping to catch a splash of blood. But no, that would've been too easy. By making us wait, breathlessly as it turns out, for...