In betwixt a heavy bout of editing, I have read a few books. While I normally review books by indie authors, or new unknown ones, I thought I’d look at some number one bestsellers. Because, if they aren’t indie published, they all seem to be number one bestsellers. All books courtesy of my neighbour who clearly thinks I don’t have enough books to read.
To start with: Tess Gerritson, and her first book, Call After Midnight. It’s the only book of hers I’ve read, and she obviously changed direction after that, first writing romances, and then going on to homicide detective plus medical examiner pairing. Standard crime fodder I suppose. Anyway, Midnight was good, it was a spy sort of thing, set in Europe about a missing American, who naturally, had a double life. It was well-paced, had a few unexpected events and wasn’t totally predictable, so made an enjoyable read. Based on that, I’d give her crime stories a go.
Next, Kathy Bones Reichs and her forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. First, no I haven’t seen the TV series. Second, I read in one of many how-to-write pieces of advice, that when you are an expert in something, it is not a good idea to bore the reader with your amazingly detailed knowledge, eg if you are into sailing please don’t write about every single knot, how to tack, flip the mainsail or spar rib or whatever one does in a sailing boat, just keep it short and sweet. Clearly Reichs has not read this sort of advice as we get excruciating detail about every bone in the body, and the need to scrape the flesh off. Not only gruesome, but boring. The saving grace is her off-off ex who is quite a reasonable character. I read Mortal Remains, Flash and Bones, and 206 Bones, which was easily the worst as it was glaringly obvious what was going on.
If you cut out all the detailed descriptions of piecing together the bone jigsaw puzzles, and the tedious information dumps when Reichs feels like boring us with a different topic eg how America went about collecting bits of dead soldiers from Vietnam and trying to identify them and the set-up of the organisations involved to do that, then the books would be half the length. It’s interesting material, just not the way Reichs writes it up.
Seriously, if your average Indie author submitted books like that, it would be red-penned from here to eternity. Which apparently was filmed on a beach in Hawaii, mentioned in one of the above books. Can’t remember which, as they all blur into one really. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.
I’ll finish with British author Martina Cole who clearly, despite being another number one bestseller, has also not been on a creative writing course. Hey, but why should she? In fact she runs them. She’s sold more than 14 million books in the UK, has a grade two listed manor house in Kent, and a house in Cyprus. Who am I to criticise?
But onto the book, The Business. It’s about, as apparently many of her books are, the established London underworld, in this case mainly loans, drugs and prostitution. It’s really the story of a family, and how one woman, who is a prostitute and a functioning addict, manages to wreck an awful lot of lives while sailing blissfully through it all on her heroin cloud.
It’s a gritty story, and okayish. So what’s wrong with the book, apart from everything? The style. The pace. The lack of feeling and emotion. It’s all told in distant third party, like a reportage seen through a long distance telescope. The reader never gets close to any characters. I ended up admiring the junkie prostitute for her sheer selfishness and drive. Perhaps that was the idea? The writing oozes tell not show, ie, it tells the reader what is happening all the time by explaining everything in boring detail, instead of varying the pace by showing actions and emotions, and there is endless passive writing. I nearly copied a paragraph as an example, but it was too soporific.
More about Martina.
In this article, Cole says she knows she doesn’t write literature, but her readers like a good story.
However, I’d like to suggest there are good stories, and yes hers are okay. And, there are good stories that are well written, or stories that are so good, you are too busy turning the pages to analyse the writing style. Those are truly good stories, and sadly, for me, Cole’s book did not fit into that category.
But, it’s interesting. These people are no better writers than many who write and self publish, I have read better writing by self published authors, yet, by whatever fluke, Cole, Gerritson and Reichs had a lucky break, and are bestsellers. Such is life.
Meanwhile in the interval, for the first time in 18 months, I give you … the beach. Yes, roughseas finally staggered down there, not once, but twice. Next up? Back on the bike. Although maybe not just yet.
One of the things I try and keep up with is words. New words, changing words, archaic words, rare words.
The Oxford Dictionary has announced its Word of the Year. Except it’s not a word. It’s an emoji. Dear me. What does that say about our ever-decreasing standards of literacy?
It’s ‘Face with Tears of Joy’.
One I never use. It’s not really a British thing. Seems rather OTT.
The other short-listed words were:
- sharing economy
- ad block
- on fleek
- Dark Web
- lumbersexual (which sounds very Pythonesque)
There is a poll on the OED website for readers to vote for their fave, so I thought I’d do the same :) Link to OED also gives word definitions if you don’t regularly use on fleek (?!?)
And as a bonus you can also have a guess at which word I voted for. If you want.