Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Untouchables.....?

The TBR pile never seems to get any smaller, does it? For every novel you take off it, you add on another two or three. But the fun of the TBR is the moment when you come across something you've been looking forward to, the novel you kept back as a special treat for the day when you'd finished the several you already had on the go, so you could give it your full, undivided attention. That happened to me the other day when I reached out and found the last book by one of my favourite male authors in the TBRs. Brilliant! get stuck in, because this is going to be great.

Waves of disappointment followed. The book's all but unreadable.

Now, this is a writer whose books I'd normally fight for. Some of his novels are up there in my best-ever-reads list, stories that have made me gasp at their brilliance, cry at their emotion. Real keepers. But this one's a clunker. I'm just over a hundred pages in, and Nothing. Has. Happened.

It's one of those books with a big cast of characters, seemingly disparate individuals whose lives become inextricably connected through one event. You know the sort of thing. But my favourite author has decided, in what I'd normally be happy to describe as his infinite wisdom but not this time, to introduce each character in a chapter - or, gawd help us, chapters - of their own, by liberal use of the dreaded B-word.


Now, just to clarify, I'm not big on rules. They're made to be broken, and a skillful writer can break all the rules s/he wants and I wouldn't notice or care. If you can do it well, you can do what you want. But, this isn't done well. It's page after page of backstory, and it's deadly dull. If acres of character description and background in-fill was what I knew I was going to get, then fair enough, but I was really hoping for the sort of story this guy usually does so brilliantly, and it's just not there.

A quick peek at the Amazon reviews for this one proves I'm not the only disappointed reader out there, either.

Okay, writers sometimes get it wrong, but they're not in a vacuum here, are they? They have agents. They have editors. Where was the editor in this case? Or is it just that this writer has got so big, nobody edits him any more?

Is he now one of that elite band of untouchables?

If that's the case, then more fool him and his publishers, because they've been left with one great big turkey on their hands. I wonder if they care? I wonder if he cares?

A similar thing recently with the hoo-haa over Ricky Gervais and his, shall we say, unique presentation style at the Golden Globe awards, where he took pot-shots at some Hollywood golden geese.

Now, there's some debate about how far he went and what lines he crossed, but I'm not going to get into that here. What is true, though, is just like the bloke who used to whisper in the ear of the homecoming victorious Roman generals that despite all the laurels and ticker-tape they're still mere mortals like the rest of us, Mr. Gervais pointed out to a certain number of the movie-world elite that they're not untouchable.

Because one thing's for sure - if you've been in the movie business for twenty-five years, you surely must be able to spot a turkey coming right at ya. And if you're too dim/arrogant/out of touch to see that for yourself, you certainly pay an awful lot of people around you, from agents to managers to general hangers-on, substantial amounts of dosh to spot those oncoming birds.

So, if you've made more money than the annual GDP of many small nations, and that money's come from the bums-on-seats that went to see your movies and made you such a box-office draw, then when you serve them up with a turkey, they have every right to point that fact out to you. So don't wince and squirm in your seat and act all hurt and hard done by when it happens because, hey, that's the job you're paid to do and this time, you did it very badly.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I dunno. A lot of top writers get away with a lot of stuff, because they're just that, 'top' writers. A lot of 'top' actors get away with indulging themselves with a lot of crap. People will buy the books anyway, and people will still pay to see movies.....up to a point, anyway. I won't be buying that author's next book until I've read a lot of reviews - then I'll decide whether to waste my money or not.

As for the Hollywood elite, there's an awful lot of movies - and a few actors in particular - that won't be seeing my bum on a seat for a while.

Untouchables, my a...erm, my bottom.


  1. Hi, Jane--the untouchables. I do know what you mean. If I were guessing, I'd say this particular author is "too big to fail." Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
    Or maybe his agent/editor/publisher allowed him to experiment, write something he didn't ordinarily. That usually doesn't work--for the author or the reader.
    Has he only become lazy, and as Elmore Leonard said, "Leave out the hoop-te-doodle, the part no one reads, the parts readers skip--like backstory and description.
    Good blog, Jane--makes me think. Celia

  2. Hi Celia, I'm all for experiment! Don't think that what it was, though. I just have this sneaking suspicion that no-one really edited it for anything other than proofing. That, or his usual reader either didn't read it or didn't see it. Maybe he's just got too comfortable/untouchable after all. Such a shame!

    Jane x