Released on July 14, Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman has already sold more than 1.1 million copies amidst much conjecture about its origins and publication. Add to that the new book’s characterization of the beloved Atticus Finch as a born again racist, and you have controversy in the book world that, among other things, sells books. The fact that I don’t have to tell you who Atticus Finch is is proof of the wide-ranging extent of the debate. Continue reading
I’ve just read an article in National Review entitled “Genres Without Borders.” It was written by Otto Penzler, the owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. It’s a thumbnail sketch of the history of genre fiction.
According to Mr. Penzler, fiction was just fiction until 1922. A writer was judged on the merits of his work, regardless of the subject matter. With the publication of The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot, and Ulysses by James Joyce–neither of which is easily accessible to the average reader–critics sprang up to explain what it all meant, and the critical enterprise expanded to include Homer, Chaucer and Shakespeare, authors who heretofore had not required interpretation. Continue reading
“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.”–Oscar Wilde
Wikipedia defines “aphorism” as a “terse saying, expressing a general truth, principle, or astute observation, and spoken or written in a laconic or memorable form.” Few writers approach Oscar Wilde in the expression of such bons mots. Continue reading
I believe that most novelists these days–especially those without the support of the establishment publishing industry–look at a “book review” as an opportunity to market their work. And, for those fortunate enough to generate enthusiasm on Amazon and Goodreads and the social media, a gush of posted “reviews” is a mark of success even if the book doesn’t sell very well. In this era of “Everyman” reviews, each one usually comes down to whether or not the reviewer liked the book which, in turn, generally means the reviewer found the story appealing or otherwise. They are the most primitive and profuse form of literary criticism. Continue reading
The critique of the first draft of Lucifer’s Promise is finished, and the revisions have begun. The primary criticisms are: 1) Too much exposition early in the novel, and 2) Willful ignorance of reality regarding one of the principal ideas. I attribute the first problem, which has arisen to one degree or another when writing all my books, to my legal training. Briefs and arguments in court always begin with a recitation of the facts before getting to the meat of the case. A novel, on the other hand, requires that something important be revealed early on in order to engage the reader’s attention. Continue reading
Recently, a review of The Black Owls appeared in the Myrtle Beach Sun-News, daily circulation 50,000. It is, by and large, a good review for which I am properly grateful (everybody appreciates a good review), but it raises two issues that I think are worthy of discussion. Both arise out of the conventions of genre fiction, in this case thrillers, a topic I’ve addressed in these pages before. Although my new book, The Kingfishers (due out in a few weeks), is also a “thriller,” I’m a reluctant author of genre fiction due in large part to the very questions raised in this review. As noted there, I “twist” the conventions and, as a consequence, neither book is a “true” thriller as the Sun-News reviewer indicates, though there’s lots of action and suspense in both. Continue reading