Saturday, September 12, 2009

You didn't read this here

It is considered a professional "no-no" to slam other authors' books so I generally avoid making specific references to those I don't like. And since my feelings about books usually revolve around the writing or clumsy plotting this is easy to do.

This time I'm going to make an exception.

My dear husband very often brings me paperback books to read. Most of the time I like what he finds. Once in a while he lands a real groaner or a book that would appeal more to him than me. That's okay. The fact that he thinks of me when he's shopping is a really big deal.

We have loose (really loose) filing system. There are "books Mary likes enough that she wants to share them with everyone old enough to appreciate them" (it's hell getting that onto a filing label), then "appropriate for mature audiences only", and "books destined for the thrift store" because they're badly written or aren't likely to be reread and I don't think anyone will benefit from my keeping them. Finally there's the rarely used "burn after reading" file. A book has to be pretty awful to earn this title. Pornographic, overwhelmingly bloody, so badly written that it makes me angrily question why I can't get anybody to read my stuff--you know, so awful you don't want anyone to know that you spent your money on it.

Laying in front of me is a book entitled "Secret of the Seventh Son". You can do a search for it if you want to; I'm not even going to link to the description and I'm not going to mention the author's name. The premise is this:

A murderer is on the loose on the streets of New York City: nicknamed the Doomsday Killer, he’s claimed six victims in just two weeks, and the city is terrified. Even worse, the police are mystified – the victims have nothing in common, and all that connects them is that each received a postcard in the mail before they died – a postcard that announced their date of death.

In desperation, the FBI assigns the case to special agent Will Piper, once the most accomplished serial killing expert in the bureau, now on a dissolute spiral to retirement.

Battling his own demons, Will is drawn back into a world he both loves and hates, determined to catch the killer whatever it takes and close out his career. But his search takes him in a direction he never would have predicted, uncovering a shocking secret that has been closely guarded for centuries.

A secret that once lay buried in an underground library beneath an eighth-century monastery, but which has now been unearthed – with deadly consequences. A select few will defend the secret with their lives – and as Will closes in on the truth, they are determined to stop him at any cost.

Sounds just fantastic, right? Should have been gripping, exciting, three kinds of "keep me in my seat until the wee hours, tossing back cups of coffee to stay awake" kind of suspenseful. And the first two chapters were quite good. I settled down for a good read.

Then I met the main character. A drunk. A sexist drunk to be exact, who is in disgrace because he slept with another cop who got mad at him because he wouldn't help her get a raise and so she charged him with sexual harassment. Initially this sparked some sympathy. Poor misunderstood guy who is clearly a "man's man", the kind so frequently victimized by modern society.

But Will lost my sympathy when we met his new partner--her name is Nancy--and his first thought was that she was overweight. He didn't linger on her extensive qualifications; he concentrated on her appearance, describing her as "bulging unattractively" in her clothes, that she needed to lose weight everywhere, that surely there were some cheek bones under there somewhere. Never mind the fact that she had ten times the education he did, that she had worked extraordinarily hard to get where she was. That wasn't relevant.

Now don't misunderstand me. I get it that different men are attracted to different things--some like 'em svelt. Some like 'em with curves, some like blondes, brunettes, tall, short, etc. This wasn't the deal breaker.

I also got it that Will was a little out of step with the times, that he was supposed to be a sexist pig. This was clearly supposed to be part of the plot. Maybe he's going to grow up, I thought. Maybe he'll begin to see her in a different light as they go along. Maybe he'll sober up and maybe she'll lose weight (or not) and maybe they'll work out some pleasant romantic something. Or maybe they'll just be good partners and good friends and he'll come out of it more enlightened.

Fast forward past some decent, but not sparkling, writing and some interesting plot developments. Along the way Nancy does lose weight. And she develops a thing for him. And she tries hard to be the partner he wants as he continues to be a complete and total ass.

We arrive at the night of a dinner party (which, by the way, follows a hotel room tryst with a flight attendant---which was supposed to be okay because Will had helped save her life while in the air, even though he was drunk). The guests--one of them his brilliant daughter who he managed to insult more than once--have gone home. Will is drunk (what a surprise). Nancy, who is by some miracle even more smitten by him at the end the evening than she was at the beginning, sticks around to do the dishes and because the evening was too good (??) to end abruptly.

The hero takes another look at her. He notices how she's lost weight, how she has an "hour glass figure" now, and thinks about how far she's come under his tutelage. How she's matured and changed. And now he wants her. He wants her bad.

And because every beautiful, intelligent woman wants a drunken sot for a bed mate, what does our Nancy do? She sleeps with him of course. After which he realizes he loves her . . .

Have you figured out yet that the author is a male?

Can you guess which file this book is going into?

Anybody got a match?


Debby said...

Need some gasoline?

I buy used books, and I saw a book that had a historical looking cover. I flipped through it quickly, and it looked like predictable light reading. A New York Times best seller. The book was 'Wideacre' and it was complete and utter filth. Old plot line: girl was land so badly but cannot inherit because she is a daughter. So she kills her father. When her brother comes home, she becomes his lover just to maintain control of this land. Etc. I quit reading the book. It was trash, and not even well written trash. I looked at the back cover and realized that there is a series of this trash.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Debby, Egads and yuck. We could become fellow book burners. I buy used books online and at the thrift store. Sometimes there are some real jewels there. Then there are those that are . . . not . . . :)

Dennis Bryant said...

This is the sort of thing I find most discouraging as a writer. Not that my stuff is all that great, but so much of what is on the shelves is simply apalling. If that is what agents and editors are looking for, I'm wasting my time with them. Targeting the reader directly may be an astronomical long shot, but I don't see that I have anything to lose.

Scotty said...

Did someone say fireman? Have hose, will travel.


Debby said...

Bwahahahahaha, Scotty. If you're going to put out our merry little blaze, you're not invited at all!