Have you ever read a book by a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and suspected it was an earlier work? This morning I finished a book that left me with that impression.
Most established writers, embarrassed by fledgling mistakes, wish early novels would disappear. So why would an award-winning author allow a recycled manuscript to be published? The only likely scenario is that the author’s books were selling like hotcakes and the publisher kept asking for more – Don’t you have a finished manuscript somewhere? Good, let’s publish it. It doesn’t matter if it was written twenty-five years ago in high school. Readers won’t know the difference.
Guess what? We do know the difference. Of course, all of this is guesswork on my part. Hence the reason I’m not naming the source. Call me a coward, a chicken, or a great garrulous gazetteer. You wouldn’t be the first. And you’d be right.
Seriously, I’ve read better books – a lot better. My deduction is the story was written in the late 70s. And then it was updated – here and there. Just enough to make it seem…off. Poor editing resulted in a conglomeration of decades. Television shows are a dead giveaway. The suspect was watching what when he was arrested? That combined with a ‘modern day’ show mentioned elsewhere in the book didn’t jive. That’s only one example of the slapdash updating. It was downhill from there.
This book came out thirteen years and mega books after the author hit it big. I could be sympathetic if this was a newbie breaking into the field after years (and years) of trying to get their first novel published. Then I’d chaulk it up to inexperience – not an attempt to fulfill a contract.
Cell phones and computers were amongst the biggest gaffes, mixing old and new. Give me a break. If ‘they’ didn’t have the time or inclination to do a thorough edit, ‘they’ should have published the manuscript as is.
Of course, there were other problems. The dialogue sounded contrived and overworked. Implausible speech patterns disrupted the flow of the book. It didn’t read like the work of an accomplished author.
The info dumps were the worst. Believe me, I’ve been caught on that one myself. Info dumps stick out like a sore thumb to me now. Experienced authors and editors would never, or at least should never, make such obvious mistakes.
Writing fiction requires a lot of research. For instance, I like to know everything about the geographical location of my story, and some of the things I trip over in research are fascinating – they have nothing to do with the storyline but they are indeed fascinating – to no one else but the researcher. If these gems don’t add to the story – don’t add them to the story.
In this particular crime novel, there were a million (slight exaggeration) gems that were irritating to read but I tucked them away thinking they contained a clue or two. Nope.
A lot of technical jargon is familiar to crime genre readers. Don’t insult the reader by going into detail – mucho detail – about everything. We know. We’ve heard of that procedure in other books, we’ve seen it in all its gory detail on television crime shows. You wasted thousands of words on this stuff. If you were trying to impress the reader with your knowledge, you didn’t succeed. Quite the opposite, it sounded amateurish.
Last but not least was the annoyingly distended number of characters. Every character in the book, no matter how minor (i.e. a waitress who made only one brief (coffee pouring) appearance) had a name. They all had names and attributes – bus drivers, cabbies, pets, janitors – minor minor characters – not even characters, a mere fleeting presence. A mishmash of people that added zilch to the story. Amateurish with a capital A and confusing with a capital C.
I have another three books by this author on my desk. After I’ve read all of them, I should be able to tell whether this particular one was dusted off to cash in on the author’s success.
Sometimes a writer will thank the agent or editor in the acknowledgements. I checked this book front to back looking for a clue to their identity. Nothing. Maybe there’s a reason for that.