I first read For Whom the Bell Tolls when I was eighteen. My father had pushed me to read it, and I did out of duty – until I came to the scene near the end of the book when Sordo and his men were trapped on the hill by the Fascist soldiers. Up until then I had read the book breezily and had not been particularly impressed, but as I read that scene I was blown away by the power and depth of feelings it evoked. It then occurred to me that maybe the book was a whole lot better than I thought. So I did something I had never done before or since – I stopped reading at that point and began the book again, and discovered that the greatness of the book had been there all along – but I had missed it.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of reading several book reviews on Einstein’s Trunk, and I wanted to call attention to one book review service that I found particularly interesting and constructive. It’s called Sqeaky Clean Reads and it can be found at: http://www.squeakycleanreads.com/
This website is run by a group of ladies who operate under the motto ‘Movies have ratings, why not books.’ Here is their modus operandi: They read and review a book and, at least from the reviews I’ve read, spend more time and detail on the book’s good points than on its weaknesses – yet still manage to tactfully and respectfully point out a book’s areas for improvement. They then rate the book as to profanity, violence, sexual content, maturity of theme, and appropriate age-group. The net result is that they provide a service to authors as well as to readers.
Most people are generally sensitive about their work. But most authors need – indeed crave – honest feedback from people they trust. If a book reviewer makes an honest effort to see a book’s good points, the author will most likely be open to the constructive criticisms as well – it’s just human nature – and perhaps write a better book next time.
My next post will be my observations in regards ‘writing style’ in thrillers.
Towards the end of the second season of PB, a new villain emerges, an old, well-dressed man who doesn’t communicate verbally with his minions except via short notes on little pieces of paper. What a great device for a villain! – he behaves according to the rules of an unseen world – a world of Big Brother electronic eavesdropping which he probably helped to create.
My theory is that thrillers – both books and movies – in a Darwinian way, are a reflection of society’s current attitudes towards categories of people. I say Darwinian because a book that chose, let’s say, the Royal Canadian Mounties, as the diabolical bad guys, no matter how well written, would most likely so confuse people that no self-respecting agent would represent it – and therefore never get published. So Islamic terrorists, crooked politicians, mad scientists, Nazis, eco-terrorists, super criminals, secret government agencies, and drug-kingpins – they’ve all had their day in the sun in post WW2 thrillers and have all been richly accepted as villains. And probably in their heyday all reflected a deap-seated societal fear.
Today, I’m seeing Islamic terrorists dwindle as the thriller villains dejour and the invisible super-rich rise to take their place – and I wonder if that is saying something significant about American society. When the culture chooses as its villain a shadowy, amorphous enemy with tentacles everywhere manipulating world events, does that imply that society feels pummeled by forces it can’t see, fight, or comprehend – and that the citizens see themselves as confused and manipulated. Hmmm…sobering if true.
My next posting will be on ‘bad language’ and why you won’t find any in Einstein’s Trunk.
Zurich, June 8, 2011
Zurich, May 2, 2011
Right now Einstein’s Trunk is being sold by well over 80 resellers. Those resellers are mostly from the U.S. but many are from all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India, most of the countries in Europe, and many from countries whose languages I don’t recognize. (Note: I’m hoping one of those is Communist China and that president Hu Jintao will require all his citizens to own a copy of ET – ala the little Red Book – but that’s another story.)
Many of those resellers carry a short description of the book that was written by my publisher Cedar Fort, but a few have written descriptions of their own. There have also been a few reviews on websites that provided plot summaries, and I’ve personally received emails from people telling me what they thought of ET. In all of these descriptions very few have picked up the importance of Revenge in ET.
Even though ET has an end-of-the-world threat, that threat won’t play out unti April 13, 2029. I chose that date, by the way, because that is the date when Apophis, a real asteroid that at one time had the highest probability of striking the earth as calculated by the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, is supposed to hit.
ET is not about saving the world. ET is about people, many of whom either know nothing about the asteroid threat or who are sceptical about it, who get caught up in the riddle of the trunk and from there descend in a downward spiral of revenge. In the course of fulfilling an assignment from their country, several Russian agents get put in the hospital by Rulon Hurt. At that point the hunt for the trunk becomes secondary while balancing the ledger vs. Rulon becomes the primary goal. ET is about revenge and its negative consequences. And, I suppose, also about the healing power of love and forgiveness. The theme of revenge continues in the sequel which I’ve just completed. If the first two books sell reasonably well, then I have plans for a third where saving the world will be the primary plot driver.
In my next posting I will talk about villians.
Zurich, April 23, 2011