When I pick up a book, whether it has been presented to me for review, or simply because it caught my eye for a well-written blurb, concept, or sometimes just the cover, it is always my intention to go into the read with an open mind and a positive attitude. Someone has sweated and yearned, poured their hearts and minds upon the page. They are opening their soul for your perusal. That sort of endeavour takes guts, without a doubt. It is a part of the author – but it is also a group effort. The writer writes. But then, there must also be those ‘outside eyes’. The eyes of those who see the work as what it is, without the blinders of soul-straining obsession. Editors, proofreaders, publishers, even caring and literate friends, who take the rough work and hone it to a literary knife’s edge.
Ray has much to say in his preface to the book. One of the things he says, that I truly agree with, “. . . fiction writing is an art form of the stature of the artist stoking oils on canvas.” OK, the sentiment works, but the wording? Well, not so much. That should have told me something about what to expect. I absolutely agree with this concept. Fiction writing is, indeed, an art form. However, even artists must hone their craft, accept the help and counsel of teachers and connoisseurs who are versed in the field and know what true ‘art’ is.
Through his own admission, Ray took all of the knowledge and suggestions given to him by erudite and experienced persons, and used it to line the cat box. Apparently, because his own ego refused to accept that his grand capability as a “syntactician’ (his term, not mine) was in any way imperfect.
From his description of his work, I expected a beloved child of Faulkner, Hemingway and James Lee Burke. Eagerly, I dove into the book, expecting the work to draw me into the poetry and the heat, the mystery and the scents of the ‘Grand South’. What I got instead was the bastard offspring of a sixth-grade English composition class for the learning disabled. Southern dialectics can include poor grammar, and with proper writing this simply pulls you into the story allowing you to become part of the scene. I try not to be a ‘Grammar Nazi’ without good cause. However, this book presented a simple case of truly bad writing, with no redeeming qualities. The writing is by turns stiff and pompous, robotic and preening. Even the punctuation was pretentious, which is, admittedly, quite a feat in and of itself.
It is such a shame when authors feel that they are so ‘special’ they don’t have to take advice from willing sources. The idea was interesting. CIA undercover operations, unauthorized transplants, mystery, suspense, thrills and chills and all that jazz. How disappointing that everything fell so short of that goal. I am a huge fan of original Cussler, James Rollins, Russell Blake, Brad Thor, Lee Child, John Sanford, Robert Crais and Steve Berry. The list of great thriller writers is long and distinguished. It is being added to all the time, with upcoming Indie writers such as the amazing Michael Hurley, Gordon Gumpertz, and Eric Martin. That list, also, is long and becoming more distinguished, as their works become better known. So, imagine my distress when this author stands up on his metaphorical soapbox and states that his book is only for “15-55 year old males”. So, wait. If I am a 56-year old male this book isn’t for me? What about the fact that I am a (mumble mumble)-year old female with a huge collection of books in his particular genre? Am I not supposed to read this book either?
My final word to this author, and to others like him would be to actually listen to those whose job it is to take your work and help you to mold it into an object of beauty. Apparently, many people tried to help Ray, and all offers of assistance were shunned. My suggestion to hopeful writers everywhere? Be careful. If your ego is too large to fit in the same house with you, consider allowing yourself to accept the use of a straight pin to pop the darn thing before it sucks all the oxygen out of the universe.