“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Disembiggened O: Hey, At Least They Got The Title Right

Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah for Publishers Weekly, which provides our humble offering, THE BIG O, with its first print review in the U.S. To wit:
The Big O
Declan Burke. Harcourt, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-15-101408-8
While Irish author Burke (Eight-ball Boogie [sic]) has been compared to Elmore Leonard, this effort falls short of Leonard’s superior blending of crime and dark humor. The impending parole of violent armed robber Rossi Francis Assisi Callaghan sets in motion a cascading series of events. Callaghan’s ex-wife, Karen King, herself a thief, fears he’ll come after her, and seeks to get herself some insurance in the form of professional kidnapper Ray Brogan. Ray, in turn, is hired to abduct Karen’s friend, Madge Dolan, by her husband, Frank, a plastic surgeon who wants to cash in a lucrative insurance policy. The waters are further muddied by questions about Callaghan’s parentage and the introduction of a vicious, half-blind dog named Stalin. The broadly drawn figures and situations are clearly not intended to be taken seriously, but the absence of any character a reader is likely to sympathize with is a significant drawback. (Sept.)
  Now, as much as we’d like to take our lumps and crawl away into a hole and cry, it behoves us to stand our ground and make a couple of points, on the basis that anyone who has read the book will notice an error or eight in the plot description that suggests the anonymous reviewer may not have been paying as much attention as he / she should have, and may even have read the book while bungee-jumping. For example, even reading the blurb on the back of the book would have told the reviewer that Karen is not Rossi’s ex-wife, but his ex-girlfriend. A petty detail? Perhaps, although the difference has huge ramifications for their relationship when Rossi gets out. But it’s not the only basic mistake the reviewer made – in fact, the review is so littered with them, I think I’m entitled to ask whether or not the reviewer read the book all the way through.
  But I won’t. Instead, just for japes, I’ll review the review. To wit:
The Big O review reviewed
Anonymous. Publishers Weekly
While American magazine Publishers Weekly has been compared to a serious review publication, this effort falls short of the expected blend of attention to detail and sense of humour. The impending parole of violent armed robber Rossi Francis Assisi Callaghan sets in motion a cascading series of events, even if Rossi Callaghan is not, as the story’s set-up might lead you to believe, a violent character. Nor is he paroled. Callaghan’s ex-wife, Karen King, is not in fact his ex-wife, and nor is she afraid Rossi will come after her. Nor does she seek any kind of insurance from professional kidnapper, Ray Brogan. In fact, when Ray seeks to protect Karen from Rossi, she tells him she can take care of herself, and in no uncertain terms - and as it happens, this much, Karen's independent and feisty character, is so integral to the plot that it was the initial spark of inspiration for the entire story. The review is further muddied by the introduction of a character called 'Stalin', who is actually called by another name, and is only referred to - erroneously - as Stalin by one character. The broadly drawn generalisations and mistakes are clearly not intended to be taken seriously, but the absence of any attention to detail a review reader is likely to expect as a minimum is a significant drawback. (Aug.)
  Ba-doom-tish, etc.