“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

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.

13 comments:

Gerard Brennan said...

Hah, nice review of a shit review of a great book!

As someone who's read and enjoyed it, I spotted the errors. I'm sure when the reviewers across the pond actually start reading The Big O, the positive reviews will materialise.

Keep 'er lit!

gb

bookwitch said...

Yes, I was about to say that it didn't sound like the book I read. Then I started to worry about your state of mind in publishing the review here. But you're not as feeble minded as you look. Great review of the review. Will you show it to them?

Uriah Robinson said...

'Absence of any character a reader is like to sympathize with'.....What utter rubbish.
Frank is a crap plastic surgeon with difficult daughters in financial trouble and planning to have his wife kidnapped.
Anyone in the medical field could clearly identify and certainly sympathise with Frank.;0)

I have lost count of the number of books that have been skimmed by professional reviewers with major errors in their reviews.

The BIg O is perhaps just too intellectual and funny for the transatlantic market. ;0)

Declan Burke said...

Much obliged for the big-ups, folks. No, I won't be showing it to them, Ms Witch - the guy or gal screwed up badly, and that's annoying, but I'd rather have a bit of fun with it than stamp my feet. Life goes on, and there's always another dirty nappy to change.

Uriah - The Big O intellectual? Crikey, squire, what kind of pills are you on? And how come you're not sharing them around? As for the 'transatlantic market' - I couldn't start to tell you how generous many, many people Stateside have been to The Big O. I think the issue is that the reviewer skim-read the book, as you suggest, not their nationality. But I do appreciate the support, sir ...

Gerard - She remains lit, sir. Never fear ...

Cheers, Dec

Ray said...

Congratulations, Dec, you've scored your first inaccurate and slightly sniffy PW review!

One of us, one of us, one of us ...

krimileser said...

Frank is a crap plastic surgeon with difficult daughters in financial trouble and planning to have his wife kidnapped.
Anyone in the medical field could clearly identify and certainly sympathise with Frank.;0)


Anyone ?

Uriah, name the weapon and the location !

And then we meet at sunset.

Uriah Robinson said...

Krimileser don't take my comments too seriously except that The Big O is a great read.
I found my review and I read every gorgeous word

http://camberwell-crime.blogspot.com/2008/01/burkes-law-big-o.html

krimileser said...

Uriah,

let'a agree.

You take me as seriously as I take you -:) and we both take ourselves less seriously than Declan's books.

Uriah Robinson said...

Agreed Krimileser.
Since Dec mistook me for Salman Rushdie at Crime Fest in Bristol I have taken myself far too seriously as well as canceling a holiday in Teheran.
;0)

Anonymous said...

We at publishers weekly are much to busy being clever and laughing at our own jokes to actually read the books we review.
When you write us checks as big as Cornwell and Patterson do, lets talk.

Claire Coughlan said...

The book reviewed sounds completely alien to The Big O I read. Reviewers: what do they know? Don't let it get you down. If it's any consolation at all, I don't much care for Elmore Leonard, but love The Big O. And so do a lot of other people.

Declan Burke said...

Again, folks, ta for the big-ups. Anon - far as I know, PW have big problems at the moment, and they're restructuring, which doesn't excuse the blatant mistakes, but makes them more understandable, maybe. Claire - you may not care much for Elmore Leonard, but he speaks very highly of you, ma'am ... And I won't let it get me down, don't worry about that. Cheers, Dec

Anonymous said...

Would you be pissed off if it was a positive review but still got some plot details wrong? Ha?