Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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, February 1, 2013

To Care Or Not To Care, That Is The Question

The most recent Amazon review for EIGHTBALL BOOGIE runs like this:
“Attempt at slick writing in the style of Mickey Spillane, doesn’t quite pull it off. Hope to see more sophisticated, streamlined writing in future. Shows promise but local research insufficient for subject matter.” (three stars) – Frances Heneghan
  10 things about that:
  1. I hadn’t read a single Mickey Spillane novel before writing EIGHTBALL, and I’ve only read two since, the second to confirm that my dislike of Mickey Spillane’s writing wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction.
  2. I too hope to see ‘more sophisticated, streamlined writing’ from myself in the future, providing a particular story requires it. If the story demands a more rough ‘n’ tumble approach, then that’s what it’ll get.
  3. The ‘local research’ for EIGHTBALL entailed living in the place where it’s set for over two decades. Maybe I should have spent three.
  4. Three stars feels about right for a debut novel that throws the proverbial kitchen sink at a Ray Chandler homage. On my bad days, of which there are many, this being one, three stars feels like it errs on the generous side.
  5. On my good days, of course, I wouldn’t care what anyone thinks about EIGHTBALL, positive or negative, because I’d be (a) writing something new or (b) basking in the glow of having written something new.
  6. Unfortunately, not caring is not a good thing, because every writer worth his or her salt writes for readers, hoping to fire their imaginations, emotions, reactions. Which makes writing a psychological high-wire act of sorts: you do care about what readers think of your stories, but you can’t afford to care too much or otherwise you’ll lose your balance and topple off. And there’s no safety net.
  7. This is a very odd and potentially destabilising way to live your life.
  8. Still, on a cold and blustery day like today, it beats shovelling wet cement on a building site.
  9. Or does it?
  10. God bless you, Frances Heneghan, for caring enough about books and reading to post a review to Amazon.


Laurence O'Bryan said...


You must have picked up Mr Spillane's style by osmosis from the culture he helped shape.

I suggest two decades was almost too much of an immersion too. And as for caring what reviewers say, I would have hung myself in the woods a while ago at some of the vitriol I have received.

A selective memory and determination/stupidity are requirements to stand and take what the trolls throw, while keeping your hands in your pockets. Sure it's a great life being published, so they tell me.

Declan Burke said...

I think the Mickey Spillane thing was simply a misreading of a Raymond Chandler influence, Laurence. But maybe you're right - maybe Spillane is better known and more quickly recognised than Chandler.

As for selective memory, et al - I think 'stupidity' ranks high on a list of requirements for a writer, alright, especially if you're thinking of eating anytime soon.

Then again, no one's putting a gun to my head and forcing me to do this. And once you put a book out there, it's fair game for all comment - part of the process, as you say.

And here's the thing - Margaret Heneghan (or anyone else, for that matter) doesn't have to waste her time posting review, or reading my book in the first place. So she's earned the right to say what she likes ...

Dana King said...

Deep, cleansing, breaths. In and out, in and out....

Comparing your writing in EIGHTBALL BOOGIE to Spillane shows she's out of her depth and should have stuck to more general comments. Making the comparison as she did shows she doesn't care for a hard-boiled style, and doesn't read much in it, or she'd know the apt comparison is to Chandler.

Reviews are what they are, and she's not the first to miss the mark, nor will she be the last. Place the review in the context it deserves and move on. Your work--my work, everyone's work--speaks for itself. We can be gratified when someone "get" it, but should not be too upset when someone does not.

Greg Lynch Jr said...

Is it Frances or Margaret Heneghan? Or is it some sort of tag team?

Declan Burke said...

It's probably best that she didn't compare the book to Chandler, Dana - she'd be entitled to give it a right royal kicking if she did. As for the rest, you're absolutely right.

Declan Burke said...

Heh. Good spot, Greg. Now why would I have written Margaret instead of Frances?