My comments on this blog about Ken Bruen’s THE GUARDS has sparked a spirited debate here, on Sarah Weinman’s blog, and several other blogs out there. A number of people… authors, in particular… are upset that I posted my criticisms of the book publicly. Author Charlie Stella, on Sarah’s blog, wrote:
Goldberg doesn’t get what all the excitement is about? Okay, fair enough. Like some of the commentators, I don’t get what all the excitement is about some other writers … and I’m sure there are people who upchucked their lunch at reading my stuff as well. I have to wonder why Goldberg took the public potshot, though … unless the guy is just another jerkoff.
To which, Jennifer Jordan wrote:
I didn’t interpret Mr.Goldberg’s post as a pot shot but perhaps you feel any opinion made in a public forum is such. What I got from it, in the end was more a feeling of tiredness with the P.I. genre. It could well be that he hoped to incur the reactions that he’s gotten because, as Sarah said, these very reactions say a lot about Bruen’s writing. He could have made these comments about quite a few authors and not had the ‘public outcry’ that he has here. The outright anger is a testament to Bruen, who is the only author that can instill fear in me by saying he’ll come into town for a drink. That is the biggest damn drink you’ll ever take. Oddly, I don’t see many jumping to Kathy Reichs defense.
I think that’s because Kathy Reichs doesn’t hang out at Bouchercon or at other "crime writer events" socializing with other authors and mystery lovers. Ken Bruen does.
And he’s also a very, very nice guy with a strong literary voice and sharp prose. Kathy’s prose isn’t as accomplished.
He’s greatly admired by a tight-knit group of noir lovers and authors. Kathy Reichs isn’t.
He’s also received numerous accolades for his work from respected novelists and crime writing organizations. Kathy Reichs hasn’t.
But I think the most significant difference, as far as Kathy being fair game and Ken being off-limits, is that she’s a lot more successful, commercially, than he is. Far more, in fact.
Which raises an interesting issue, one that John Rickards, on his blog Empire of Dirt, discusses:
Patricia Cornwell brings out Trace and everyone slates it. Everyone. Come to that, everyone freely uses her, along with Dan Brown, James Patterson etc. etc. as examples of kinda crappy commercial fiction.
No one objects. At least, not round here, virtually speaking.
Is there some ‘upper ceiling’ of commercial success or profile above which a writer becomes fair game for those outside? Is it because few, if any, of us – the reader, the other writer, the reviewer – know these people in person and can therefore say what we like without fear of reproach?
Is there, at least amongst people ‘in the industry’ – and this is where Craig’s comment comes in – a sense that you shouldn’t shit where you sleep? Rather like Hunter S Thompson’s observation of the Washington press corps in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 that they were too chummy with the politicians they were covering and that so much was kept ‘off the record’ because journos didn’t want to offend their friends on the Hill – are we so cosy with one another that we’re afraid of saying what we think?
I’d be curious to hear your answers to that question.
Personally, I think if Kathy Reichs hung out at conventions, was more active in professional organizations (PWA, MWA, SinC) and was friends with lots of authors, and crime writing aficionados, she’d "off-limits" as well, regardless of the creative merits or commercial success of her work.