My friend Paul Levine, the notorious novelist and screenwriter, got this delightful email today from a reader of his widely acclaimed new book A DEEP BLUE ALIBI:
Please either do some actual research before
you write your next book, or get a publisher that has proof readers
with a TINY bit of technical and/or scientific
expertise. A Glock has no safety lever…… the only
safety on a Glock is built into the trigger
itself. After I finally got past that error….. I
get to a FIVE FOOT CORAL SNAKE?!?!?!?
cannot even give you an opinion as to the writing of the rest of the book, as it has been converted into carbon in my fireplace.
The thoughtful writer of the email also copied Paul’s agent and publicist, whose addresses are on his site. It’s a good thing, Paul says, that his Mom’s address wasn’t on the site, too. Paul took this email in stride, replying good-naturedly:
Thank you for your kind and thoughtful note
pointing out the errors in "The Deep Blue Alibi."
are quite correct, of course, about the Glock. It has the built-in trigger safety, not the little lever. I own a 9 mm Beretta with the lever, and I was picturing that gun while my fingers typed "Glock." My mistake. You could have pointed out also that the sheriff of Monroe County
doesn’t actually carry a Glock, and he never smuggled pot. Just made
that stuff up, which is what we do in fiction. I also had the mayor of
Key West growing marijuana, and to the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t
do that, either.
Now, as for the snake I am well aware
that the longest coral snakes are in the 4-four range, and most are
smaller. Well, shoot me with a Glock because I stretched that snake
out a foot. At least it seemed that long in a scene written from the
POV of Victoria Lord when she discovers the snake in the
A book with 110,000 words has probably a couple
thousand facts — geographical, meteorlogical, historical,
sociological and others — and if I only made two mistakes in this one,
well that’s hitting the ball out of the park. The folks at Bantam
found a bunch more and corrected them.
I am very pleased that
you found a use for the book, however, and hope that it provided ample
warmth on a chilly night.
11 thoughts on “Reader Love”
Having been a major fan of Paul Levine since I picked up TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD at an airport, and developing a serious jones for Victoria Lord, such little things don’t bother me. (Frankly, I’m surprised Victoria didn’t see a *100* foot long coral snake; under panic, rational thinking goes kaput.) I caught the Glock safety, but hell, I was having such a good time reading, such things get filed under “Whatever….it happens to us all”, and keep going.
I’d like to thank the reader who sent this in; people have called me “anal” in my time, but now I can point to this and say “Not hardly!”
(And special thanks to PL, for Victoria and Steve. I’m probably wayyyyyy off base, but I’m seeing Adam Sandler and Reese Witherspoon in the movie! Screenplay by Lee Goldberg, of course….)
I would have gotten the Glock thing–hey, I loved the book–as I’ve had that explained to me, although on one of the mystery listservs a gun scholar/expert of sorts lectured me on the wide variety and option of models nad features on guns, including a variety of Glocks. As for a 5-foot coral snake, gee, it’s Florida. They’ve got ’em in public office.
I loved Paul’s response. And I’m sure if the anal-retentive gent had read on he would have found more. I just finished reading Sea Change by Robert B. Parker and although I found few technical errors, there’s plenty of typos and continuity errors that makes me suspect Parker turned in a rough draft, cashed his advance check and headed out of town.
Mr. Levine definitely handled this tactless criticism with class.
As an attorney, I encounter factual errors about attorneys and courts all the time in both fictional and nonfictional writing. If the story is solely about the legal profession, and the errors so extensive that it’s clear the writer neither performed any research nor consulted an expert, it will turn me off from reading further. But I can write off a few minor errors.
You wrote a nice passage about this in your book MY GUN HAS BULLETS, pointing out that TV viewers will accept any implausibility in the plot, but if the drainpipe for an onscreen toilet doesn’t go into the floor, it will pull them straight out of the story.
Apparently, the Glock safety and the extra-long snake were the unconnected toilets for this reader.
ROFL. Good for you, Paul. Awesome reply. 🙂
One thing about writing a book that many people read is that the more people who read it, the more likely someone will find all its flaws. With some of my past writing, I can almost be grateful they weren’t more popular, because no really picky people read them.
Gun nuts are the terror of western novelists. My response is yes, but did you enjoy the story? Did it reach you, move you, inspire you, enthrall you? Did you get your money’s worth?
I’d take bets that Mr. Levine’s critic did not burn the book in his fireplace. And if he didn’t but says he did, he’s doing far worse than making an error.
Here’s the problem novelists face. Mr. Levine’s critic is up on Glocks but not on chemistry. He says the book was converted to carbon in his fireplace, but in fact wood ash, according to my encyclopedia, contains “metal carbonates (e.g., potasium carbonate) and oxides formed from metals originally compounded in the wood.” Add to that the chemicals from ink and other materials in a book, and one must conclude that the critic’s own comments are worthy of the fire. A novelist must be accurate in all fields, from Glocks to chemistry, and that seems to have eluded Mr. Levine’s critic.
Well, as someone who had normally migrating loons hanging around Michigan in winter and who has mixed up “supine” and “prone” (but never prostate and prostrate, thank god), I can sympathize. I also once had a man store his cigars in a thermidor. Or maybe it was a stevedore, I forget.
I have a consultant I call Fred the Gun Nut on speed dial, so I’ve never misfired there.
Paul is a classy guy. I would have tracked the guy down and shoved his email up where his prostate don’t shine.
Not to mention the fact that, since carbon is an element, there’s no way for something to be ‘converted’ to it without the use of a great deal of high-powered equipment. Some people really need to check their facts before writing anything.
Oh my God, a new saying to tack up on a sticky note over the computer! “Beware of unconnected toilets in the story.” LOL!
Every time I find an inaccuracy in a book, I actually feel some pain for the author because I know they’re going to get letters.
What is it about people that makes them feel the need to contact an author and point out every little nit that’s waiting to be picked?