When the Publisher Drops the Ball, Or, YA Author Pulls Debut Novel Following Criticism of Its Depiction of Slavery

When the Publisher Drops the Ball, Or, YA Author Pulls Debut Novel Following Criticism of Its Depiction of Slavery DeBunking Q: When is an outrage not an outrage?

A When the publisher screws up, and hands reviewers a book that wasn't ready.

The hot story this week in the publishing industry was Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir. As the Guardian and the NYTimes report, the debut novel of an up and coming YA author was pulled after early reviewers (after getting advance review copies via NetGalley) pointed out the problematic depictions of slavery.

I have not read the book myself, so I can't comment on it, and I probably won't be able to comment on it because the book has been canceled. Sure, it is still listed for pre-order on Amazon and scheduled for a June release, but the official word is that it will not be published. This has caused screams of outrage among the permanently triggered, but it also piqued my curiosity and inspired me to seek out reviews.

What I found was that almost everyone has gotten the story wrong. This was not a case of the Twitter mob run amok; this was a situation where critics pointed out that a bad book was indeed bad, and eventually the negative publicity forced the publisher to pull it.

As I see it, the publisher screwed up, badly. They fell for the same hype that had earned Blood Heir a four-plus star rating on GoodReads, and forgot to do their jobs.

I have found two reviews that suggest this book is less the next great novel than a NaNoWriMo project that should have been stuck in a drawer.

From The Ramblebee:

The premise in itself is interesting, though not unique. I liked the magical setting inspired by historical Russia, but I found the world building rather slapdash. The writing had all the same issues I had with Children of Blood and Bone. The plot was slow-paced and the narration kept meandering off, so I found it hard to stay invested. Truthfully, if this hadn’t been an ARC, I would have DNF’d it, but I kept hoping that it would improve. I hoped in vain.

The characters kept running in circles, having the same staggering revelations over and over, only for the emotional arc to double back to a previous development. It was frustrating and repetitive. I’ve seen allegations of plagiarism and while I can’t speak to all of them, there were some striking similarities to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, which I only read after Blood Heir, as well as to Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, funnily enough.

The cast of characters was ethnically diverse, but the book does have issues with racism. Using prejudice against magic powers as a stand-in for racism is problematic, especially if that prejudice targets white people as well as people of colour, which will always read as an implicit “reverse racism exists.”

Caitlyn E. Lloyd:

This book is one disastrous and insulting mess. The character development is terrible. The characters decisions are terrible. There are so many flashbacks, I read more flashbacks than actual present plot and story. Characters will be introduced and suddenly give sage advice—no one says these things to someone they just met. The romance is horrendous and barely existent and should really just be removed so readers don’t have to endure this start and stop. A lot of exposition is repetitive (especially flashbacks). There is murder and deaths that are simply done for shock value and don’t further the story in any way. The mood and feel of the book is always at a five on the emotional spectrum, no matter what I was reading I didn’t care. There was no build up to the twists and deaths and climax of the book. It all fell flat.

Folks, you can be as angry at the book's critics as you want, but it's quite clear that the publisher dropped the ball. They did not bother to give the book the developmental edit it needed, much less hired a sensitivity reader to give a second opinion on the elements of racism and slavery.

For once the critics were right. This was a poorly-written book on several levels. Its problematic depiction of slavery was just one of its serious issues, and unfortunately it has obscured the fact this book, in its current form, was destined to be the biggest disappointment of 2019.

 

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

39 Comments

  1. Common Sense3 February, 2019

    What a ridiculous comment written by someone desperately trying to look like they’re sOoOoOo woke. The book having developmental issues at the ARC stage is normal; those could have been changed and the book still published in time. This book is being smeared merely because the author wrote about the past AND current slavery/trafficking in her home country rather than the past slavery of black folks (because apparently ONLY black people were ever enslaved and are the only ones whose feelings matter). The mentally inept Twitter mob sparked their 2 braincells together and decided it “hurt” them and that it’s “racist” because THEIR personal experience wasn’t written about—as if they’re speshuuul and should see themselves in every single novel published about dIvErSiTy. You’re not ENTITLED to have your every issue—and the Twitter mob seem to have a LOT of issues—written about. It’s a FANTASY novel; in fantasy you get to stretch the truth, play with it, or completely change it. This isn’t a ‘pick your own journey.’ Readers don’t GET to say, “I want a book about x, and your book didn’t feature x, so I’m going to lose my mind!” Disgusting, gluttonous, trashy, entitled behavior. These insecure, jealous authors ALWAYS try to tear down ANY writer who got a large advance and who DARES to mention a skin color or hair texture other than their own. And the readers who do nothing with their lives BUT sit on Twitter and make up that they’re sOoOoO oPprEsSed (while on their $2,000 laptop, reading their $100 pile of books, in a free country with a full fridge and a roof over their heads, a job, etc.) always support these few mentally ill authors who do these call-outs. THEN they have the audacity to say, “There’s not enough dIvErSiTy in books.” Yeah, because you’re too mentally unstable to see yourself as anything but perfect in a book. Mental illness is NOTHING to laugh at and should be taken seriously; why are these people not seeing doctors? Why are they on Twitter acting like their opinion (which is not coming from a place of sanity) should be taken seriously. Get HEALTHY, seek help, THEN contribute to conversation. I’m sorry, but it’s not right that we listen to mentally ill folks over healthy-minded individuals. It’s wrong that we pander to the 300 or so unwell Twitter users. Whoever wrote this article is clearly part of the unstable Twitter mob, and honestly, none of you folks are coming from a mentally healthy place. You sit on Twitter ALL day and talk about how the world needs to bend to your every demand. You need safe spaces. You can’t handle ANYTHING. You can’t see your own race depicted as ANYTHING but pure, angelic perfection—even though that’s not reality. We’re not allowed to get anything wrong about your race/religion—EXCEPT the part where we make your race/culture sound perfect/amazing/strong/heroic, etc. THAT part can be completely made up because it paints you in a good light. We have to make sure the white folks in books look bad because your’e sooo insecure that you can only feel good about yourself if wHiTe PeOpLe look awful. People who are extremely mentally unwell should not contribute to intellectual conversation that impacts the world. The author is an intelligent woman who had her ENTIRE career wiped out by mentally ill people (not making fun—this is REALITY; mentally folks should acknowledge their illness and know that the world isn’t the problem, but rather the inside of their head is the problem and SEEK HELP).

    Reply
    1. Will Entrekin4 February, 2019

      “The book having developmental issues at the ARC stage is normal; those could have been changed and the book still published in time.”

      How do you define “developmental”? So far as I’ve known, advanced reading copies are intended to be fairly close to production quality save for errors like typos or formatting issues to be corrected during the final proofing stage. That’s long past any stage for developmental edits, which usually occur first before agents query the manuscript to publishers and then potentially again when publishers’ editors take their first crack.

      Mind you, my only experience with ARCs has been buying them from the Strand, so I’ve used them from neither the reviewer nor publisher perspective, but as I’ve understood them, ARCs should be long past any developmental issues.

      Reply
      1. Nate Hoffelder4 February, 2019

        My mother is a beta reader for a number of authors, and she told me that there are authors who give their beta readers ARC copies. I think that is a misuse of the ARC label, but anyway, those copies are from a much earlier step in the publishing process than what you would expect from an ARC found in NetGalley.

        I think that could be what CS is referring to.

        Reply
        1. Will Entrekin4 February, 2019

          Oh, interesting. Never heard it used that way. I’ve only heard of ARCs as used for either media reviews or awards submissions — much farther along in the process than the beta step, which I would have put even before agent queries.

          Are the authors for whom your mother beta reads (and are using the ARC label for that) mostly indie?

          Reply
          1. Nate Hoffelder4 February, 2019

            I think so, yes.

            Reply
            1. Will Entrekin4 February, 2019

              Yeah, I would have called those beta manuscripts, not ARCs, but the tendency of indie authors to think beta readers are replacements for editors is a whole other topic.

  2. Xaver Basora3 February, 2019

    Nate

    I dunno. The vitriol was way disproportionate to the topics at hand.
    The saddest thing is that author who had a promising career saw it destroyed before it even started.
    A lot of indie writers are deeply disgusted by that community.

    It’ll be rewritten but it’ll be rather insipid

    xavier

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder3 February, 2019

      I kinda can’t complain about the critics when the response to the critics was equally rabid. When everyone does it, it’s the new norm.

      I mean, just look at the other comment on this post.

      Reply
  3. Bill Peschel3 February, 2019

    Why did the publisher withdraw the book? Because of two bad early reviews or because of the Twitter storm? The timeline suggests the latter.

    I’m not impressed with the unsubstantiated allegations of plagiarism unless the reviewer explicitly tells us what was plagiarized. I’ve seen people confuse the theft of words with the borrowing of ideas.

    And “Using prejudice against magic powers as a stand-in for racism is problematic” — really? It didn’t hurt J.K. Rowling.

    I’d hate to base my opinions on the word of two strangers on the internet.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder3 February, 2019

      I didn’t say the book was pulled because of two bad early reviews. What I wrote was that the early reviews showed the critics had a point.

      Reply
  4. Lynne Connolly3 February, 2019

    The author asked the publisher to delay the release of the book.
    I’d bet the accusations of plagiarism had a lot to do with the publisher’s decision. But from what I’ve been reading, it seems the book was just bad.
    A lot of bad books get published. I don’t dare think that this is the start of quality control.

    Reply
  5. Joe Madden3 February, 2019

    So…

    According to this article 2 early reviews of this debut novel a cancellation make?

    I think not.

    One is reminded of what a man named Bowie once stated; The artist is responsible for the culture, not the critic.

    My own personal opinion of critics is that they are worthless.They provide nothing. They represent only narcissism, bigotry and jealousy.

    Period.

    I would remind the author of this “piece” how many novels were lambasted by the above mentioned worthless individuals upon their respective releases that have since grown to be classics.

    Reply
  6. Tom Wood3 February, 2019

    There’s no such thing as bad publicity. I hope Zhao can weather through this storm and use it to prevail at a later date.

    Reply
  7. Darryl Barlow4 February, 2019

    I was very pleased to see this statements:

    “I have not read the book myself, so I can’t comment on it, and I probably won’t be able to comment on it because the book has been canceled.”

    Imagine my disappointment when you proceeded to do just what you said you couldn’t. Based on a couple of cherry picked negative reviews, and omitting any positive ones. Nate, do yourself and all of us a favour and read the book. Only then should conclusions be made about whether the book is good or bad or racist or otherwise, and whether criticism is justified. The book may well turn out to be terrible. The only thing we can conclude is that the toxic Ya Twitter has struck again.

    Reply
    1. Woelf Dietrich4 February, 2019

      Agreed. Because at this stage, if he hasn’t read the book, then “Folks, you can be as angry at the book’s critics as you want, but it’s quite clear that the publisher dropped the ball” are premature words. I won’t start on the concluding paragraphs of this article, it’s just too problematic.

      Reply
  8. Will Entrekin4 February, 2019

    It’s interesting to me that when an issue like the systemic racism of the publishing industry is surfaced, people respond that it’s not really a big deal and authors should just “self-publish.”

    But here the response is “OMG Twitter YA mob is censuring publishing!” I haven’t seen anyone suggest that Zhao just ignore Twitter/Goodreads and just go to KDP.

    The excerpt of the book available at B&N unfortunately doesn’t reveal much.

    Reply
  9. Marilynn Byerly4 February, 2019

    Quote: Using prejudice against magic powers as a stand-in for racism is problematic, especially if that prejudice targets white people as well as people of colour, which will always read as an implicit “reverse racism exists.”

    So, the X-Men franchise is racist because it uses discrimination against mutants of all colors as a metaphor for race discrimination? Ooookay. The use of (insert fantasy race, magic users, etc.) as a metaphor for racism or bigotry is a very common trope in urban fantasy and fantasy. So is death camps against a specific group so I guess that makes those stories anti-Semetic. The world is so weird these days.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder4 February, 2019

      excellent point!

      Reply
  10. Michael Adams4 February, 2019

    It’s fiction though. I don’t see how “reverse racism” (which is just racism) is even a problem in a fictional world. Like Harry Potter’s mudbloods. I mean, there’s been plenty of hatred towards white people in history. Just because they don’t experience systematic racism doesn’t mean they can’t experience racism, especially in a fictional world.

    Reply
  11. Mike Cane4 February, 2019

    “…a sensitivity reader …”

    Dear god. Don’t let any idiot like that near one of the Backstrom novels.

    And WTF are you even advocating with that? Snowflake publishing?

    Reply
    1. Will Entrekin5 February, 2019

      “Backstrom”

      You mean the misogynistic, homophobic, racist detective Publishers Weekly called “thoroughly contemptible” and whose TV show wasn’t picked up beyond the first season?

      So far as “sensitivity,” one of the things I learned studying editing was the importance of multiple passes over a manuscript, or multiple lenses through which to view it. One reading (or editor, or beta reader) might focus on (or have strength in) pacing, while another might focus on character or setting. I think a pass for cultural nuance and an eye toward potentially problematic ideas is a good one.

      Reply
      1. Mike Cane5 February, 2019

        Yes, *that* Backstrom. And yes, he’s contemptible. I’m halfway through Linda, the first of the series and I can’t figure out if he’s meant to be a satiric character or not. Maybe something is lost in translation (and it usually is; particularly with novels written in Japan). At any rate, remove his loathsomeness and what’s left? Just Another Novel that can be passed up.

        Reply
      2. Darryl5 February, 2019

        Sounds interesting. I think I might read it and judge for myself. No one has a right not to be offended. Sometimes great literature can be great because it does just that.

        By the way, have you read any of the books yourself, Will?

        Reply
        1. Will Entrekin6 February, 2019

          I checked out the opening on Amazon. Its pacing reminded me of the Dragon Tattoo series, which everyone encouraged me to stay with because it supposedly picked up after 100 pages, but I never made it that far. It felt like it took several pages to even get to Backstrom, and I found his interior monologue awkward in its formatting and execution (it looked weird to me in the text, which might have just been a textual issue), as well as its actual content, which read to me as adolescent and immature rather than misanthropic.

          Amazon and Wikipedia mark different installments as the first of the so-far (?) trilogy, and both read the same way to me.

          If it’s satire, I don’t think it’s very good at it. Too on the nose.

          So yes, I’ve read enough to have both a sense of the character and the sense that the series wouldn’t interest me.

          Reply
          1. Darryl7 February, 2019

            Thanks for replying, Will. I agree that you have read enough of the book to justify your decision that it doesn’t interest you and you don’t want to read the series. But have you read enough to justify a conclusion that the character concerned is “misogynistic, homophobic, racist”. Should no author be able to write of misogynistic, homophobic and/or racist characters, be they real life or fictional? After all, such characters exist in the real world as well as in fiction. Or must such characters only be written of in satirical fashion? Or perhaps with an apology every 2nd paragraph. Do teenagers at whom Ya fiction is targeted need to be sheltered from reality? If all authors are so constrained then the future will be a very bland one indeed.

            Reply
            1. Mike Cane7 February, 2019

              Oh, I’m halfway through Linda and I can say that Backstrom is definitely all those things. Unlike Will, I finished the Dragon Tattoo books. The Backstrom book is even slower in its pacing. It’s a day-by-day murder investigation and nothing much happens until the halfway point. I’m reading it in print and don’t have the formatting issues Will saw.

              If the lashing out at writers continues, we’ll wind up with the kind of comic strips seen in the movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 — blank word balloons. And books with blank pages. Otherwise: Printcrime.

  12. Darryl Barlow6 February, 2019

    Thanks for responding Will. I think you have read enough to decide for yourself that you are not interested. But do you think the little you have read justifies you declaring the character who you describe as misogynistic, homophobic and racist and to judge the context in which that character is presented? And is any presentation of such a character totally unacceptable unless it is satire? There are many such people in real life, let alone fiction. Would it be unacceptable to write a biography of such a real life detective and allow people to reach their own conclusions, for instance? Must we only write of laudable characters? Or only write of those with objectionable attitudes if we satirise or condemn them at every opportunity?

    Reply
    1. Will Entrekin7 February, 2019

      Have you read any of it, Darryl? Between the two forms of media I tried, Backstrom made some not-great comments about a doctor being of Indian descent, had some interior monologue about a female police officer’s anatomy, and then some back and forth about generational differences. So that’s racism, misogyny, and ageism covered, and enough to make me believe the claims of homophobia I’ve seen as not exactly surprising. So, in answer to your first question: yes.

      I’m not sure I have answers for your other questions.

      “There are many such people in real life, let alone fiction.”

      That to me makes it sound like you’re saying that misogyny, homophobia, and racism exist, so that makes them okay. For me, I think the fact that “there are many such people in real life” is a real and tangible problem.

      “Would it be unacceptable to write a biography of such a real life detective and allow people to reach their own conclusions”

      I mean, I think a biography is a very different beast than fiction, and which I think at its best would uphold a journalistic sense of objectivity. I can’t speak to the idea of people and their conclusions, and like I said, I don’t really have an answer to your other questions besides what I’ve already said in this thread, with the addition that, for me, I’ll continue to call out misogyny, homophobia, and racism when I encounter them for what they are.

      Reply
      1. Darryl7 February, 2019

        Thanks Will. No. To be quite honest I’d never come across this particular series before this thread. I’m not at all saying that the fact that something exists in the real world makes it okay. That is not at all what I said. I regard all of these things as abhorrent, though sometimes people do tend to stretch the use of these words to cover other behaviour. My point is that ignoring it does not make it go away. Effectively “calling out” authors who write about these things (perhaps in contrast to simply warning readers) places authors in the position of a Pollyanna, viewing the world unrealistically through rose coloured glasses.

        I’m always troubled by this concept of calling something out. Especially when you are talking about a fictional character in a book. What objective do you seek to achieve by this calling out? Surely readers know after reading that the character is homophobic, racist and misogynistic. In this case you apparently needed to read only a very small part at the beginning of a book to realise. When calling that character out are you urging people not to read the book or books concerned? Are you trying to save them from the possibility of being offended? After all, they can always stop reading. And if they do continue reading and nevertheless enjoy the book, does that mean that they themselves are racists, misogynists and homophobes? Or is it the author who is being called out? If so, why? Does the fact that their fictional character has these characteristics mean that they themselves must have them?

        I’m just curious about what you seek to achieve by this calling out.

        Reply
        1. Will Entrekin7 February, 2019

          “Does the fact that their fictional character has these characteristics mean that they themselves must have them?”

          Not at all.

          “I’m not at all saying that the fact that something exists in the real world makes it okay. That is not at all what I said.”

          I know. That’s why I said ‘to me it sounds like'” when you said “There are many such people in real life, let alone fiction.”

          Which I guess you intended as an objective statement of fact. If I may put in that sentence the context of the conversation, you said “There are many people in the world who are misogynistic, homophobic, and racist.”

          So we agree on that point. Let’s go from there.

          Because that’s, I think, a large part of answering your question. “What objective do you seek by this calling out?” Because now that’s what we’ve both done: we’ve called out that there are many people in the world who are misogynistic, homophobic, and racist. We’ve established that we believe that is a fact.

          So the question is where do we go from there? Because I think we can agree, further, that misogyny, homophobia, and racism are problems, correct? You yourself said you regard them as abhorrent, which means, among other things, “loathsome, detestable.”

          I would propose awareness of a problem could be a first step toward resolving it. People who don’t realize there’s a problem never realize there’s something to solve, correct? How we solve the problems of misogyny, homophobia, and racism is a discussion we’re all still having, as a society, but I think the acknowledgement that it exists is a huge first step, and in that first step is, most likely, acknowledging the behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and actions that make up all those things. Because a lot of people don’t even make it that far. A lot of people, I’m sure, read about Backstrom’s character, or about the characters and storylines that made up the work in the post Nate originally commented on, and don’t see those attitudes and beliefs as problematic. Mike noted that Backstrom is contemptible; I wonder if there are readers of Backstrom who don’t. Maybe there are people who watched the first episode of the TV show just because it had Dwight from The Office in it, and they don’t notice or realize that some of the dialogue or depictions might be problematic in terms of casual racism or misogyny, because sometimes those things are so deeply embedded in our cultures and our upbringings that we don’t realize it.

          Because when you say “Surely readers know after reading that the character is homophobic, racist and misogynistic,” I’m not certain that’s entirely true in all cases. I would say that there are probably a lot of people in the world who may not realize some of their beliefs are problematic. I might even go so far as to posit that likely we all have some beliefs that we don’t realize are problematic.

          And I’ve never read any interviews with or profiles of Persson (the author of the Backstrom novels), but I’m definitely not claiming he’s any of those things, nor that he doesn’t realize that Backstrom is those things. I’m also not talking about being offended.

          “And if they do continue reading and nevertheless enjoy the book, does that mean that they themselves are racists, misogynists and homophobes?”

          I think that ‘nevertheless’ is important there. Mike read and seems to have enjoyed the novels, but he acknowledges Backstrom is contemptible and might even be satire. Are your hypothetical readers enjoying the book despite Backstrom’s attitudes and beliefs, or because of them (or even not paying them any mind because they don’t see them as problematic)? Will they themselves carry those attitudes forward?

          Reply
          1. Darryl8 February, 2019

            Will. Years ago I read the Silence of the Lambs and also watched the movie. I enjoyed them both greatly. Yet I don’t approve of murder, serial or otherwise. Nor has reading the book or even enjoying the book turned me into a murderer. Nor a cannibal, for that matter. So must we call out Thomas Harris or his fictional villains, Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lector. Must we point out for the benefit of some readers that Buffallo Bill is a murderer and that such activity is problematic. Must we point out his misogyny and that this also is problematic. And, of course, what of the good Doctor’s culinary habits? I also found The Butterfly Garden and the two subsequent novels in the series compelling reading despite some very disturbing content, including extreme misogyny. This does not at all mean that I condone misogyny or that I myself am a misogynist. Nor do I require someone to point out the abhorent features of the book and tell me they are unacceptable. I would perceive such behaviour as not only unnecessary but condescending and patronising.

            If the objective in calling out these behaviours and drawing attention to why they are loathsome and unacceptable is to warn prospective readers that they may encounter them, that is fine, though for virtually all of us I believe misguided and superflous, and quite likely to alienate as many and likely more than appreciate it. If the objective is to prevent the publication of that particular book or if already published to have it boycotted or withdrawn from the market or bowdlerised that is to me unacceptable. If the objective is to eradicate these problematic behaviours from future books, that is to me also unacceptable. And if you are perceived as attempting to tell readers that they should not be reading such content, don’t be surprised if you are accused of virtue signalling. Because so much of the time this “calling out” achieves nothing but to make those doing the calling out feel virtuous and communicate that virtue to others, no matter how laudable their motives may be.

            As to your questions:

            “Are your hypothetical readers enjoying the book despite Backstrom’s attitudes and beliefs, or because of them (or even not paying them any mind because they don’t see them as problematic)?”

            Some or all of these things. It really is no one else’s business.

            “Will they themselves carry those attitudes forward?”

            I suspect if they already have these attitudes themselves they quite likely will. If not, they likely will not. I doubt they are going to experience a conversion to the dark side because of reading the book. Or because of any “calling out”. I doubt it makes any difference.

            Reply
            1. Will Entrekin8 February, 2019

              There’s a big difference between murder and misogyny, and in that difference is one of the reasons it’s worthwhile to call out the latter. The objective isn’t to prevent the publication of books, nor to eradicate them from future books. The objective has nothing to do with books, in fact, and everything to do with culture and normalization. (And a digression: as much as I remember Hannibal Lecter murdering people and eating their livers with fava beans [and nice chianti], I don’t recall any instances of his being racist, homophobic, or misogynistic. In fact, as I remember, one of his primary motivations was against rudeness and incivility.)

              But I see you’ve moved on to the idea of “virtue signalling,” so I think we’re done here.

  13. Darryl7 February, 2019

    Agreed Mike. If the book is really as slow as you and Will are saying I probably wouldn’t persevere with it. Not because the main character has some loathsome traits, but because I now feel that life is too short to persevere with books that I am not enjoying on at least some level. I don’t want to be told what I can and can’t read, be it by government censors banning books or by self-appointed moral guardians preventing publication.

    I find it quite incredible that intelligent people are prepared to jump on the bandwagon and condemn books without reading them.

    Reply
    1. Mike Cane8 February, 2019

      Perseverance is needed with Linda, at least. Halfway in, and I intend to finish just to get a better view of it and to see how it concludes.

      Will mistakenly said I’ve read all the Backstrom novels. No; those were the Dragon Tattoo ones. This is the first in the Backstrom series and the first I’ve read. No guarantee I’ll continue to the others.

      The TV character was quite different. For one, he spoke his mind. In the novel, he generally doesn’t. So the TV version was more like Gregory House as a detective(!). In the novel, Backstrom’s nasty comments are in his thoughts and rarely escape. And he uses the word “fag” liberally in his thoughts. Sometimes “dyke” too (I did laugh when he described — in the confines of his mind — his superior’s assistant as an “attack dyke.” Eh, sue me. It was funny in context.) He also doesn’t seem to actually *do* much in this novel other than drink and tell other detectives on the case what to do next (again, quite different from the TV version).

      As for condemning that a character like this exists; no. This is what novels are supposed to do, expose us to different characters and situations.

      Reply
      1. Will Entrekin8 February, 2019

        “Will mistakenly said I’ve read all the Backstrom novels.”

        Did I? I thought I just mentioned your agreement that Backstrom is contemptible.

        “As for condemning that a character like this exists; no.”

        Has anyone? I don’t think I have, just noted that the characters attitudes are problematic and that others have called him contemptible.

        Reply
        1. Mike Cane8 February, 2019

          Eh. I’m not going to backtrack. The article that originated all of this was about a writer being condemned for her work.

          I’ll try to remember to check back here when I’m done with Linda. I hope to have it done this weekend, so any “verdict,” such as it is, would be Monday.

          Reply
  14. Darryl8 February, 2019

    Thank you for the civil discussion Will. We shall agree to disagree.

    Reply
    1. Mike Cane11 February, 2019

      I have finally finished Linda. I was led astray by the NYPL. An ad in the back of the book says *another* novel is the first in the series, not Linda.

      But you know what? I just don’t care.

      Linda was a slog to read. Backstrom himself, while loathsome, did so little — aside from drinking and mentally insulting everyone — that I can’t understand why anyone would care to read another book. The pacing was one-note — slog slog slog — and there was no excitement or suspense at all. And it had the most bizarre conclusion I’ve ever encountered in a novel. Backstrom is kicked to the side for a good portion of the end! Really, if the whiners ever target Backstrom, it’d be like going after a literary flea.

      I can’t recommend the book, not because of Backstrom, but because the book is ultimately dull AF. Save your time for better books.

      And I’m not going to read others in the series. Next!

      Reply
      1. Darryl11 February, 2019

        Thanks Mike,

        I’ll probably grab one of the books when they’re going cheap or from the library and read at least a lot of it out of sheer curiosity We’re all different but if I find it the same as you did I won’t get very far. There are now so many great books to read and so affordable I feel no compulsion to finish one I am not enjoying. Thanks for getting back to us. No doubt we will have the pleasure of doing the whole thing again the next time Ya Twitter explodes, which I doubt will be long.

        Reply

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