Love and Death: Is There ANYthing Else to Write About?

A self-published author has put himself on the hotspot today by criticizing Frank Bill's Crimes In Southern Indiana: "From what I could tell," writes John H. Byk, "Crimes in Southern Indiana, is to crime fiction what the film, Saw, is to horror movies — a mindless string of sensationalism connected by the thinnest of thematic threads. I felt insulted as a reader by the clipped, non sequitor dialogues and two dimensional characters that reminded me of porn stars. Yet this tripe attracted the attention of a major literary agent and secured Mr. Bill a contract with a giant in the publishing industry (FSG). Congratulations to him and sour grapes to those who embrace this new trend.

"These authors, who write like Bill and who are featured in popular crime fiction ezines across the web, don't have the stamina to write a full length novel because there is no suitable framework to contain continuous splashes of blood on page after page.  But a society numbed by violence feeds upon these stories like frenzied sharks or masturbatory adolescents unable to control their urges or to satisfy their needs. 

"Sex and death. That's always what sells. Ask any freshman Marketing student."

My question for fellow CrimeSpacers: Violence can be overdone, sure, (I don't think so in this case from what I've read of Frank's short stories) but is there anything else to write about but love and death? Mr. Byk keeps deleting the angry comments, but his whole blog post is here.

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Don't be so sure of that last one, Henry.

Sorry not to make an exception between "all" and "few exceptions".   Same conclusion, though.  You're dwelling on the downside of things. And I didn't say "only focus", either.  Okay.  But I wouldn't scold you about that or call you obtuse.  As far as irritating... I get the feeling you might be too easily irritated for your own good.

Knock off reading crap and you might feel better.

Thanks, by the way I J.  It's hard for writers to get discouraged these days, and we appreciate your help.

Personally, I kind of think there's plenty of people out there buying books by Elmore Leonard and many other fine writers.  I try to find the good books and read them.

Why in the WORLD would you read something like Twilight or Shades of Gray?????  You had to have known going in...   Not that either are crime fiction, by the way.  They are for teenybopper girls and frustrated housewives or something.  I don't know why they're even in the discussion. But if that's what you're reading, I'd give you the same advice as Henry.  Stop with the junk food, your attitude might improve.

Elmore is the best.

I see little point reading a bad book from an instructional viewpoint - there are enough weak books one can come across unawares- it would seem to me that if you want to learn from bad writing all you will learn is bad writing - I'd prefer something to set a standard

I agree.  And I don't finish about half of the books I bring home.

Me too, I.J.  I don't know if I put books down because they are "bad" books or just don't strike my fancy.  I'm not smart enough to decide what is absolutely bad or absolutely good. I try to read well written books not only for entertainment, but to improve my own writing.  Lord knows I need it.

BTW.  I was in Forks, WA last week.  That is the setting for Twilight and where the first book was written.  Forks is a small logging town with plenty of empty store fronts.  I was saddened to see so many of the open business hanging onto to Twilight with one motel hawking Twilight themed rooms, trinket shops filled with Twilight products, and even the grocery store with a Twilight Section.  Sad.

Well, I admit that sometimes a book just isn't my kind of book, but as a rule most of those have been ruled out before.


And then odd things bother me.  I was rereading a John Harvey called WASTED TIME.  I bought the book, having forgotten that I'd read it.  John Harvey is a superb writer, but this book dwells on the "tragic" tale of a rotten kid who gets deeper and deeper in trouble.  I have no sympathy for him, but Harvey wants me to understand his point about the greater failure of society.  I happen to believe in personal choice and accountability.  So the book goes into the donation box.

Didn't the whole Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure shows do the same thing?   Is this something special about Washington, like California breeding strange theme parks?

I like your response a lot, Brian.  I wish more people would learn the difference between "I don't like it" and "It's bad".  Maybe we share that attitude because we're newbies and when we get some titles out we can be more lawgiver, standard-waver types.   

I hope not, though.

Well, I get a fair number of negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I used to read them hoping to learn something but most of them just come down to, "I didn't like it," "Not my type of book," that kind of thing. Oh, they usually start off by saying it's a bad book but when they go on to explain why they feel that way it's usually because it's not the type of book they like, has too much swearing or something like that.



I'm with you. A bad book is hard to read, so why bother. Dropped Bridges of Madison County on the second page because of the cliches. Awful. But I watched the movie to see what the story had to offer, and I could see the appeal to America's most common book-buyer. Over 60% of today's buyers are college-educated women.

And now those desperate housewives are reading 50 Shades of Gay  or whatever, right?

It really is a gut market,  isn't it?  Like selling mp3's to teenaged girls.

I should probably switch to jailbait chicklit or menopause romance.

I'm thinking of writing a porn novella, hiring my own artist to draw a sexy cover, and then sell it myself on Amazon. Only problem: I'm too old. I've forgotten everything about sex.

Perfect you can make it all up.  Realistic porn would be pointless.  :-)


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