http://www.nytimes.com/magazine/


Wow. Fascinating. Repulsive. Inspiring? But he's right. If that many people like his stuff -- and they're READING -- what's the problem? Sure, it's a sad comment on mass taste, but what else is new? Who's he hurting? Still, it confirms in my mind that he doesn't need a place in my monthly newspaper review column. Better to find and opine about newer writers who are advancing the genre.

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Dana, I kinda agree with your statement and I kinda disagree. Yes, newspapers out out to sell papers. And advertising space. If a major publisher came along and said they have a new writer they're bonkers over and his new book should be looked at. . . I suspect the paper will do just that

And if a publisher actually PAID for advertising space I suspect the editors would be even further inclined to review a new writer.
Not this reviewer. I stopped reviewing Patterson six months ago, and he sells as well here as anywhere. My reasoning: people know exactly what they're going to get - hamburger soup. They don't need me to stir it. And our Books Editor agrees. I'll still scan his books once in awhile, to check if anything changes, but no reviews unless it's very significant. Given this NYT article, that would surprise the hell out of me.
Well, good for you and for your books editor. This is not the way it is with some big papers, I suspect. I just learned that for the WP, the paper decides what books are reviewed, not the reviewer. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?
IJ, I don't think that's true. Maureen Corrigan reviewed my last two books for WP, and I'd be very surprised if that was the paper's decision and not hers. The Boston Globe also reviewed these two books, and I know that was because the reviewer submitted a proposal to review them, and the Globe ended up accepting these proposals--but this was certainly initiated by the reviewer not the paper.
Dave, you're newsworthy!
Wow, I.H., I didn't know that! My first (selfish) reaction was ... let the bosses do it! The toughest job for me is not writing the reviews, but picking which ones to review and which ones to bypass. If I read 10 a month, six go in the rejects pile -- not because they're unworthy, just because that's all I have room to review in 600 words. And that hurts. I respect ANYONE who puts him or herself out there by writing a book. I may hate the book, but I respect the effort. And somehow, when I move something to the reject pile, it feels disrespectful.

So, if the bosses picked the titles, I'd have someone to bitch about instead of myself.

Kidding. What the WP is doing (obviously for commercial reasons)? That's just not right.
Well, there may be a books editor, as in your case, who assigns titles. I'm wondering if this is the way it is at all larger papers. I'm also wondering how the publishers play into this, if they do.

My books have always been submitted for review, but when that happens, they merely join huge stacks of other books. Now and then, they have been picked. I've always wondered why or why not.
I sometimes review books fr the Toronto Star - if I see a book I'd like to review I call the books editor.

A friend of mine who reviews a lot more often than I do stops off at the newspaper offices once every couple of weeks and goes through the stacks of books looking for something interesting. His tatses run to translated European and Quebecois books so that's what he reviews most. Once in a while the editor asks him to review something - usually some "important Canadian LIterary novel," and sometimes my friend does. Recently there was a mini-scandal in Canada when one of those CanLit books came out and none of the reviewers wanted to read it. It got nominated for all the awards anyway.

Compared to something like the two-section, ad-packed Wheels section of the newspaper, the couple of books pages seems far too small for anyone of a higher rank to worry about.
Interesting, John. Here, at the Winnipeg Free Press, the Books Editor just passes everything in the mystery/suspense/crime genres over to me. Once in awhile, he may get a Canadian book or one from a local publisher that he specifically asks me to read, but I'm under no obligation to review it. If I hear about a book that I think I want to review, but that we haven't received, he gets it for me from the publisher. Of course, we try to keep a Canadian component in the column, but I certainly don't have to review every Canadian release or, in fact, any particular one. If the Books Editor wants something handled in a separate review (as he just did with Mankell's The Man From Beijing, he asks me or someone else to do it. If I trip over something that I think deserves a standalone review, I pitch it, as I did with Lamothe's The Finger's Twist.
As far as how I make the choice of which 4 books to review in each column, as I say it's agonizing. I try to weigh several factors: 1) blockbusters, if there's a change in the author's quality, for better or worse; 2) new, solid voices that are pushing the genre, especially female voices; 3) Canadian voices, good and not-so-good, again with an eye to female writers; and 4) the wow factor: out-of-left field genre-busters.
For February, I'll definitely be reviewing Robert Crais (The First Rule) and Steve Hamilton's The Lock Artist. Beyond that, dunno. Suggestions?
Oh, I never review crime fiction for the Star, that all goes to Jack Batten the way it goes to you at the Free Press. I have reviewed non-fiction crime.

Jack writes two columns a month and lately he's been reviewing two books in each one, though not always. I'm not sure what the Star will do when Jack retires. They used to have a sci fi reviewer, too, but when he left they pretty much stopped reviewing sci fi (except for Margaret Atwood).
Is the Star really down to two Books pages a week, John?
Yup.

When Philip Marchand left (brielfy to be the movie reviewer, and his few reviews wee hilarious and insightful - I don't think he'd seen a movie in years and thought they were still somewhat literate as hey were in the 70's, was he ever surprised - and then to the Post) they made the movie reviewer Geoff Pevere the main book reviewer. Seems like a nice guy, just not that interested in books.

Dan Smith is a terrific editor for the section, keeping it going as best he can, but the Star is trying so hard to be populist it just doesn't have much interest in books.

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