Fear in Writing: Discernable Taste Ruins Pulp Fiction

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Discernable Taste Ruins Pulp Fiction

So I just flashed through Jonathan Kellerman's Evidence...and it was really bad.

Let me enhance that statement...I love Kellerman books.  I have read them all.  In the first few reads, I picked up psych lingo that has stuck with me ("munchausen by proxy"), became enamored with Dr. Delaware, and got a character-crush on good ol' Milo.  Most of Kellerman's books have interesting plots and even more arresting narrative/dialogue.

This one did not.  This one fell far short of the mark.  I felt like he had to meet a deadline with this book.  Maybe he has exhausted the Delaware/Sturgis relationship and just can't admit it.  There is a reason Michael Connelly brok off from Harry Bosch for a few books: you can't pump water from a dry well.

Or, could it be me?

Have I been reading to much literature and am more critical of regular fiction?  Possibly.

I suppose I should try another old favorite's new release and see if it sticks better.  Mark Mills, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Louise Penny may have ruined me for all airport fiction.

The horror!  But what does it mean for my writing?  Time will tell.

Has this happened to you?


  1. This hasn't happened to me recently, but I remember once in high school I had been reading nothing but Nick Hornby, Charlotte Bronte, and Kate Chopin and then tried to read a Meg Cabot book. I love Meg Cabot to this day but it was like trying to swallow a spoonful of salt when you were expecting sugar. Sorry this one was a dud for you!

  2. Sometimes I'm more in the mood for commercial fiction than others...it's definitely hard to go from classical lit or lit fic to commercial. :)

  3. Yes, it happens to me all the time. For me, it's not just the switch from classical to American but also British mysteries to American mysteries. There is such a difference. I find it hard to read American because it sometimes seems too simplified.

  4. Oh, and you have a twitter. I'm going to follow you.


  5. I've never read any of his books - but there are times when I've enjoyed a series of books, but it's just gone on too long. I think the author has to know when the series has finished up.

  6. I wonder if the writer sometimes 'knows' the time has come to end a series but the publisher is willing to push on. That old "your fans expect it" syndrome. Fans expect good writing more than a certain character or group of characters.

  7. I hate it when a book feels forced. Especially from a writer I enjoy.

  8. This has definitely happened to me. I was never big into pulp or detective fiction, but I adored escapist Fantasy and Horror before going to college. Several years of Kafka worship and Modernist fetishism broke the entertainment of nearly all fiction for me. The irony was that literary fiction has its own woeful deficiencies, so the professors only ruined entertaining fiction without instilling a love of the literary. I wrote in my departure essay, "I came here loving Michael Crichton and hating Oscar Wilde. I leave here hating Michael Crichton and still hating Oscar Wilde." I've since repaired some of the damage, enjoying great works of both the High-Sellers and High-Thinkers factions, but I'm still more demanding on the escapists than I was as a teen. Especially as I push myself in my own writing, that's an inevitable and maybe not an entirely bad side effect of critical thinking.

  9. Ash- I love Kate Chopin. And I'm glad you got through it and still read Meg Cabot.

    Elizabeth- Mood probably has a lot to do with it. But in this case, I think it was just bad writing.

    Clarissa- That's a really interesting point about British v. American. You are so right that British lit has a different style, a different feel. The dry humour really comes out in a good British mystery...plus the interesting history they have going back hundreds of years before our country was even a glimmer! (And follow away. I'kk check out your twitter link soon, too!)

    Alex- You will. :)

    Jemi- That's what happened here--it went on too long. It has to be hard to let a character go who has become like a friend.

    Mary- Good point. I hadn't thought of the publisher angle...A shame to make writers force it.

    Jamie- "Forced" is the right word for this book.

    John- Welcome, and interesting take on the college influence. I had one great professor who pushed me to see literature in a different way, but no discount other viewpoints--and he was successful. Unfortunately, I think there are more like the ones you encountered than the one I did. Says a lot you repaired the riff on your own! I look forward to checking out your writing.

  10. John- I didn't put your name together with your blog...I've been enjoying The Bathroom Monologues for a while!

  11. I'm a lot more critical than I used to be, and I close a lot more books after ten pages than I once did. That's partly my age, I guess -- so many books, so little time. But I agree that some series go on too long and some authors (and their editors) get sloppy when they're under pressure to produce.

  12. Is it the author's fault for writing a sub-par novel, or the agents / publishers for letting it see the light of day. Do they realize that a stumble like that could cause them to lose readership?