Beverly Barton: Bad Writing Gets Rewarded

Good books and bad books all cost about the same. It's not like the restaurant world, where the correlation between quality and price should be consistent. If I spend five bucks on dinner, I get a five dollar dinner. I may even get a good five dollar dinner, but I cannot expect the same thing I would anticipate where I was shelling out thirty dollars for an entree. But books are far more egalitarian. Great books are available for the $6.50 cover price of this one. Then why, why, why would anyone buy this and read it?

I have read some bad books. I have read some books that were never published, with, what was clear after completing them, good reasons. But I have never read a published novel as bad as this one. Never. And I've read a lot of books!

What makes a book bad? There are many places for the author to err, and I think Beverly Barton made a list to be sure she got them all. So why did I finish it? And why do i bother writing about it? WEll, I am a tidy person. I rarely quit a book, no matter how bad. I keep hoping the author will dig deep into the hat and find a rabbit, or at least something interesting. But I also hope to someday find a publisher for my prose. I need to see what works. And though I don't think this works, others clearly do.

  1. Plot. Well, I have read a lot of "mysteries" by competent writers, so I have some training, but I knew who the culprit was by page 60. And to tie everything up so implausibly was silly. The worst deus ex machina ending was never as contrived as this one.
  2. Character consistency. The two bad guys in this book behave in ways completely out of character with the behavior we are shown. After twenty years of covering a horrible crime, the murderer kills himself at the end. Convenient for everyone else. Tidily resolves any worries about punishment and retribution. But realistic? Not to me. I just can't see the person we've been exposed to, cliché though he is, doing this.
  3. Too many characters. An old theater adage tells the author "If there's a gun on the stage in Act 1, you better use it in Act 3." There are guns everywhere in this book, characters created for a moment, dropped and never seen again. Events that materialize have no bearing on the plot, and suddenly disappear. Was she paid by the word?
  4. Excessive red herrings. Agatha Christie never dropped so many misleading leads. The true magician fools by subterfuge and sleight of hand. Beverly Barton repeatedly tells her audience "Hey, look over here. Hey! LOOK! Here. THIS IS A CLUE!!!"
  5. Bad metaphors. They are everywhere. When not resorting to the weakest and most superficial of cliches, ("Mallory shot up out of her chair, stomped her foot, and growled." chosen at random) the author tries her own, but they fall so flat your reading progress is arrested to see how a metaphor could be so inappropriate.
  6. Dialog. There are conversations full of phrases no human would ever speak. Ever. Not even the exotic Southerners described here. The speeches sound like a high school play, wooden and stilted and confused.
  7. Wrong adjectives. The main character's Escalade is mentioned at least forty times. Did the author get paid by Cadillac for each mention? But then, she describes it as sleek. Sleek? An Escalade? Just one example among far too many.
  8. Wrong words. I may be the only male who's ever read this book, but no one would say "staring the Porsche's motor." Porsches do not have a motor, they have an engine. One example among many.
  9. The successful rich. Yet another tale of the exotic rich, who live so unlike the rest of us. We'll have to take
  10. Some dubious sexuality. There are at least two events in here that could be described as rape, except the gals decide they like it after all and want it. I am not a reader or romantic mysteries. So I cannot tell if the lengthy descriptions of fellatio are usual in this genre, but I found them pretty weak. The writing about sex in general was strange.
  11. Narrative. Third person omniscient is an interesting tool only when the characters have something worth reading about going on in their heads. These characters are as interesting as rocks. It is as if we had a third person tale about a kennel, without any of the anthropomorphizing that would be necessary to make such a tale fascinating. Normal dog thought is probably "Hungry...eat. Tired...sleep. Discomfort...urinate." When you get into a head and there's nothing there, the reader wants to get away in a hurry.
  12. Vocabulary. This is fifth grade material. Short words are heaped together without any thought of rhythm, form, or beauty. Sentences like "As she passed the pew where Sandy sat on the end, she stood and held out her hand to him." The only two syllable word is a proper noun. This stuff goes on for pages. Not only tedious, but weird. Was this written as one of those "high-interest low-reading level" books for troubled teens?
  13. Locale. I know it's the South because people say "Y'all". Proof. Also, it's hot a lot. We're told it's the South, and corrupt politicians may be more evidence, but there is no sense of place, no dialect, no tone.

So, with so many things wrong with this book, and nothing right, why is it a "National Bestseller" or at least the product of a "Nationally Bestselling Author"? What is it that makes someone choose, with the thousands of great books beckoning, to buy and read this?

This book is porn for women. This is a world of fantasy as much as Playboy is, a world where everyone is beautiful, with piercing eyes and strong personalities, and an endless desire for sex. Where every car is a brand name (no Kias in this story!), and where the playgrounds of the rich figure prominently. Where everyone is fit, trim and shapely. Where no one seems to work(other than a few silly scenes of powerful magnates in action), but cavorts and frolics endlessly. There is no laundry to do, no toilets to clean, no emergency run to the day care. No, all pure fantasy. And the biggest of all, it is a world where the protagonists, who despised each other for years (and for over a hundred pages), are drawn together by some power they cannot resist, and eventually end up in happy marriages, just like Barbie and Ken.

I wrote the above for Amazon.com, but they chose to not publish it. They do that, under the guidance of authors and publishers. Ultimately, that's probably good for me, as I have since learned negative reviews get angry "Not Helpful" evaluations from fans who judge not whether a review is "helpful" but whether it is "favorable." I don't think this would qualify as favorable. To see the reviews Amazon does permit, check Here.