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Lost in Juarez: Douglas Lindsay

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

From the creator of the cult Barney Thomson crime series, comes a darker, more sinister novel.

The government is watching.

4 million names on the DNA database and counting; CCTV cameras on every street corner; telephone records available to any agency which requests them; restrictions on movements around Westminster; ID cards and the most all encompassing surveillance operations ever conducted. All in the name of freedom.

When his latest book is shelved due to government interference, Lake Weston—international bestselling, Bob Dylan-addicted children’s author—decides that it is time to stand up for personal rights. He writes and anonymously publishes a scathing polemic, the Animal Farm of its day, about a government which seeks to restrict civil liberties in the name of freedom. The book quickly achieves notoriety. The media is animatedly curious about the author; the government, however, already knows.

As the security services close in, Weston find his name dragged through the gutter press. Suddenly he must run for his life, not knowing who he can trust and with nothing in his pocket except a few pounds and an iPod loaded with 1256 Bob Dylan tracks.

About the books of Douglas Lindsay:

“Gleefully macabre… hugely enjoyable black burlesque.” The Scotsman

“Pitch black comedy spun from the finest writing. Fantastic plot, unforgettable scenes and plenty of twisted belly laughs.” New Woman

“Lindsay’s burlesque thrills offer no sex, no drugs, no desperation to be cool. Just straightforward adult story: fantastic plot, classic timing and gleeful delight in the grotesque.” What’s On

“Extremely well-written, highly amusing and completely unpredictable in its outrageous plot twists and turns.” The List

I really wanted to enjoy Lost in Juarez: it has a good jacket design, and the book feels balanced in my hands thanks to its professional production values (although I would have preferred a matt laminate on the cover—those glossy finishes always feel a bit too low-end to me). Despite the rather clumsy back cover copy the quotes which accompanied it really got my hopes up, and its premise appealed to me: so I started work on this book with some enthusiasm.

I was very disappointed.

The first hurdle I had to overcome was the book’s poor internal layout. The paragraphs are indented by only a single space, making reading difficult and tiring; and the font used throughout the book is just a trifle small. The problem with the font size is just a personal preference (amazingly, I seem to be getting older and find such close type wearing to read for long), so I didn’t include it in my tally of problems, but such typesetting issues have to be considered by self-publishers: they directly affect the readability of the book, and are likely to make potential readers turn away from this book without really knowing why they’re doing so. If you want to sell as many copies as you can it’s important to put as few barriers between the reader and the text as possible, and by making it even a tiny bit difficult to read the text, you’re shooting your book in its metaphorical foot.

Sadly, though, I felt that this book had more troubling issues than the size of its typeface. The author’s style is staccato and repetitious: he frequently uses sentence fragments and seems to be aiming for a hard-edged tone which at times morphs into pastiche. There were several confusing passages; a few lines which made no sense at all; a scattering of odd punctuation choices including an ellipsis of magnificent proportions; and a post-coital scene which was so full of adolescent self-importance that I found myself cringing as I read it.

I stopped reading after that sex scene, so read just sixteen pages out of two hundred and twelve. It’s a shame, as further on in the book the writer gets into his stride more, and the text does improve: but that’s too late if he wants to grab browsing readers who will usually begin at the book’s first page.

I’ve skim-read this book to the end and am convinced that with a better editor this book could have been significantly improved, and would probably have earned a recommendation from me. In its current state, however, I found it a clumsy and uncomfortable read on several levels. Nevertheless, there is something about it that I liked and I hope to see more from Mr Lindsay in the future.

Moonlight: Keith Knapp

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Fiction/Horror

No more room.

It began with a power outage. A power outage that went beyond lights and televisions. Clocks stopped telling time. Cell phones no longer received signals. Cars became dead relics that wouldn’t start.

As the world around them becomes darker, so do the inhabitants of the small town of Westmont, Illinois. A mysterious and evil presence has taken a hold over the village, making the once peaceful town a place of violence and despair

A small group of individuals, untouched by this presence, must uncover the mystery of why they remain normal and discover what—or who—is taking control of their town, one soul at a time.

Because the Man in the Dark Coat is out there. Hunting them.

And not everyone can remain untouched forever.

In the tradition of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker, Keith Knapp tells a horrifying tale of innocence and sin, and what people will overcome to defeat their own innermost demons in the search for hope. This is his first novel.

Moonlight shows great potential. It has an interesting premise and the writer’s style is immediate and very accessible, full of believable characters dropped into tricky and surprisingly plausible situations.

Where the book fails is in its editing. I found numerous problems with its punctuation (when will self published writers learn the difference between hyphens and dashes?), a few clichés; redundant statements, some lapses in tense; and a lot of repetition of various plot-points. I understand this last was intended to reinforce the plot but I found it patronising and infuriating, and it only really served to slow the pace of an otherwise fast-moving story.

The author would be wise to improve his editing techniques, too. There is a scene in which a generator will not work which I found particularly irritating: I’ve lived off-grid for the last thirteen years and we’ve had several different diesel generators during that time, as have our off-grid neighbours: I’ve never seen a single generator to work in the way described here. I’ll admit I’ve not had hands-on experience of every single model of generator that there is, and I’m no expert in their workings: but I know enough about them for this description to jar me right out of the narrative—which is exactly what writers should aim to avoid.

In summary, then: a book with real promise and a writer who could do well, let down by basic errors in editing, technique and research. All these should improve with experience, so I hope for better from Mr. Knapp in the future. I read twenty six pages out of a total of four hundred and sixty five, and would have read more had that generator been a little more true-to-life.

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