The Devil Won’t Care
A novel of betrayal and retribution
The Devil Won’t Care delves into the career of Lanny Lessner, a journalist who rockets to fame and wealth with a hard-hitting documentary about the decline of his home town after a spate of factory closings. Revered by millions, Lessner seems poised to become the Ralph Nader of his generation.
But Lessner has a dark side, replete with shady dealings, antisocial behaviour, and mean-spirited hypocrisy. The filmmaker’s saga is retold by a friend and supporter, Warren Hill, whose narrative chronicles their relationship. As the story evolves, Hill confronts a growing body of evidence that Lessner, intoxicated by his celebrity status, is a crass, deceptive, manipulative phony, whose shortcomings mimic those of the targets of his pungent wit.
The Devil Won’t Care addresses some of the flaws of a dysfunctional society in which “What’s in it for me?” is the common denominator. Checkbook photojournalism, celebrity worship, reality TV and our sound-bite culture are all laid bare. On a broader level, the book is a morality tale in which the narrator is forced to confront his deepest fears and emotions, set against a backdrop of deception, atonement and redemption.
About the Author
John Streby is a connoisseur of Broadway musicals, pre-1930 phonographs and records, and films noir. His first novel, Rabbit Stew, dealt with the incestuous mix of law and politics, and featured several characters who appear in this book. Mr. Streby is currently writing a third novel, Follow the Money.
There might well be an excellent story lurking in The Devil Won’t Care but much was obscured by the author’s bad writing habits, which really got in my way as I read. It was frustrating: I could hear echoes of John Grisham in this book, and once or twice even caught a whiff of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, which is one of my all-time favourite books: but those moments were rare, and they were swiftly buried beneath the author’s frequent lapses into verbosity and exposition.
There were several places where the author threw away what could have been scenes of great tension; and I found much of his description overwritten and far too lengthy. The author’s habit of telling the reader what had happened instead of showing us those events stopped me caring much about any of his characters or what happened to them; he frequently repeats information; and at times I felt that he was too self-consciously Doing Writing rather than telling us his story.
All of these small problems add up to a text which is slow-paced and waffly. But the biggest problem was that it was confusing: there was little flow in the text; the narrative was jerky and inconsistent; it skipped from subject to subject and back again with little consistency; and this lack of focus, along with the over-wordy vocabulary, made what should have been a fast-paced courtroom drama into a slow dull read
I suspect Mr. Streby could do so much better if he worked with a strong editor or took part in some good writing workshops: there’s the hint of a good, commercial book buried beneath his mistakes. I read eleven of this book’s four hundred and thirty five pages; but had I not been reading this for review, I wouldn’t have got past the anti-trade publishing rant which makes up the bulk of the book’s second paragraph. It’s astonishingly ill-informed and the idea of anyone with an ounce of commercial experience investing money in the business proposed is ludicrous. I strongly advise this writer to research the realities of business better before he writes any more about it.
It has taken ruthless dedication for Rachel Develin to achieve her in the status as a Fidelis Officer in ASO, a society born from the remains of old Britain. Here in 2050, the role of the family has been redefined and, under the leadership of Magnamater Beatrice, people live in age-related regions. In Abovo, trained professionals named Maters rear all children before they graduate to Suris, where they stay and contribute until they reach 55 and are obliged to resort to Olim. It is a time of limited resources when all energy and water supplies are strictly controlled, each garment is recycled and every child is an eagerly awaited prize.
Rachel’s highly developed physical and intellectual abilities have always commanded respect, but privately the strain is now telling. While her fragile union with Ben has survived his infidelities, she struggles to suppress the need to be with her daughter, Bera, and to ignore the growing social unrest.
Her latest assignment begins with a routine interrogation, but her investigations are forced in a more unpredictable direction by the unaccountable Death of her superior officer, Josie Kitchener, with whom she has had a long and volatile relationship.
Her discoveries, and the punishments she must administer and endure, force stark choices that irreversibly change her loyalties and threaten the stability of ASO itself.
Accompanied by a CD featuring original music tracks written and performed by the author.
Aso is a perfect example of why editors are needed. The author has a tendency to slightly wooden and over-formal dialogue, and her writing is occasionally rather muddled, an effect which is exacerbated by her habit of head-hopping. Despite these faults she does have a mostly smooth and fluent style—which she then scuppers with numerous errors in punctuation, which range from minor errors to problems which completely cloud her intended meaning.
This tendency to confusion—both in the writing style and the misuse of punctuation—leads to a rather unsatisfactory read of a book which might well have shone had it been edited more effectively.
Mackie shows promise: she seems proficient at world-building, and there is an undercurrent of a lovely, lyrical tone: but she needs to pay more attention to detail, and to have more awareness of some of the pitfalls of the craft of writing, if she is going to fully realise that promise. I read eleven pages out of three hundred and three.
This review should have been published a long time ago: my apologies for its delay.
John McCulloch’s oldest son received a head injury at birth, re-sulting in blindness. A second injury at age 28, resulted in his being confined to a nursing home for life. This book is about how these afflictions and others led one family to a positive result.
Refined in the Furnace of Affliction is John McCulloch’s account of both his own life and the life of his son John, who received a head injury at birth and was subsequently disabled. There’s an insistent strand of Christianity and prayer in this book, and a strong focus on the need for family life, and it’s obvious that McCulloch is passionate and devoted to all of these things. Sadly, he isn’t a good writer and that lack of expertise means that this book is a flat, dull read.
Most of the pages reminded me of the journals I used to keep as a child: “I got up and then I had my breakfast and then I brushed my teeth and went to school”. It’s all tell and no show and it’s very disorganised, too: in the middle of what should be a heartbreaking tale of the birth of his disabled son, McCulloch abruptly breaks into an account of how his wife got a good deal on a car.
This is a very badly-written book which I wish I could have reviewed more favourably. I read only eleven of its one hundred and fourteen pages.
“No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Services, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and schools. But his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine.”
By the time I reached the top of page seven of My Splendid Concubine I’d found my fifteen errors, most of which were down to problems with punctuation. There were also a few errors of context, and a few issues which are typical of the inexperienced writer.
I really wanted this book to do better: it tells a mostly-true story which has the potential to be fascinating. A little more writing experience, a rewrite and a stringent edit might fix the problems that I found but as it stands, it doesn’t measure up to commercial standards.