If you know me, you know I rarely leave a bad review. Part of that is because I rarely finish a book that would result in a bad review. I realize it's bad partway through and quit. Who's got time to read bad books? I also know that bad reviews can hurt a book's sales and since a review is just my opinion, why do that to someone?
But this weekend, I had to give a book three stars. (Yes, for me, 3-stars is a bad review.) The book was Mickey Spillane's The Erection Set. From the title and the cover, I already had an inkling it was going to be tawdry. And let's face it, Mickey is sometimes a little tawdry. It's part and parcel of his books. But this... this was over the top.
It seemed like it was nasty for the sake of being nasty. Full of shock factor snippets tossed off for effect. I felt like Mickey was told to sex the book up a bit and took the editorial notes to a ludicrous level.
And even then, I could've forgiven it. I read books with sex in them. I read books with some nasty bits in them, too. I flip past that stuff and move on to the story. Which was what I was doing throughout The Erection Set.
But partway through the book, I found something familiar. And even with my piss-poor memory, I could tell it had been ripped off from another book. It was the same plot devise Mickey had used in his earlier book The Deep (which I totally loved). And I thought to myself, he can't be doing the same thing in this book. So I kept reading.
Oh, things were just different enough to make the story interesting, but it was, in essence, the same book. All the way to the end.
Guy who's been away fighting in WWII and then stayed away for some amount of years afterwards, comes home. He's got a reputation of being a criminal and a general bad guy. Since he was something of a hoodlum in his youth, it's easy for everyone from his past life to believe he's bad. And with bad things happening, he's the easy suspect. So the police pull him in and question him. He writes a number on a piece of paper, slides it across the table at the detective and tells him to call that number. After the officer does, he's told he can go.
There's a gal in the story who falls in love with the bad guy. She's pretty sure he's not as bad as everyone thinks and she falls in love. When confronted with what she thinks is the proof of his evil doings, she hates him, but she sticks around to see how it all plays out.
In the end, it's revealed that he's been working for the government all along and the assumptions she's made are proven false. All is well. The end.
That's an easy description of both books. And it gave me a serious sad last night.
I depend on certain authors to give me what I expect - well-written stories I haven't read before. And Mickey had let me down. I wondered if maybe in his old age, he was getting cantankerous, but then I realized he was only 54 when he wrote this. Then I wondered if he'd perhaps gotten sick of people trying to tell him what to write, so he thumbed his nose at the establishment and gave them a regurgitated book so thick with raunch, they'd have to see how bad it was and leave him the hell alone.
Then Hubs brought up an interesting point - Mickey allowed them to publish this book. He put his name on it. (Yeah, contracts... I know, but still...) To Hubs, it sounded like Mickey had sold out. The thought of which made me even sadder.
So, yeah, 3-stars. If it had been anyone but Spillane, it would've gotten fewer, but the writing was still there and still awesome, if you ignored the nasty and the regurg. Hell, if it had been anyone else, it wouldn't have finished it. But I learned an important lesson here. I won't be reading anymore of his post 1970s novels. Stick with the early stuff and I should be fine.
And the other important lesson I learned. Don't regurgitate your stories. I'm lucky because I don't have any telling me what I should write or any editorial board telling me how to write what I write.
And another thing... Don't write something just because someone thinks it's what the public might want. Again, I don't have anyone telling me what I ought to write, so I'm lucky there. I could write what I think the public might want, but that's just not me. I write what I write. Hopefully, readers will enjoy it and buy my stories. If not, there's really not much I can do about it without selling out.
Not that I don't think about it on occasion. Ah, the sweet siren song of sales...