The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Wonder of a Conditioned Fan Base

I’ve been reading Faye Kellerman’s Murder 101. Shortly before that, I read the latest novels from Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva. I’ve enjoyed reading all three novelists for many years. In fact, I’ve written books about Connelly and Silva. That takes a lot of devotion because it means I read around twenty novels by each of them in order to survey their entire work.

What surprises me is that all three novelists have chosen to age their main characters in real time. The result is a distinct lack of energy. Take Faye Keller’s Peter Decker as an example. Now he’s RETIRED and working in a small-town police department to keep busy. Connelly’s Harry Bosch is out the door into forced retirement and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon is being kicked upstairs to run the Israeli intelligence agency because he is just too old to be playing James Bond.

Yet, readers who have come to love these characters over the years eagerly await the latest new chapter and give effusive praise in their Amazon reviews. I love the characters as well, but you do need to take off your blinders and look at the current book and not be blinded by previously brilliant books. Kellerman’s book DRAGS. It really does. Not only that, but it grows increasingly tiresome to have a young snotty college grad keep calling Peter “Old Man” repeatedly. Silva’s book drags as well. The most interesting character in Silva’s book is not Gabriel Allon but a much younger Christopher Keller, the heir apparent to the violent scenes in the future. I actually believe that Connelly will grow tired of having Bosch help his half brother and will begin to have him help his daughter. I predict she will join the LAPD and turn repeatedly to Dad for help.

To read the over 600 positive reviews on Amazon for Kellerman’s book is enough to have me scratch my head in wonder. Did they read the same book I did? One reader who routinely gives all Kellerman books four to five stars gave it four stars and commented that he really didn’t understand a lot of the art talk. Still, if Kellerman wrote it, the book automatically deserves four to five stars.

I’m reminded of teachers in high school who often start with assumption they are reading an A student’s work when they pick up a paper from one of their favorites. Starting with that perspective caused them to overlook flaws and gloss over lapses. When I taught college English, I sometimes would have the students put numbers rather than names on their papers just to make sure everyone had an even break.

As a relatively unknown writer, I feel that I’m pushing a heavy load uphill in order to garner good reviews. I found one Goodreads reader, for example, who wrote that she automatically assigns one star to every book on her bookshelf. She changes the number of stars if she likes the book. So, damned to start with and only hopeful for a reprieve if you’re a novelist.

I cannot honestly say that the latest work by all three is of the quality of their earlier work, but you’d never know it from the reviews. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing hundreds of bloggers in an effort to find a group that will review my upcoming release of A Bullet for a Ghost Whisperer. If you’re interested in a free copy in exchange for an honest review, let me know and we’ll talk.

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