On reviews

I’e2’80’99ve never been able to understand writers who don’e2’80’99t read the reviews of their work. Sure, it can be painful, like having strangers tell you that your child really isn’e2’80’99t as attractive, or talented, or even as nice as you thought. Sometimes you are possessed by the rage-fueled urge to pick up a phone and track the reviewer down and point out that although they thought they were being oh, so clever to point out a glaring flaw in your plot if they’e2’80’99d actually done the job they were getting paid to do, for Christ sake, and kept their eyes open as far as page 67 they would have found that’e2’80’a6..

However, you don’e2’80’99t pick up the phone, not to call the newspaper anyway, although you might call a friend or fellow writer and bitch mightily.

But I do learn things from reviews. Not necessarily from the critical remarks of one reviewer, even when it’e2’80’99s the kind of review that sears itself into your brain (‘e2’80’9ca long, keen disappointment’e2’80’9d is the phrase that will be found on my own frontal lobes at autopsy) but when two or more point out the same problem, I have to assume it’e2’80’99s there. That just because the readers who love me haven’e2’80’99t written to complain, doesn’e2’80’99t mean there isn’e2’80’99t cause for complaint.

Having said that, I get mostly positive reviews, so reading them is not a painful experience. It is hugely boosting to an ego suffering under the slings and arrows of a recalcitrant plot to open the San Jose Mercury News and read that for the last book, anyway, one David Beck thinks that ‘e2’80’9cno one, not even Conan Doyle, has ever done a better Holmes than King does.’e2’80’9d What’e2’80’99s not to love about David Beck?

But what I truly adore about reviews such as this one in the Merc is the discovery of similar minds. Here is a person who has not only read the Doyle stories, but has read Dashiell Hammett as well, and thoroughly enough to know that I’e2’80’99ve played on one of Hammett’e2’80’99s short stories in LOCKED ROOMS (the scene with the Chinese feng shui master’e2’80’94the reference, for those of you whose interest I’e2’80’99ve now caught, being the wincingly named ‘e2’80’9cDead Yellow Women.’e2’80’9d) The scene, and particularly the dialogue, is one of those touches I put into books knowing that no one but me knows it’e2’80’99s there, that maybe one reader in a thousand’e2’80’94maybe in ten thousand’e2’80’94will immediately zero in on the reference and smile to himself at it.

To find such a spirit in the excellent Mr. Beck is a prize discovery. Who wouldn’e2’80’99t read reviews?

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  1. Anonymous on June 21, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Let’s hear it for Mr Beck! Three cheers.

    linda in delaware

  2. myninki on June 21, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Madam you do wake up early for sure. it works fine for me beacuse by the time i pop my head in here you already wrote, im 3 hours ahead, but writting at 6am or so, my, my. it makes me feel ashame of myself!”how sibaritic of me”
    But i must work in my english..i must read this post again, im not sure i got it right

  3. Samantha on June 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    You are quite right, Laurie. I’ve read some awful reviews of books that I’ve heartly enjoyed, only to think that I somehow missed the point. Then I realize that it was the reviewer who missed the point. I certainly don’t read as much as a reviewer, but as a librarian, I do read a lot. I’ve found that while reviews are important to me as a reader, they aren’t always accurate. I take them all with a grain of salt. I just finished “Cross Bones” by Kathy Reichs, a wonderful book about Masada, and I was wondering if you had read it – if you indeed have time for that sort of thing. Once that was finished, I was able to turn to Locked Rooms. And yes, I’m past page 67 already, and am totally loving it.

    Thank you!

  4. Anonymous on June 21, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Laurie- My library called to tell me my hold on Locked Rooms was in yesterday. Just finished last page–I loved every word!! Now have to get the audio version. It’s a chance to savour the story in a different way. Thank you for putting the stories in your head on paper for all of us to enjoy. Have a great tour.


  5. Cornelia on June 21, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    Three cheers for Mr Beck!

    (Certainly not the David L. Beck who wrote “The Composition of the Epistle of James”, Diss. Princeton 1973, 270 S. – the coincidence of competences had been too funny …)

    And three sobs for myself. Ordered the book in February. Won’t get it before June 28. Germany – country at the rim of the world of bookseller’s logistics.

  6. laura on June 21, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    Have a great tour and I really look forward to getting the book 🙂

  7. Liz on June 22, 2005 at 2:47 am

    So … we really should pay attention on page 67, huh?

    I suppose it’s too soon to start camping out at the local import bookstore…

  8. Anonymous on June 22, 2005 at 3:50 am


    Page 67, of course, explains just *why* you’ve got the Cliff House on the cover. Heh. I wonder if the critic who complained about its presence will say anything snarky about your work ever again?

    Looking forward to seeing you at Stacey’s or Cody’s Books in July–through a marvelous bit of luck, I will be on legitimate vacation with my family in San Francisco, those same dates when you will be there! 😀

    Maer aka “Merely a whim.”

  9. Marianne McA on June 22, 2005 at 11:40 am

    Rats. I started reading last night, got to page 155, and abandoned the book to go and buy some Dashiell Hammett before proceeding. So now I’m reading the collection of his short stories ‘Nightmare Town’, and guess what isn’t in it? Sob.
    Happened last time too. I had to break off from reading The Game because I hadn’t read Kim, and wanted to read it first. [Loved it.] It’s pitiful to be so ill-read. I think I need a reading list six weeks in advance.
    [The first 155 pages are fantastic. It’s hard to concentrate on Hammett when my inner reader wants more of Locked Rooms.]

  10. Debra Hamel on June 22, 2005 at 3:21 pm

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