Letters from… fans??

Well, how would YOU answer this? In a way Miss Manners would approve?

“For some time I resisted buying The Art of Detection because I was afraid it was a mere spin-off, an attempt to use in another way research already used. I broke down, however, and—trusting the author—bought the CDs.

“Not only is it a mere spin-off as described above; it blatantly advocates for alternative lifestyles, an attitude that cannot be said to have complete acceptance in our culture. It is one thing to have a crime as the structural necessity for a mystery novel; it is another to advocate—through the protagonist—for something may feel is unacceptable, without any warning to the reader.

“Justice Hall included a situation that didn’t quite overwhelm the story, although I wouldn’t recommend that book. I have come to expect that in order to sell a book these days an author may feel it necessary to have some deplorable pages, such as the description of the toy room in The Game….

“Nothing on your websites or book jackets would have warned me away from the Kate Martinelli series. I didn’t read them before because I thought the dipicted [sic] language of the SP police might be a bit rough; indeed that was terrible in The Art of Detection. I know enough now to warn my like-minded friends, but caveat emptor aside, in the future I think a little common courtesy is called for, something like ‘for our friends who are sympathetic to alternative lifestyles.’

“Perhaps Ms. King would defend herself by recalling the advocacy of Dickens and others for social change…. Today’s moral quagmires are of an entirely different order, and it is truly possible to offend the reader and—in this case—take advantage of him or her.

“From now on, I will examine new L R King novels first in the library and advise my like-minded friends to do the same.”

Posted in


  1. Chris on December 15, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Oh dear. Perhaps your book was on the wrong shelf in a bookstore somewhere? Possibly in the ‘self-help for artists’ section…? Tongue firmly in cheek.

    Personally, and on a serious note – I think all the ‘information’ is out there for us easily (mis)led readers. Maybe this letter is a test to see what sort of response DOES come!


  2. Roxanne on December 15, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    I don’t think I have ever seen a book with a warning label such as: ‘for our friends who are sympathetic to alternative lifestyles.’ Or anything else of that ilk.

    I once bought some Western novels as a gift for an elderly male friend. I glanced at the books to ascertain that they included no sex or foul language–both of which my friend detested. Turns out the author had occasionally used the “dam-” word. My friend was appalled. As someone else wrote in a recent comment: “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

    As for how to answer this individual’s letter, you might suggest that she take advantage of the many book reviews available. I Googled “Laurie R. King” and “book reviews” and was served a wealth of information. In regard to The Art of Detection, I easily found the following: “Kate, who is gay, lives contentedly with her partner, Lee, and their daughter, Nora … The plot features a man who bears a strong resemblance to Sherlock Holmes … he investigates the death of a soldier who had been having a homosexual affair … The overriding theme of the book is that intolerance and prejudice can destroy those whose love is outside of the mainstream” (emphasis added)–http://www.mostlyfiction.com/sleuths/king_LR.htm

    Also, you might mention that, unlike the movie industry, there is no publishing convention for “warning labels” on books (at least, not in my experience.)

    Happy and Healthy Holidays to you and yours. It is 60 degrees here in Philadelphia! Foggy and ridiculously balmy–not December-ish at all–and more like the weather I imagine you in California are accustomed to experiencing this time of year. I suspect you will not have to worry about snow on your trip to New York City in January …

  3. L. Crampton, LAc on December 15, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    Naivete and determination to avoid what one has been told is ‘bad’ in the world can create a situation in which one depends on others to unknowingly protect them from what they know not; one is therefore continually disappointed in the consequent failure.

  4. Roxanne on December 15, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Hey, “l.crampton, lac”–are those great words yours? Or are they a quote by someone else?

  5. Delia on December 15, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    I find this letter to you absolutely hilarious! For pity sakes, the writer needs to grow up. Or live in a bubble. I got the best laugh of the day if it hadn’t been also slightly tragic. If one couldn’t read anything with which one didn’t agree, what WOULD one read? Not the newspaper, not modern novels, nothing about politics, nothing. I am chuckling at the same time as I am absolutely appalled. Sigh.

  6. Roxanne on December 15, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Ms. King:

    I just tried to email Crossroads Books to order a signed copy of Beekeeper for my daughter. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that neither the email link in your newsletter, which just arrived, nor the link on your home page seems to be working. My communications keep getting bounced back to me by the “System Administrator.” Maybe they changed email accounts? Just an FYI.


  7. Kit on December 15, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    I would be tempted to use some variant of the “thank you for your submission but it does not meet our needs” letters I have gotten.

    However, I’d probably just write:

    Dear Reader,

    Thank you for your interesting comments.


  8. Mary Davenport on December 15, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    Dear person,
    Contrary to what some may think, a writer’s primary responsibility is not to her readers but to the truth that speaks within her. While I understand your concerns with some of my material, you must understand that for me to place limitations on my work so as not to offend would be a breach of personal integrity.

    Or you could just say, “Well, you answered your own question there: check the books out from the library before you put the money down.” If she finds your books this offensive, I wonder what she DOES find to read…

  9. Anonymous on December 15, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Must you respond to the “fan’s” letter? I would imagine that Miss Manners would say, let it drop.
    As a person of alternative lifestyle I can say with certainly that some folks go out looking for ways to make negative statements.

    On a related note I was praying that Kate and her group would continue to be a happy bunch and we could continue to read of her detective work and life.

  10. Anonymous on December 15, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    As a “family member” of Kate Martinelli’s, I want to thank you for including us in your books. I love the Kate series and waited anxiously for a loooong time for The Art of Detection — and it was WELL worth the wait. I wish you could produce a Kate book annually.
    As for how to respond to that homophobe …. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of a response! Nothing you could say could ever appease a person like that anyway, so why waste your time.

  11. Roxanne on December 15, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Never mind. Operator error. The email address/link for Crossroads Books is fine. Just fine. I’m the one who needs some tweaking . . .

  12. Anonymous on December 15, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    If it was me, I wouldn’t write back, but you’re probably a better person than I am and would respond to all letters. I would then do what Kit said and give a generic thank you for taking the time to write letter.

    Or you could tell this person off and lose a “fan.” There are lots of fans of your work, so you can afford to lose one.

    But honestly in the age of the internet, how can you not know about Kate’s lifestyle? And what would this person read if it can’t have anything “bad” in it? Something from the children’s section?


  13. Roxanne on December 15, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    Sure–the letter writer could read Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy’s Roommate by Alyson Wonderland … Ooops. I guess children’s books are not a “safe” bet either …

  14. Anonymous on December 15, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Wow! I’ve always felt as though your books are suggestive rather than graphic, whether it be Russell/Holmes or Lee and Kate. You’ve kind of allowed the reader to fill in the details.
    I think I might respond in “I’ve shared your comments with my blog readers…” way rather than “thanks for your comment.” I’m not sure I have any appreciation for those comments!

    You keep writing, we’ll keep reading!


  15. G. Steinbach on December 15, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    I would just add to I. Crampton’s excellent comment that naivete and determination to avoid what one has been told is ‘bad’ is also a serious barrier to learning, personal growth, and, crucially, the expansion of one’s empathy for other human beings. Perhaps, Ms. King, you can find a way of including these ideas in your response.

  16. SA in Toronto, Canada on December 15, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    This is a real letter? Seriously, who are these people? Sigh.

  17. Anonymous on December 15, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    That reader was ridiculous.
    I can’t imagine someone so unenlightened liking ANY of your books. That said, The Art of Detection was the ONLY book of yours I didn’t like…because of who I am..finding the Noe Valley community just a bit cutesy and self-congratulatory.
    I adore all of Russell, Keeping Watch, Folly–and that tells you who I am.

  18. Elisa on December 16, 2006 at 12:18 am

    Dear “Fan”,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your reaction to my novel, The Art of Detection. I’m sorry aspects of the story upset you. I have always been a strong advocate for libraries. Perhaps you should ask your librarian to review all my future work to save you the discomfort of being confronted by an unwanted story line.

    Yours in Polythene,

  19. Kat on December 16, 2006 at 2:22 am

    Reading should entertain you, educate you, expose you to new ideas, or make you think. I don’t see the value of restricting your reading choices to books that simply reconfirm everything you already believe. Alas, there are people who do limit themselves in that way, even as there are some who choose to live in cities populated completely with like-minded citizens.

    I would simply thank the letter writer for her thoughts and let it go at that.

  20. Anonymous on December 16, 2006 at 3:06 am

    A Miss Manners answer, hmmm…

    Dear Reader,

    Thank you for your interest in my books. When I decided to write a story combining series, I did not intend for people of your “like-mind,” who enjoy Russell/Holmes stories but would be repulsed by Kate Martinelli stories, to be entrapped into buying something unsuited to their needs. Please accept my apologies. Should you feel that the insult must be wiped out in blood, the choice of swords or pistols is of course yours.

    Your ob’t servant, etc.

  21. kate on December 16, 2006 at 6:11 am

    first of all, why read books if you know everything that’s going to happen? The subtlety (and beauty, I think) in the Russell and Kate books lets one’s imagination do more. and yes, a writer shouldn’t only write for their audience. who wants to read stuff from a sell-out? I haven’t read The Art of Detection yet but I look forward to.

  22. Pen on December 16, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Well, there are bigots everywhere and presumably some of them can read. I think the excellent thing about the Martineli books (including ART OF DETECTION)is that the fact that Kate is gay is not particularly dwelled upon and is dealt with as a normal part of life. I would ignore this person. Believe me, you can do without this particular “fan”.

  23. WDI on December 16, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Oh, that made me laugh! Of course it’s sad to see hard evidence of attitudes we all know are held by far too many people, but the internal contradictions of chastising the author of crime fiction for including objectionable individuals, lifestyles, language, etc. are just mind-boggling. Although I have to say that I thought the funniest part was the bit about the book being a “mere spin-off” because of “research already used.”

    Anyway, here’s my offering of response, based on the finest Miss Manners Tradition and substituting the author for a hostess entertaining guests in her home. Remember that, according to Miss Manners, the good hostess is always concerned for the comfort and sensibilities of her guests, but makes no apology for her own correct behavior.

    “Gentle Reader:
    Ms. King thanks you for troubling yourself to write and regrets the discomfort you felt while reading her book. She hopes that you will console yourself with the knowledge that you’ve learned a valuable lesson in personal vigilance and approves wholeheartedly of your strategy for employing it in the future.”

    The very best of happy holidays to all!

  24. Anonymous on December 16, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Gentle Reader:
    The author gives your comments due consideration, and can only suggest that you avail yourself of the lbrary’s best feature, the well-informed and always eager to help librarian, if you cannot undertake the effort of reading a few book reviews before committing yourself to the purchase of books that might offend your obviously sensitive and tender philosophies. Best wishes on strengthening said views so they better withstand the unexpected countering views in future, should they survive such an inconsiderate world as found in literature in general.
    Wishing you the very best in every effort to avoid writing such as mine,
    Said Author.

  25. Anonymous on December 16, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    Anyone who is offended by ANYTHING the wonderful Ms. King writes should: a. broaden your horizons; b. try to write a book yourself, or; c. get a clue!

  26. bani on December 16, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    *is still sniggering at suggestion of pistols at dawn solution*

    ” – trusting the author – bought the CDs”

    You know, tough. Never trust the author/film director, trust the reviewer whose tastes are the same as yours (ergo, read lots of reviews to find said reviewer. Reviews are often found in so called newspapers.). What an idiot. Ooops. I suppose I’m not Miss Mannerly. In any case I’m not clever enough to write a response as unintentionally funny as the letter itself.

  27. bani on December 16, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Sorry for double-commenting, but just read the newsletter, and am very jealous that you got to meet Val McDermid… Lucky you!

  28. L. Crampton, LAc on December 16, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Roxanne, the words are all mine . . . thank you for the compliment. Distilled from years of seeking diplomacy amidst a wildly diverse extended family and patients who sometimes lock themselves in untenable boxes.
    WDI, your Miss Manners cracked me up! Well done. I enjoy this community! Laraine

  29. Mary R on December 16, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    The best response to this I’ve ever seen was over at the Panopticon Knitting Blog:
    The response to the snippy emails.
    The explanation for the response.
    (via Making Light

    I don’t think these would-be moralizers should be given a shred of sympathy. They (as clearly seen in this letter to you)have shifted their grounds for complaint from the fact that a book or film offends them to a new level. Namely, that works depicting human activities they do not approve of should not be allowed to be a part of normal cultural discourse.

    In saying that you are “advocating” social change by writing about the world as it exists, your reader is trying to deny the social change that already has happened.

    When someone demands that their hate and bigotry be granted a higher moral ground than our tolerance and love, they need to be corrected. And sharply.

  30. Becky Levine on December 16, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Well, heck, all I can say is it’s time for me to go get the book! 🙂 I hadn’t gotten it on my nightstand yet, but all this reader (???!!!!) has done is make me want to get it now.

    Seems like the round filing cabinet is the place for this one.

  31. Charlotte on December 16, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    I have struggle to appreciate the alternate life style of people I know and like, only to come to the conclusion that homosexual relationsips are profoundly destructive to the human spirit.
    I’m puzzled that a you, dear author, who understands the role of the holy fool (thank you, thank you) and the sinister seductiveness possible in a cult (again, thank you) fails to see this.
    Keep those strong women characters coming but when it comes to sex, it’s better, well- straight.
    That said, I loved Folly, Keeeping Watch and all the Mary Russell books. And I plan to keep on reading (and buying) everything you write.

    Merry, merry Christmas

  32. Wibbo on December 16, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Reply to it? I’d throw it straight in the bin…

  33. Anonymous on December 17, 2006 at 12:00 am

    — I find your lack of acceptance (note: not tolerance) profoundly destructive to the human spirit.

  34. Anonymous on December 17, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Hi Laurie!
    Okay! Hmmmn….as a lesbian and fanatic reader of the Kate Martinelli Mysteries, I had to think a while after I read this disapointed reader’s letter to you. I had to conclude that while we ( you, me, your fandom in general…)strongly disagree with this persons veiws–homophobic and very narrow minded–I grudgingly had to admit that it was a well written letter, that expressed those veiws and the reader’s concerns and disappointments very well, without nessesarily spewing hate. I have to admit, it was not a comfortable letter for me to read. It’s people like this who make life very difficult for people like me, keeping me half in and out of the closet, wary and very aware of the hostile culture I live in.
    HOWEVER…you know the old saying? I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it! This person had the courage to write clearly of their beliefs, and did so in a reasonable and fairly polite way. ( I know, I can just hear bloggers out there screaming “Polite?!?!?” Yes, polite! Go check some of the more militant right wing hate sites out there…this writer was polite. )
    So, should you choose to answer this writer’s letter, I would thank them for their time and thoughts, refer them to your website for reviews so that they may avoid future misunderstandings, and DO NOT apologize for anything that you have writen. Tell them what I said above, that you disagree with them, they disagree with you, but they have the freedom to their beliefs, convictions, and the expression of those convictions, as long as they harm no one, and that their letter was well written and thought provoking!
    They have the right to teach their children what they believe. They have the right to take a stand for what they believe is right.
    Which is what they are doing here. Ouch. So it isn’t comfortable to read. They still havent crossed the line to infringing on my rights. They simply wish to avoid any books of yours that they are uncomfortable with, and be cautious recomending any books that their like minded friends would have trouble with. They do not advocate banning or burning your books, they do not deny my right to read your books. They speak strongly of their disaproval, but they do not even say that you dont have the right to write as you choose. They dont even swear off reading all your books, they just seek to be discriminating in what they chooseof your work to read, based on their convictions, and seem to wiah to continue to read your work within those limits.
    Yes, I find them bigoted and narrow minded, and that is very sad. But I also find them intelligent and carefully spoken, and frankly, very courageous.
    May God bless and keep them, and bring them from a view of judgement to one of Grace.
    And by the way, yes, as a lesbian reader, I follow Kate Martinelli’s adventures, the way I would read letters about the lives of people I love who are far away…but I love and read all your books! Thankyou for the gifts you have given us all!

  35. L. Crampton, LAc on December 17, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    Reading this morning’s comment from Anonymous (about the letter being well-written and polite), I come to what I find, social/gender issues aside, most objectionable about the letter, from a writer’s perspective. It is snide (implying LRK would be lazy in recycling old research) and insulting (‘mere spin-off’). Read carefully, this is no polite letter, but a whine, thinly-veiled digs, and accusation (‘take advantage of’ the reader), from someone who describes themselves as afraid. There is no answer to satisfy this individual, unless one wishes to capitulate on all points of difference, apologise, and promise to stop writing. Ickh.

  36. Anonymous on December 17, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    Hmmmnnn….Ok, I have gone back and re-read the letter…and you may have a point on the literary part being snide and churlish. I have a suspicion here. Laurie King fans tend to fall into 3 loose groupings…the die hard Mary Russell fans who dont particularly care for Kate Martinelli; the die hard Kate fans who are not enamoured with Mary Russell, and the third grouping who love both series. From the sound of this person, they may be a Russell fan who tried to read “Art of Detection” because of the Sherlock Holmes crossover premise…they certainly would have never read any Kate Martinelli before this, because they would have hit the roof half way through “A Grave Talent”!
    And this reader may very well be one whom, bigotry and spurious criticism aside, is simply never going to be a Kate Martinelli fan.
    I suspect that the very undeserved “literary” criticism that this person launched into was also very subconciously driven by their “righteous” bigoted reaction. I suspect that they would not have been half so critical were they not already afronted and nose out of joint over some lesbian and gay characters!
    However, you have made a very good point, I. Crampton, in that the criticism leveled and Laurie’s writing and research is absurd and utterly unjust. I have to agree with you. I still stand by my statement that for a bigot, they handled the diatribe on lifestyles very well, and they have the right to their belies and the freedom to express those beliefs.
    However, unjustly criticizing Laurie’s reseach and writing when the opposite is so obvious–her research is exquisite and her prenise very original–that is probably worth shooting a dawn. Drawing and quartering….spending the next year in mandated English classes to learn how to appreciate what you read and to truly critique it, rather than just sound off about it…that would be about right. Maybe we could add a years mandatory attendance to PFLAG while we are at it….
    Thanks for pointing that out.

  37. Anonymous on December 17, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    I have GOT to start checking these posts for typos before I send them out! My apologies, folks! I have fingers that move faster than my brain…

  38. wildoakvirginia on December 17, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    Dear Gentle Reader,
    Fortunately no one has forced you to purchase something you find offensive. And, you have been stretched by this book, your personal theories challenged and perhaps strengthened.

    I hope that you, gentle reader do not give out or recommend the bible to your family or friends since that great book, too, has blasphemy, adultury, revenge killings, idolatry, forgiveness and tolorance of prostitutes and villans and many might find that book unsuitable.

  39. marta on December 18, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    not sure about a miss manners response… i would probably either ignore it, or respond in a form letter “thanks for your interest” sort of way. or at the most “i guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

    personally, one of the things i love most about the kate martinelli books is that you are not a lesbian, and the fact that kate is a lesbian is pretty incidental. i mean, of course kate’s lesbianism is a core part of her identity and her family’s identity, but i don’t think of the martinelli books as “lesbian detective fiction.” kate is a cop doing a job, a wife, and a mom raising a child, no big deal. i like that because that’s pretty much what i am too!

  40. Anonymous on December 18, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    Well, I heard on television that most blogs have one (yes, ONE) reader, LRK has taken the cake with this one! Wow.

  41. Anonymous on December 18, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Wow … I really wonder why you would show us such a letter. Are you really wondering how to answer, or did you want to thumb your nose at a segment of your readers?

    Perhaps you don’t wish to address the fact that there are some readers made uncomfortable by the lesbian characters in your work. Kate, Lee, and friends; Iris from Justice Hall; the pot smoking lady-in-pain from that short story I can’t remember the title of; and I don’t know if there are others.

    I can sympathize with the letter writer, actually, and wonder, would have shown us a hetero-bashing fan letter? Or perhaps those of us who hold different political or social views are not valuable to you as readers (and buyers)?


  42. 2maple on December 18, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    I loved L. Crampton’s 12/15/2006 8:24 AM comment …eloquent and to the point. This poor reader must go through life being both continuously coddled and offended…I wonder why they didn’t just put the book down and move on?

  43. Christy Lockstein on December 18, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Honestly, I devoured the Mary Russell series and loved them, but I avoided reading the Martinelli series because I was uncomfortable with the idea of reading a story in which the characters have “alternative lifestyles.” But I love your writing so much and missed it, that I picked up A Grave Talent. I was so moved by the obvious emotion and love that Kate & Lee have for each other that I felt like I received an education. I’m trying to be less narrow in my view of people and more understanding because of the lifestyles portrayed in your books. So while some people might be offended, others like me have their minds changed. Maybe it’s worth ticking off a few people to make others more compassionate. What do you think?

  44. Anonymous on December 18, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    I’m a librarian. I looked at the Library of Congress (LC)cataloging info in TAOD, and was surprised to see that LC didn’t add a subject heading Lesbians fiction. That would have helped your correspondent.

    I forgot to look at the dust jacket to see if it mentions Kate being Gay — and if it doesn’t, why not?

    Subject headings for fiction and jacket copy can provide clues to a person as to a book’s contents.

    Your correspondent might want to avoid mysteries that are not clearly in the “cozy” realm – which, unfortunately, is not a subject heading. Many online library catalogs now have links to “reviews” for title — really, synopses of the book — which might provide your correspondent with advice. As someone else has emailed you, there are many online sites too.

    Your correspondent might also want to be cautious in reading historical mysteries (i.e., Russell/Holmes) as they can contain material in a time period that can offend on a number of bases: drug usage, violence/torture, mistreatment of animals/children/women — all actions that may be true to the time setting, but upsetting today.

    That would apply, of course, to any novel, genre or not, set in the past.

  45. Anonymous on December 18, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Recommend this reader buy a big box of Saran Wrap, a couple rolls of Duct Tape; then go home and bolt the door.

  46. Anonymous on December 18, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    I agree with Christy’s comment that it is worth ticking people off if they come out of the experience more open-minded and compassionate.

    I was raised in a household where being gay was one of the worst things possible to be. And as a child I just agreed with my whole family because they are you parents and aunts uncles, etc. and it is their responsibility to teach you how to live.

    It took a brave classmate of mine to announce to the whole school in a diversity assembly to make me realize that my family is wrong and people are people. the other factors are inconsequential.

    After coming to this realization, I felt like a better person, ahd there is a whole world of books that opened up to me that before I would have avoid. So I applaud anyone who is willing to be opened-minded and accrpt people for who they are.


  47. Monique on December 18, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    “Dear Reader,


    Thanks so much for the laugh.



    P.S. Wait. Were you serious?”

  48. Anonymous on December 19, 2006 at 4:51 am

    Sherry: “I really wonder why you would show us such a letter.”

    I don’t wonder, because I don’t think, as you seem to, that homophobia or depictions of homosexual relationships are the most mind-numbing issues here. That letter could just as easily have been written by someone disgusted with a heterosexual depiction — Holmes entangled in a romantic relationship with a woman, for instance. *See post script.

    Like several other commentors, I too was appalled by the writer’s thinly-veiled hostilty. I’m not by any means arguing that the writer should stifle a well thought-out letter expressing disappointment. However…. It’s one thing to politely express dissent or disappointment. It’s another thing to do so in a manner which deliberately insults and denigrates the author (and which, by the way, makes huge assumptions about authorial intent/agenda).

    This particular specimen aptly demonstrates what I call the Shotgun Approach: the writer is so personally offended by the fictional world’s milieu and the behavior of the fictional people that inhabit it, that they feel it is appropriate to go in with both barrels blazing and attack the real-life author’s methods, personal agenda (if any, other than writing a book), skill, or all of the above, and to insist that the author write as the “reviewer” sees fit, on penalty of losing readership, etc., etc. LRK’s “reviewer” manages all these, and implies that it is LRK’s responsibility to santize her work to make it safe for general consumption, letting themself off the hook for any responsibility whatsoever — when, in fact, they did not exercise care in their choice of material/purchase, and apparently didn’t stop ingesting the material the second they realized what they’d got themself into. As far as I’m concerned it’s a clear case of “Don’t Like, Don’t Keep Reading, Don’t Buy Its Like Again” — but for heavens’ sake, don’t slog through the thing and then make personal attacks on the author because you found some of the material offensive.

    Perhaps, some day, adult readers who can’t deal with adult material might figure out that our society is far more diverse than they are comfortable with, decide that they’re responsible for their own choices, and stop demanding that fictional depictions of the world be made “safe” to fit their personal worldview. I’m not holding my breath, though.

    — an ancient and lurking “Ratnakar Sanjii” from the old RUSS-L

    * P.S.: example is ironically intended because I remember the Bad Old Days when the Holmesian Establishment was horribly outraged about Russell, and made similar attacks on LRK.

  49. Trix on December 19, 2006 at 8:12 am

    Anonymous librarian, why on earth should a dust jacket mention the GAY word? Why should the book have an LC subject of “lesbian”? (well, it’s handier for us queers to find, granted).

    I read books all the time which feature disgusting sexism, veiled racism, and relationship styles that I personally find abhorrent. Am I so rude as to email the author and criticise their choices? No. I’m happy to avoid such an author in future, and also recommend to people with similar sensibilities to mine that they don’t read.

    Unfortunately, they don’t normally say a book contains “sexist tripe” on the cover, nor is there such a subject header in any cataloging system. But, you know, having read one Wilbur Smith, I won’t make that mistake again. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the loss of me as a reader.

    Also, to the anonymous who objects to Laurie posting such (non-personally-identifiable) rubbish on her own personal blog, where else? Where does it say that someone is not allowed to highlight some example of ridiculousness that one encounters in one’s day? I thought Americans were supposed to be big on “freedom of speech”.

    Getting back to the original question, a deathly silence would the most appealing option, but if you have a policy of replying to all correspondence, a “thanks for your comments” (as others have said) is probably the moral high ground. Leaving off the “…now bugger off” I’d be tempted to add, of course.

  50. Charlotte on December 19, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Here is something emerging of greater importance than anywone’s sexuality or opinion thereof. What happened to disagreement, diversity of ideas, civilized discussion? It is es exactly ehre differing ideas meet that meaningful exploration can take place.
    After all, disagrrement doesn’t mean hatred and warning doesn’t mean rejection. Get a grip. Let’s talk, not dismiss.
    To insist that people agree is a treacherous path to pursue. It halts thinking! Didn’t anybody here debate in college?

  51. carenp on December 19, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Hmm. Seems to me the commentor’s grasp of history leaves a bit to be desired. To pontificate that “Today’s moral quagmires are of an entirely different order…” (than those of Dicken’s times) seems ill informed, at least, and more than a bit histrionic to sniff that presenting the *fact* of a happily coupled pair of women is more horrible than putative child slavery, horrific conditions in most factories, pollution worse than we see today in many major cities, etc. I suppose Dickens was merely employing artistic license calling it “The best of times, and the worst of times”.
    On another note – I’m home fighting off a fever and nagging cough, and spent the last couple of hours happily re-devouring “Folly”. Though I love Kate and Lee, Rae Newbourne is my empathetic favorite. I’m a clinical social worker, and my heart goes out to her struggle against depression. (Really astonishing depictions of the mind numbing fear and panic of paranoia and psychosis, and of the “how can I trust anything if I can’t trust my mind?” despair). I am also a woodworker, and I drool at both her collection of Japanese chisels (I have only a few) and her artistic vision. Comparing the characters of Zebrawood and teak, indeed!! My fantasy character short story pairing has Rae, Lee, Kate and Vaun Adams having dinner. And many pages of wonderful conversation…

    Thank you – again – for many hours of excellent reading.
    “Ignore the ignorant.”


  52. birddogmom on December 19, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Oh, please – If something offends one’s sensibilities – then don’t continue reading! All of Laurie’s books are entertaining and well-researched. And they are FICTION! There are books that I don’t finish for whatever reason and I have never felt compelled to write to the author. I have written letters for things I have truly enjoyed reading and several of those letters were to Laurie.

  53. Anonymous on December 19, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    What a hoot! Thanks for posting. Even my 80+ year old mom is well aware of gay life (lives in the DEEP south, religious). And while “its not for her”, she willingly reads books with gay characters, as well as bums, bootleggers, spinsters, bank robbers, killers, strippers, and every so often a real minority character!! I think you have lots of options provided here, so I won’t add what I would do! (might start with a match!!)

  54. Anonymous on December 20, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    What fun! Laurie has sent all we children off to the den with a truly engaging puzzel. I believe it even rivals the ‘sex’ post of some while back for numbers of comments.

    Let’s see;


    according to the OED, discuss or dispute about an issue

    debating point: an inessential matter used to gain advantage in a debate.

    no where in the definition does it ever suggest that maligning an individual is part of the debating process.

    in fact the word above it is malicious which seems more to the point of our dear critical letter writer who is providing us with such grist.

    I’m reminded of the days (thankfully long past) when we in the gay community were ‘debating’ the man/boy love group.

    no debate folks, an adult perpetrating anything on a minor is NOT alright.

    goodness knows we all are guilty of it at some time, adult abuse of a dependant being, never mind the age or species, but the honest among us do not tout it as something worthy of debate. We seek to modify our behavior.

    Still in all, these kinds of issues presented in an abusive manner, clearly sparks us all…some to outrage, some to the moral high ground, some to intellectual meanerings.

    Yet I do so tire of listening to the what other 90% who wish we could all be hard wired the same.

    I truly can’t ever remember once proslatizing to a straight person to ‘try’ being gay…well OK once when I was enamored with a straight woman in my youth, a not uncommon senario when first coming out. She demured without losing her cool. Nor did I imply that her orientation was bad, wrong, a mistake, or harmful and I went on to locating like minded folks.

    Settled on one, for 24 years now.

    I mean REALLY can we not let each other be.

    When no harm is being done…I guess that is the oppositon’s position is it not, that harm is being done…

    This post reminds me of the one about the gay pride demonstration in the Islamic land…culturally misplaced? Maybe, still we are everywhere and and have as much right as the next culture.

    Then there is leaving cultural practices alone when we are not of that culture, hmmmm?

    That’s a hard one especially when said practices do clearly cause physical harm, I’m thinking of female child mulitation here.

    What ever is the answer, answers?

    more debate, why not?

    and thanks Laurie once again for yet another hot topic.


  55. Anonymous on December 20, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    Responding to the query about why should the Library of Congress include “Lesbians fiction” as a subject heading: as it was my reply to the letter posted, in retrospect it seems easy to interpret my remarks about the subject heading as a need for a warning.

    I actually don’t like the subject headings assigned to fiction, or at least the ones that say, for instance, detectives England. Subject headings with the names of the detective can be useful. Let’s face it, detectives England, or detectives female England seem too general to be helpful. But, then, sometimes someone does want to see everything available in a library with a female detective. Or a lesbian. Laurie’s correspondent could benefit from that by avoiding such books, if there were a subject heading. But others could benefit from finding books easily.

    In many areas of the country, a person seeking fiction with primarily gay or lesbian characters might not feel comfortable asking a librarian if there were any such books in the library. A subject heading would be useful, and comparable to headings for ethnic/religious groups (african-americans fiction, jews fiction.)

    And, yes, I know — no subject headings for heterosexuals fiction, so one with Gays or lesbians does seem perhaps a way of indicating otherness. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.

    In terms of a book jacket, I would have thought that mentioning Kate’s sexual orientation on the inner book jacket summary would be a sales tool, but perhaps not.

  56. Anonymous on December 20, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    I find it interesting that so many of us feel the writer of the letter is a male. I’ve read the post a couple of times, and I don’t see any gender identification, although I, too, feel the writer is a male. Did I miss some gender id in it?

  57. Anonymous on December 21, 2006 at 2:03 am

    Hmm! it struck me as odd that the last poster thought most of us assumed the poster is a male – I actually assumed s/he is female..!
    So, hmm…
    I think it’s the tone… but what about it, I don’t really know…


  58. Anonymous on December 21, 2006 at 3:08 am

    I also thought it was a female writer, also not sure why…maybe just don’t like the thought of having to share LRK with guys 🙂

    Seriously, does anyone know the female/male proportion of LRK readers? Or if it’s very different for the Russell series, the Martinelli series, and the other books?

  59. Marianne McA on December 21, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I checked the book’s blurb, and it doesn’t say anything about Kate’s sexuality [though I’m still mystified by the comment ‘devoted Russell readers will know… the core story really was written by Doyle’]. However, this website does make reference to the fact Kate is gay.

  60. delia on December 22, 2006 at 12:16 am

    I presumed the writer was a woman.. I even have a very graphic picture of her in my mind. Complementary to her in some ways, but rather rigid in her posture. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Will this never end?

  61. YourFireAnt on December 22, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Something like:

    “Dear reader, I have read your letter and got a brief impression of things you might like/not like in a book. Why don’t you write it? and send it to a publisher.

    Good luck.

    yours, &c. “


    p.s. THIS (i.e., me) reader has read all your Holmes books at least 3x each, and is probably going to go into withdrawal if she has to wait until 2008 for another. ;-(

  62. Anonymous on December 23, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    There was a time when a bunch of my friends and I bought a coat together, and decided to pass it around and use it as a sort of scrapbook for the things we did in high school. A local newspaper thought it was cute b/c of the close paralell to sisterhood of the traveling pants, so she wrote an article on us. A few weeks later someone responded in the complaints section about how the lifestyle section shouldn’t be filled with stories of teenagers who are “obviously self-absorbed and selfish.” After the initial “HEY!” we all decided the incident was more amusing then anything, since obviously the writer had never met us before, but we couldn’t help but hope whomever had wrote the letter saw another picture of two of us a few months later, helping out at a local food shelter. 🙂


Leave a Comment