Monday, June 21, 2010

Sad, but True

A couple of the things we learn from holding Semi-Annual Used Book Sales (last weekend in September is the next one) is that
  • there are a lot of books published of quite questionable quality
  • the book I think is dreck may be 'just the thing' for someone else.
That said, I read a library book last week that was T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. and I want to let you know so you don't waste your time.

If you're a mystery/thriller fan, you've probably heard of James Patterson. You may have even read his (many) books.Well for some reason, he got a wild hair about solving the mystery of how King Tutankhamen died.Convinced that he could solve the mystery, Patterson collaborated with Martin Dugard to produce one of the absolutely worst waste of time books published.

You can start right with the cover. The book, The Murder of King Tut, advertises itself as a non-fiction thriller. It is true that the story of King Tut's short life, and the discovery of his tomb are thrilling, but the format in which Patterson has written the account is DEFINITELY fiction. He creates imagined conversations and even scenarios into which his neat 'theory' of Tut's murder falls.

Opening the book, you find an Author's Note. In the note, Patterson proceeds to excuse himself from any conventions associated with writing non-fiction. The entire tone is "I'm James Patterson, noted author, so I don't have to obey the common rules of writing." Sigh.

This book is much the worse for his abandonment of normal rules. Granted, in life much of the formerly stark line between fiction and non-fiction has blurred, but this book isn't even close.

And we haven't gotten to the writing yet.

In some ways, the writing style and format reminds me of a third grade chapter book. Short, with large font, the scene shifts between the early 20th century (Howard Carter and Lord Carnavon) and ancient Egypt. The conversations between the players in ancient times are completely contrived and the relationships mostly imagined. There is a little more validity in the 20th century portions as Carter left many papers and notes from which to draw a good story. But they fail at even that. A carefully laid out mystery is exciting and interesting (think Agatha Christie and Nero Wolfe). This is dull, contrived, and the conclusion Patterson draws isn't based on anything he writes up to that point. But lest you be tempted to let your 3rd grader read it, know that there are some sex scenes.

It IS a story. At best, it's Historical Fiction. (And there are better historical fiction books on this subject) At worst, it is a fraud. There are no footnotes. No sources listed. No bibliography of any kind. Instead, where a bibliography might normally be found, there is a long list of all of Patterson's published titles.

This is either the worst case of author arrogance I've read in a long time, or this is a poor hapless author driven to publish absolute rubbish by a ruthless publisher. Don't bother reading it to find out unless you're a big James Patterson fan and feel sorry for him.

If, after this glowing review, you're tempted to read the book anyway, look under 932P.  The P is ostensibly for Patterson but it should be for Pretentious and Pathetic and Pee-yew.

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