Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Gratuitous Violence and Sexual Deviancy

Okay, Publishers Weekly didn't like my book, but then, I didn't like their review, so we're even. Here's the deal about why I didn't like the review - they cited the book for sexual deviancy. It is a book about pedophiles. There is not a single sex scene in the book, not a one. Essentially, unless I'm misunderstanding, this means they were going to cite the book for sexual deviancy from the time they read it was about pedophiles on the back of the book. That is to say, they didn't have to read the book to know it was about pedophilia and make the claim. Again, not a single sex scene, deviant or otherwise, in the entire book. What they mean is just that I chose a topic they didn't like. I'm not sure that's responsible reviewing, is it?

Then, as for violence, I'm not sure what is being referred to with the word "gratuitous". My books are generally violent, there can be no doubt about that. This is NOT a cozy. The violence here happens mostly on the page. But, compared to my first novel, for instance, there isn't all that much violence, and I don't see how any of it is gratuitous. I mean it isn't like I put in extra shootouts and fistfights just to fill pages. There is a scene of police brutality. There is a scene (first few pages) where a girl is murdered. An officer gets punched in the jaw, and a little boy gets pushed around by his older sister. I think this just about covers the violence. In chapter ten of my first novel, bodies drop like a swarm of flies drawn to a zapper. All of the violence in this book is there for a reason and, I think, pretty good reasons. PW begs to differ, I won't argue this one as much.

I think the problem may be that I write abot a small town in a tropical setting. Maybe the reviewer at PW was expecting a cozy. I tell people that I do "hardboiled cozies". Small town, closed community, everyone knows everyone, but when there's violence it is out for the reader to see. I don't believe in keeping that stuff off the page - realism to me means that a punch in the nose hurts. When a man gets sent to prison, his life is ruined. Violence is NEVER gratuitous. Even when a psychopath uses hedgeclippers to sheer the toes off a live victim - that might be gratuitous to the psycho, but I guarantee you it isn't to the victim. (btw, there are no hedgeclippers in my novel).

So far, Library Journal and Kirkus have liked the book which makes me happy.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bryon Quertermous said...

You've been photographed in public with the likes of John R and myself and they're calling YOU the deviant? Just imagine what will happen if you ever get the goat sucker book out there.

September 12, 2006 10:14 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Jordan said...

Steven, this is a brilliant book in a very strong series, have no doubt about that. You're one of a handful of authors I can count on to write solid, human books every time. The subject in this one is an uncomfortable one but dealt with in a very real, very compassionate way. You're writing about life; things that really happen and what human beings really do in response.

As a reviewer, I don't read the backs of books or the inside flap. I dive in and try to keep my reaction honest. I think the PW reviewer may have failed in that regard.

September 12, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

Bryon,
Imagine what would have happened if I had taken John Rs advice about what to title the book."Missing in Precinct Puerto Rico" would have been... well, quite a bit more lewd.


Jennifer,
Thank you for the support. I do think that the location throws some people off. Small tropical towns are just not noir locales in some people's minds. Tomorrow, I'll focus on the star Library Journal gave me.

September 12, 2006 7:52 PM  

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