Honor among Writers

As an editor of commercial fiction, and a student of Kindle marketing,I have a pretty good idea now of what sells and how /why it does.

I love the noir genre with its laconic anti-heroes, the iconic Bogart movies, and Chandler's essays on writing.

But every so often I come across a book which concertinas my confidence into the equivalent of a wrecked paper plane.

This weekend I rediscovered the grandaddy of tartan noir, Scottish novelist Willliam McIlvanney, the champion of doubt. I devoured his Laidlaw Trilogy, one book after the other.

It was a revelation and will change my writing and my Kindle reviewing forever.

Five Star Reviews?

I can no longer give five star reviews to accomplished novels which keep me turning the pages, waiting to see what comes next. I need more.

I can no longer give five star reviews to many top selling thrillers or romantic novels. I need more.

The commercial Kindle creed is that the more books you push out, the more money you make. Maybe so but at what price?

Detective Inspector Laidlaw, based in Glasgow, could admittedly mean less to a non-Scot who might not recognize the impeccable truth of the characters and their landscape. But the brilliance and compassion and the novelist's skills for observation are an eye-opener.

And there I go, sounding like all the culture shams McIlvanney mocks in the passing...

But every phrase is telling, every simile as fresh as morning. Nowhere do I ever remember reading before that someone should have been "festooned with friends." One to cherish.

Is There a Moral?

Know thyself? Be true to yourself? Never settle for anything less than your best?

The first of the Laidlaw Investigations was published in 1977, the second in 1983 and the third in  1991.

Now in his seventies, William McIlvanney is considering writing a fourth in the series. I expect it too to be well worth waiting for.

And until then, it'll need a very special novelist to make me write another five star review.

Over to you--what book or books have changed your writing or your life?

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.


Magdalena Ball said...

Nice post Anne. "The grandaddy of tartan noir" is such a good description. I really don't like the star system. It's so reductive. I avoid it wherever possible. When I love a book I want to say specifically why and when I don't like it, there are usually specifics too that stars won't reveal. However, I did read a book this year - Elemental by Amanda Curtin, which made me cry twice - once so hard I had to put the book down because I couldn't see the text. Yes, it made me feel inadequate as a writer, but that feeling was dwarfed by the greater sense of shared humanity I felt as a reader.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I agree. The stars in a review don't mean as much to me as the reviewers insight.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Thank you so much for sharing your insights on this, Maggie. I shall certainly add Elemental to my reading list and btw I enjoy everything you say on the Compulsive Reader website.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Thanks Mary Jo. But it Looks like there may be more than a few five star writers out there who don't agree lol. Very quiet on the comments today...

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