Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Luck, Dan Brown

I’m going to stray from my usual hard-boiled coverage and talk about the Dan Brown Juggernaut that his is latest book, The Lost Symbol.

And for reasons you may not expect.

When The Da Vinci Code broke records and received it’s own zip code at our small town enormous magabookstore (yes, I’m gleefully mimicking Mr. Brown’s horrific, repeated redundancies; you’re welcome!), my writer friends and I could not believe that such poorly written muck could be such a huge hit.

I do not like to bash other authors; really, I never intend to talk about a book I don’t like, but in this case I must point out that Mr. Brown is not the greatest wordsmith ever to fill a page. His writing is clunky and full of the kind of amateurism that most authors grow out of or are beaten out of by mentors. Obviously Dan Brown had no mentor. He never read Fitzgerald or Hammett or Hemingway. He never learned how to really use words. It’s like he just throws crap on the wall to see what sticks.

He isn’t even covering new territory or taking the thriller novel in new directions; he’s using left-over Robert Ludlum tricks. Ludlum relied on government-military-corporate conspiracies, expert assassins, exotic locales; Brown focuses on religious conspiracies but uses all the other gimmicks. There's nothing new in what he writes.

But apparently it’s working anyway.

My writer friends and I could not believe that we remain undiscovered while this guy becomes a multi-millionaire with ONE BOOK. In the end, we decided if he could do it, so could we, though one or two of us secretly, quietly, hoped that Brown would get his ass handed to him in the plagiarism suit that followed Da Vinci’s runaway, surprising success.

Despite my unfavorable opinion of Brown's writing, today I have come to defend Brown from what I think are circumstances no writer should face.

(Get ready for MORE italics, something the author in question uses often and for no apparent reason…)

Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol, faces a challenge that may be too great even for the powerful, brilliant mind of the heroic Robert Langdon--back again after the terrific, thrilling adventure in The Da Vinci Code--the book must save the publishing industry from certain, irreversible doom!

If you haven’t noticed, the economy sucks right now; the publishing industry is facing as much trouble as everybody else, maybe even more so, for reason we won’t get into here.

Big Publishing needs a big hit. A really big hit. A home run. The industry needs a hit like Mary needed Jesus, like Langdon needs his next clue, like a flower needs water, like people need air, dig?

And that means Dan Brown is expected to deliver the kind of results no author should ever be asked to deliver; can he withstand the pressure?

No matter how well Brown’s book does, it won’t be good enough. Expectations and hopes are too high on the part of Big Publishing. In the end, I doubt Brown’s reputation will suffer. His writing career will continue unabated, but who needs this stress? Who needs critics and publishing insiders pointing out that if you’re book doesn't do amazingly, exceptionally, outstandingly well, you’ve failed the entire industry which desperately--like a heroin addict looking for a score in the sleazy, dilapidated part of town immersed in misty, white fog--needs people to buy books. They need people to buy Dan Brown’s new book and maybe, possibly, hopefully, oh please oh please oh please, buy other books, too.

That’s too much pressure, man. Too much.

Good luck, Dan. If you can’t stand the heat, go count your money. That always makes me feel better. Oh, wait...

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