First of all, sorry for the hiatus! I was seriously stuck whilst in Portugal – as well as internet limited by how much I could afford to load on my dongle, I had laptop problems. My laptop had a hissy fit at the heat (38-45C) and the dust/ash caused by the forest fires (and yes, we were in the middle of the affected area). I’m now back in UK and just recovering from the trauma of buying a new laptop – more about that in another post.
Because I was internet deprived and laptop deprived I couldn’t write so I did a lot of reading, and quite a bit of pondering on what I’d read. I want to share a couple of in depth reviews/commentaries with you because they raise issues that affect the craft of the writer.
The first writer I want to discuss is Harlan Coben. I have only read one book – The Woods – so bear with me if it is out of line with the rest of his work.
Now, the book I read deserves much of the praise Coben garners. It has an intriguing plot, an excellent introduction to the mystery, great characters (even the minor ones), well-written dialogue, fascinating insights into states of mind including those of criminals, prosecutors and parents. And I was truly hooked on the story. I can see why he wins awards and I will definitely be looking for more of his work.
But – and this is where the discussion point comes in – who edited it and where did they learn about grammar (or not)?? And who lets Coben get away with murdering his native/adopted tongue?
From the beginning the book is simply packed with tense shifts, sometimes within the same sentence, lack of agreement between subject and verb, jarring continuity errors… I hate it when tenses are misused and it says something for the story content that I carried on reading anyway and just felt forced to share my feelings with others.
Am I really a dinosaur for preferring English to be correctly written? Do the editors at Orion simply not care because they know they will make money anyway? Do readers in general really not notice faults like this? Any writer can make occasional mistakes, some of them typos and some of them out of ignorance. But this is constant! Coben probably doesn’t realise what he’s doing but surely an editor’s job is to work to polish material? Isn’t that one of the arguments for buying ‘published’ writers in the sense of those published by the big/known publishing houses? Whilst I’ve come across a few self-published books that share some of Coben’s problems this is actually the worst example of badly edited language I’ve come across outside school English essays.
Note that I’m by no means giving the writer a bad review. I can recommend the book in spite of its flaws. Your thoughts would be welcome!