Sometimes, it’s fun to squirt a little venom around. My ire is prompted by an article from one of the newsletters I received, which chooses five of the most poorly written top-selling books from history:
I agree with two of their choices, the Robert Patterson collaboration and The Celestine Prophecies, both of which were so bad that I wanted to throw them across the room. I could only do this with the Patterson, as I was given the Redfield pile of tosh to read on a transatlantic flight by a friend whose opinion I admired. Like a fool, it was the only reading matter I took and rather than be arrested by an air marshal for clocking a fellow passenger around the head with it, I thrust it into my carry on bag, later donating it to an Atlanta thrift store—where it joined about 20 others on the shelf!
I’ve never understood the devotion that Ayn Rand’s terrible writing inspires, but criticising Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is a bit like knocking a lava lamp as being kitsch—they’re both symbolic of a period and mindset.
Patterson’s collaborations with guns-for-hire authors mystify and infuriate me, as they read like a poorly worded outline for a novel, being sketchy and with no flesh on the bones. His Alex Cross novels are well written in comparison, so this co-authorship feels like cynical manipulation of a non-judgemental fan base. At least he’s been giving millions away to needy literary causes, so perhaps he has a guilty conscience.
Mind you, it was anger at his poor quality writing, along with one other appalling novel I read at about the same time, which prompted me to write my own, so reading rubbish does have some hidden benefits!
The other book that pissed me off was well-reviewed, but I detested it, as it’s ghastly, mawkish and with no trace of empathy or sympathy for the characters. I’ve seen it described as a black comedy, but it’s not that, as it completely lacks any wit or irony.
Michelle Lovric writes as if she hates every one of her characters and her readers too:
I literally hurled this book at the bedroom wall, causing a dent that I’m rather proud of….
I should add anything written by Jeffrey Archer, who is a failed politician and best-selling author, as well as a rogue of the lowest order. Apart from the scandals littering his career, he writes with the skill of an illiterate ten-year-old and has a long history of plagiarism.
He even copied a little-known Ernest Hemingway short story, almost word for word, getting paid thousands of pounds for it by the Daily Mail as an exclusive. When his perfidy was exposed, he claimed to have merely been inspired by the story—and refused to return his fee.
I read one of his novels once, and it was so terrible that I sampled another, wondering ‘who reads this shit to make it a bestseller?!’ It’s said that his manuscripts require teams of editors to knock into readable shape.
We’re all told as writers seeking publication, to produce the best work that we can and that a fine quality story will eventually gain readership. This isn’t necessary if you’re already famous, spinning notoriety into career-enhancing public recognition, and have lots of servile contacts in the publishing world ready to cash-in on your celebrity.
What best-selling books do you loathe and detest?