Sunday, 6 November 2011

Oxford Today and Crime Fiction Reviews

Why is it that some books attract more attention than others? I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer. I’ve written at least one book – Take My Breath Away – that I thought was good but which made little impression on reviewers. But, thankfully, the Lake District Mysteries have done better. And, when you’ve been around for a long time, it is often hard to get attention for your  work.

The Hanging Wood has now become one of my more successful books in terms of reviews. It’s attracted favourable attention in The Times and The Literary Review, a column in The Guardian, and pleasing comments elsewhere, here, in the US, and on Amazon. And now it’s been highlighted in Oxford Today, a glossy magazine with a big readership: “stylish writing and a gripping plot make the perfect crime thriller.”

I’m very gratified, since reviews do matter. And the merit of positive reviews is that they are good for morale and motivation. There’s no doubt that, this week-end, I’ll write with greater zest because of this latest review.

And this is something I bear in mind when reviewing the books of others, especially those of living writers. It’s not about offering constant praise without a single caveat, because that tends to devalue the review. But I do like to look for the positives, especially with writers who aren’t best-sellers, and who deserve to be better known. Above all, I think it’s right to try to review a book on the basis of what it is trying to achieve, rather than what it isn’t.


Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - First, I'm very happy for you that the Lake District mysteries are doing as well as they are. They deserve to. As to reviews, you make a very interesting point. I, too, like the idea of finding something positive about a book and presenting it. It's got to be balanced, though, as you say, with any honest caveats. Not an easy thing to do.

aguja said...

An interesting post, Martin. It is often the way that others find something different to admire and celebrate in another's work.

I admire your attitude to other writers, too, and I am glad that you are receiving favourable reviews.

Dorte H said...

I am so glad to hear your terrific book gets the reviews it deserves!

And you are right, constant praise can seem unconvincing so it is often easier to judge a book based on the three- and four-star reviews than the five- and one-star ones.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot, it's a balancing act you accomplish so well in your thoughtful posts on a daily basis. I remain in awe!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Aguja!
And thank you too, Dorte. I must say, though, I think Amazon is an exception in that there isn't any quality control on the reviewers or reviews. Which means that a three star review is perceived by most as a poor one. I think it's easier to be discerning in other review forums, or on blogs. But I think the reality is that Amazon is very important nowadays, and that inevitably the 'rules of the game' differ from those in other areas of reviewing.