Wednesday, 18 May 2022

The Life of Crime - the first review

When you publish a book, you 'd be less than human if you didn't wonder how people were going to react to it. After all the time you've devoted to the writing, it's natural to be anxious about the critical response. This is bound to be true of a novel, a creative work coming from one's own imagination, but it's also true of a non-fiction book - especially some of those I've written (not so much those on legal subjects!), where I've used a novelistic approach, and presented information in the style of a story, as with The Golden Age of Murder, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books and now The Life of Crime.

It's important to realise that you can't please everyone - even when you've put years into the writing, as I've done with The Life of Crime. For me, Julian Symons' Bloody Murder is a masterpiece (even though I don't agree with many of his individual opinions) and yet he received endless criticism - and still does - some of it fair, some of it not, as well as innumerable deserved accolades. The Life of Crime is a very different book. But if a book is good enough and makes something of an impression, the fact that some people don't 'get' it or have some sort of axe to grind about it doesn't matter too much. The reality is that not every reviewer takes the trouble to consider what the author was trying to do and to judge the book on that basis, rather than in relation to what the reviewer thinks the book should have been about. 

Against that background, I was absolutely thrilled by the very first review of The Life of Crime. Not just because it was so generous, but also because the reviewer, Scott Herbertson, had taken time and care in reflecting on the aims of the book. I'm very glad, too, that he saw no obvious omissions, because the reality is that even when writing a book of this length, it's essential to be highly selective, because the subject matter is so vast and so diverse. To say that I'm encouraged by this initial reaction is a massive under-statement.

And to put a bit of icing on the cake, I've just had word of a lovely review from Kirkus: 'ambitious...a big sweeping impressive range of less well-known authors...a thorough sketch of the genre's origins, its evolutions, and its flexibility in response to cultural shifts...a broad and absorbing overview of one of the most popular and enduring genres of fiction'. So - a great start, and truly gratifying.

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