Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Professional Ethics

Mes Amis

I am just about to post (over on crimescenescotlandreviews.blogspot.com) a couple of recent reviews.

It is not unknown for me to review people I like personally. In each and every case, they understand that, if I don't like the book, I will say so. They know that I am an honest man and that I will fucking criticise you if I feel you deserve it.

I'm not as ethical as some reviewers in the sense that they will not review friends or people who have bought them drinks. I can understand this approach. But I have always believed in separating the personal from the professional as much as possible.

In other words: you can like a person even if you don't like their books. And you can like a book even if you don't like the author.

I also believe an author should be ready for criticism. Not evil bastard criticism, but honest and well-intentioned criticism. Fuck it, if I ever gets that book out there, I'm prepared for pummellings. I hope I don't get them, but... they'll happen. Its inevitable.

I like to think that even when I am critical of works, I am even handed. I try to approach books as dispassionately as possible. That is I view them in as wide a context as I can and try not simply to promote my gut feelings, but to say what kind of audience a book is intended for and whether I think it might hit that audience.

My reviews have been referred to as "horribly cerebral" and "incredibly detailed" in private posts. Well, what's the point of a review that just says, "I liked it". That's nothing more than a blurb. It tells the reader nothing. Similarly a review that says, "I hated it" is often doing even less. Explain why the book is a failure, you bastards! Go on, pin it down.

If I can't explain why I didn't like a book, I won't review it.*

But I'm straying from the point here, because one recent review has given me pause. Its a bastardly glowing review, I think. For a man I know personally (but then that's never stopped me before) but what makes things diferent now is that... I know him professionally.

He's my agent.

He's the man who champions my writing.

He's also the man who criticises my writing. Really criticises. Destoys it. Takes it apart. Shows me how to make it better. Hell, I'm a better writer now than I was six months ago. Okay, you can't see any proof - but you'll just have to trust me.

And this guy appreciates it when I criticise his work in my reviews (unless I get on at him about sexual dysfunction as a recurring motif in his novels). This is someone who gets what I do in my reviews and knows that I wouldn't lie about his work or let the fact I know him get in the way of what I say about his books. And anyway, I was a fan of his before I knew him at all. The point is, I know and he knows that if I didn't like the book, I'd bloody well say so.

But the charges of cronyism can be easy to level especially considering the nature of some reviews out there.**

But I don't care. Because I loved this book, and I'll put myself on the line for it in this way. Those of you who've read my reviews up to now know what kind of books I love and this one fits right in.

Fuck it, anyway...

Its my damn website.

Au revoir


And for five quid, I'll make your book sound all intellectual, too...****

**I have, as eagle eyed readers will know, written some love letters to novels myself: but it takes a special kind of book to me go gushy...

***There are other reasons too: lack of time being the most common... I get a ton of books to review these days for various purposes including the day job...

****Obviously a joke...*****

***Fifteen quid is the real price...******

******If Dave White's reading this blog post, he won't get here because we all know he hates footnotes...


Sandra Ruttan said...

I think you have more integrity than most people on the planet Russel. I share the dilemmas and I know how hard it can be sometimes, but you do a damn fine job.

FYI, your story isn't forthcoming, lazy bum. It's up.

Dave White said...

I actually did get there because I was scrolling down to see the comments and then finally look at the last footnote and went "That son of a bitch!"