Today I was given a piece of very liberating advice by my good friend The Librarian. (Welcome to our country!) I was moaning, amongst other things, about a truly dreadful book that is taking me an age to read, that I dread picking up each night, and that provokes outbursts of temper several times per page. (Antisocial, as my best reading is done at night.)
The Librarian listened as I listed a catalogue of crimes against writing. "Hmm," she said, "stop reading it then."
What? Stop reading a book? Before I get to the end?
"Yes," she said. "Life's too short. And there are too many good books to bother with a bad book."
But what about the author? All the hours he put into writing such an - admittedly awful - book?
The Librarian shrugged and sipped on her peppermint and chilli tea.
I sat, stunned. Why hadn't I thought of this before?
Possibly because as Voltaire said, 'It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.'
Anyway, this is what I've been putting up with for the past four nights (and I only managed to get to page 54):
A smile played on his lips, but he was not foolish enough to turn around, to expose himself to her devastating weapons. (No, not a gun, but her breasts, her hair and her long, slender legs.)
She threw a silk robe over her shoulders, partially covering the gorgeous figure that had made her the world's highest paid fashion model up until her early retirement four years ago at the tender age of twenty-three. (Dan Brown, eat your heart out.)
'Don't worry,' she said, opening her sparkling blue eyes with flecks of silvery gray. (I wondered why she needed silvery gray flecks to open her eyes. Had her lids gummed up?)
Their oral barrages never slackened. (What???)
Laura's hands trembled, her face and eyes harried and swollen from the torment of the seemingly endless night she had just endured. (I know how she feels, just from the torment of reading this seemingly endless book.)
But the very worst thing about this book is that the author (Harlan Coben, stand up and be shamed) says in his introduction, after admitting that this is a reissue of a much older book: "...So this is, for better or worse (worse, Harlan, definitely worse), the exact book I wrote when I was in my early twenties ... I love this book. There is an energy and risk taking in Play Dead that I wonder if I still have."
No, there isn't. It is a dreadful book and you should have left it in a drawer with other juvenilia instead of foisting it on unsuspecting members of the public. You owe me £7.99, Harlan, and a huge bunch of flowers.
Whilst I'm on the subject of dreadful books, let me direct your attention to Close-Up by Esther Verhoef. It's published by Quercus, whom one would assume know a thing or two about crime novels, having had previous run-away success with the Steig Larsson trilogy.
It's not dreadful all the way though but I lost all patience with it on page 301. Here, (page 301!) the psychotic serial killer gets the protagonist's (a very silly woman called Margot) ex-boyfriend (John) to inject himself with an overdose of insulin. On page 330 (330!) Margot says Not many people knew John was a diabetic ...Only family and friends knew.