Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bestselling Authors What Don't Write English Good

So.  Tom Rob Smith, author of a great debut thriller, Child 44.  A Soviet detective who tracks down a serial killer in the early 50s.  Interesting that he uses his full name and writes about Soviets, just like three-name Martin Cruz Smith (Smith!) of Gorky Park-Arkady Renko fame.  But that's a sidebar.  I've just read his follow-on thriller, The Secret Speech.  Pretty good, though I had some too-much-suspension-of-disbelief problems and gripes over some saccharine sentiments.  But I was struck by this sentence:

Taking place in the courtyard of her apartment complex, Fraera intended to host the first victory celebration.

Now, clearly this sentence states that the character Fraera is "taking place in the courtyard," not the celebration.  OK, OK, happens to the best of writers.  Norman Mailer famously opened Ancient Evenings with a dangling participle, too.  But the above sentence is immediately followed by:

Open to all, she provided crates of alcohol...

Now, I suppose you could argue that he's saying Fraera was "open to all," but I think he clearly means the victory party.  (Since it takes place during the Hungarian Revolution, the "victory" part turns out to be premature.)

And this guy went to Cambridge!  The worst part is, there are many more examples of this kind of sloppiness.  And yet he's sold bazillions of copies.  You'd think the publishing industry could hire just a few copy editors who know what they're doing, if for no other reason than to prevent the embarrassment of their big players.

Just sayin'.


  1. Damn dangling modifers.

    In my writing class yesterday, I learned about gerunds. Perhaps I learned this in eight grade, but obviously I (and the rest of the class) forgot what it means.

  2. You're right. Sloppy writing takes us out of the moment -- like a piece of spinach on the front tooth of Megan Fox looking dreamily into our eyes.

    O.K. For Megan Fox I'd still be in the moment.

    It's sad. Perhaps the writer got caught up in meeting a deadline. Or maybe he was lazy.

    You have a great blog. Thanks. It's appreciated, Roland

  3. Hey, Roland, welcome to my blog! In real life, Trav's best friend is named Roland!

  4. they are getting bigger. open to all, i will post proof soon.


  5. Ugh. I couldn't read that. I tutor the SAT (among other things) and that is a classic SAT error!

  6. Yes, but it comes down to this, which you pointed out in your first sentence: "great debut thriller." Meaning, the story was incredible.

  7. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I hope you are doing just as well.