Firstly I want to apologise as my post was meant to be up on 2nd July but sure don’t they say ‘all good things come to those who wait’?! Let’s learn a little about the book then get to the good part, a fantastic post written by MRC Kasasian!!
London, 1884: Sidney Grice – London’s foremost personal detective – is restless. Having filed his latest case under ‘S’ for ‘Still To Be Solved’, he has returned to his book, A Brief History of Doorstep Whitening in Preston, to await further inspiration. His ward, March Middleton, remains determined to uncover the truth.
Geraldine Hockaday, the daughter of a respected Naval captain, was outraged on the murky streets of Limehouse. Yet her attacker is still on the loose.
But then a chance encounter in an overcrowded cafe brings a new victim to light, and it seems clear March and Grice are on the trail of a serial offender.
A trail that will lead them to the dining room of a Prussian Prince, the dingy hangout of an Armenian gangster, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House…
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 Jun. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1784978094
- ISBN-13: 978-1784978099
‘Critics! Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame.’ Robert Burns.
In 1985 my wife and I went to see to see the Frank Sinatra at the Albert Hall. Frank was in a good mood that night. We happened to be passing the stage door when we arrived and he stopped for a chat. Half an hour later he was on stage. Though his voice was not at its best – he was 70 after all – he was electrifying. A terrific performance of The Lady is a Tramp and he had us in the palm of his hand.
And then he started talking. Clearly he had not been getting the reviews he felt were his due. ‘Critics,’ he snarled in a way that made me glad I wasn’t one, ‘they make me sick. If they weren’t critics they’d be snipers in children’s playgrounds.’ And the audience – very few of whom could ever have been at the sharp end of a reviewer’s pen – roared their agreement. My wife and I were shocked. To compare someone who doesn’t like your performance to a child murderer seemed ever-so-slightly over the top. But then I read later that Sinatra once went and urinated on a critic’s grave so, clearly, he was on his best behavior that night.
When my first book ‘The Mangle Street Murders’ came out I devoured the opinions. Few can ever have scoured Goodreads or Amazon or Google for opinions as assiduously as I did.
Almost everyone was kind. Publisher’s Weekly and the Daily Mail couldn’t have been more generous if I had paid them. (I didn’t). It was a dream introduction to the world of criticism.
But what about the lady who said I should be murdered to stop me writing any more books? She was joking – wasn’t she? – Chain on door just in case.
Most wounding to me was the one word review ‘boring’. How do you respond to it? A word like that eats into you, if you let it.
‘Stop reading reviews,’ my wife said but, skilled as she is at giving good advice, I’m even better at not following it. She also tells me not to eat mussels but I do, even if I have had a few near-death experiences afterwards.
I try to forget these things but I can’t. I tell myself that all criticism is helpful and can teach me something but, if truth be told, I’ve turned into a prima donna desperately seeking praise. How clever and perceptive is the critic who described me as clever and perceptive: what a great sense of humour has the person who thinks I have.
But what about the woman who didn’t like my main character, Sidney Grice, because his name reminded her of a girl called Grace? Or the people who point out mistakes which aren’t? How many times I have itched to respond to them but so far I have managed to restrain myself.
Then there’s the fellow writer who keeps retweeting her poor opinion of my work. I am starting to feel persecuted.
I am puzzled also by Goodreads – an otherwise excellent site – allowing people to give bad ratings to books before they’re even published. To me that seems like saying ‘I didn’t enjoy next Christmas.’
George V is alleged to have said ‘Never apologise, never explain.’ And he was probably wise to do so.
And Sibelius may have had it right when he wrote, ‘Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up by a critic.’
Perhaps I should take advice from the master of the mangled phrase, filmmaker Sam Goldwyn. ‘Never pay any attention to critics,’ he said. ‘Don’t even ignore them.’
I want to thank MRC Kasasian for his guest post and Clare at Head of Zeus for inviting me to be part of this tour!