Everybody’s a Critic!

But keep those one-star reviews to yourself…

Everybody’s a Critic!

I have written 26 thrillers and mysteries, all self-published. They have garnered hundreds upon hundreds of reviews, mostly from Amazon Kindle readers.

Lest you have the impulse to shout “WOW!” I should point out that many of my peers have thousands of reviews for far fewer books. And like most Amazon authors, despite my prolific production, I don’t make a lot of money. In fact, when my book list tops my golf handicap, which is 28, I may reconsider both avocations.

A small fraction of the reviews came from friends and family. Some I solicited (what are friends for?), and some not. It’s not like I put a gun to their heads. Of course, I live in Florida, so guns are always handy. Needless to say, those reviews — solicited and otherwise — are raves. Indeed, the vast majority of ALL the reviews I get are four and five stars.

But a few aren’t.

Which brings me to the point of this column. I just got a one-star review from someone. The reviewer was outraged. He saw a political bias in the book, Nightingale, in which a disreputable real estate family in financial trouble turns to murder to protect one of its holdings.

The reviewer said that “half the country voted” for the person I based my characters on, and added that “the other side is the one most capable of ‘competing’ in such a manner” — whatever that means.

The reviewer went on to say that he enjoyed my earlier books, even though my politics were always obvious. But Nightingale was beyond the pale.

To be sure, I never liked Donald Trump, although I believe all my previous references to him in my books were fairly benign. That’s because I used to use his name and persona — when he was just a New York celebrity — as a foil for other characters. I basically wrote that some of my protagonists wanted to emulate him or his success.

So, did I channel Trump this time? Does he resemble my Nightingale character, a New York entrepreneur who built an empire with other people’s money? Yes. But the real-life Trump has bragged about doing exactly that, too.

Can’t an author ascribe malevolent actions, including murder, to a fictional character without readers assuming he’s describing an actual person? I’ve written fiction about American presidents who were cozy with serial killers. I did not identify them by party or political affiliation, assuming that moral blindness and expediency are non-partisan.

(For the record, although they did some great things, I’m no big fan of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, both of whom were too beholden to Wall Street and Big Money. And I’ve put that in writing.)

I have authored other books with characters that resembled Trump, but they didn’t evince such a vituperative reaction. The reason? Trump hadn’t yet been elected president.

Honestly, many of his supporters doth protest too much. If they recognize him so easily in the miscreant I’ve created, why the hell did they vote for him? 

I try not to take any reviews, good or bad, too seriously, which is why I also avoid critique groups. As I noted in a previous column, I went to one years ago where one person gushed about my “wonderful” writing, while another said that anyone producing such drivel should be drawn and quartered.

They were talking about the same book — one that had absolutely no politics in it.

Lawrence De Maria just published My Murder Book, a compendium of some of his previous novels’ most heinous crimes committed by fictional human monsters. If you know someone who resembles any of these people, run for the hills! Nightingale, by the way, also got some five-star reviews. Go figure.

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