Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The One That Didn't Work


Almost every writer has one "less than great" book in them. What book by a favorite writer let you down?

I know I am in the minority here, but I really didn't care for THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY by Charles Willeford. It was the sixth book I read by him and it just didn't grab me the way the others had.
Perhaps I wasn't prepared to buy into art criticism from him.

How about you?

28 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Really interesting question, Patti. Hmmm... I've actually had that happen with a couple of authors I otherwise really liked. As you say, even the best don't always produce top-quality, "perfect" (if there is such a thing) writing. Well, I don't think James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown was as absorbing as some of his other Dave Robicheaux novels. It just didn't pull me in the way he usually does.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I remember being disappointed with the ending of THE INVISIBLE MAN where Griffin is clobbered to death by the villagers. I read this classic in high school and at the time I thought the invisible man could have saved himself. Ditto FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS where Robert Jordan, the American who fights alongside the guerrillas in the Spanish Civil War, is shot dead in the end. I didn't expect him to die saving others including his girlfriend. Now you really can't fault Wells and Hemingway, can you?

F.T. Bradley said...

On the YA side, I remember loving Zusak's I AM THE MESSENGER, but then not being able to get into THE BOOK THIEF. And the latter is considered one of the best YAs out there.

I'm pretty sure in this case, it was me and my expectations--not the book--that failed.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's true. Our disappointment is not necessarily proof that the book didn't deliver. We want our hero to survive even if the death is inevitable.
THE BOOK THIEF was my book group's favorite book. I liked it less, feeling it too didactic to really succeed. And Death as a character only went so far for me since the rest of the book was realistic.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, that is so true. I had a list somewhere of books by favorite authors that I (a) just didn't like or (b) couldn't read at all or (c) turned me off so much I never went back.

After breakfast I'll try and remember them.

Occasionally, as with Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich, I just got tired of the same old thing.

Jeff M.

Dan_Luft said...

I loved The Burnt Orange Heresy but I know how you feel. I was the only Joshua Tree detractor in my dorm back in '87.

I'll go all the way to the top. I thought The Brothers Karamazov was a snooze. Everything Dostoevsky said there he said better before with better characters. It was probably just his best structured book.

I read lost everything by him so I can recommend a bunch but not this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Dean Koontz's latest, which I disliked so much I can't even remember the name of. Andre Norton with "eye of the Monster." I could name a few with some thought.

Dana King said...

Raymond Chandler, PLAYBACK. His last completed novel, and it doesn't measure up. Maybe POODLE SPRINGS would have been better, had he lived to finish it, but PLAYBACK reads as though he's done with Marlowe, though there are still some great lines.

George said...

I'm a big John D. MacDonald fan, but THE GREEN RIPPER is a stinker.

Anonymous said...

1. Ed McBain, MARY MARY - not 87 Precinct but part of the Matthew Hope series. By FAR the worst of the 90+ books of his I've read. I could not believe he went there.
2. Ross Thomas, THE SEERSUCKER WHIPSAW. I know it's just me but I've been unable to read it.
3. Reginald Hill, PICTURES OF PERFECTION. Just cannot get past the beginning section of this one.
4. Agatha Christie, THIRD GIRL. Late and very bad.
5. Bill Pronzini, MASQUES. As a big fan of the author and New Orleans I was sadly disappointed in this.
6. Michael Connelly, VOID MOON and especially CHASING THE DIME, which I couldn't read at all.
7. Patricia Cornwell, FROM POTTER'S FIELD. Don't remember what this was about but it was the last straw for me with this author.
8. S. J. Rozan, ON THE LINE. This is the kind of plot I hate. Did not finish.
9. Lisa Scottoline, the one where the twin sister kidnaps Benny and takes over her identity. It's the kind of book that makes me want to throw it out a window.
10. Karen Kijewski, KATWALK. One was more than enough for me. Hated it.

Jeff M.

PS - I realize mine is a minority opinion on some of these.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Probably need to try it again when my expectation for a Hoke Mosley type story have faded.
Jeff-you are prepared.
It just amazes me that Grafton would be satisfied to write about the same character for 26 books. But I guess that's the way to make a living.
THE THIRD GIRL was shockingly bad. I remember being so disappointed. Her last books, save for the ones she had written years before and saved, were not good.

Heath Lowrance said...

About Burnt-Orange Heresy, yeah... I practically worship at the altar of early Willeford (The Woman Chaser, High Priest of California, etc) but I have to agree that Heresy was relatively slow-going. The art angle wasn't particularly interesting.

But still... a bad Willeford is twice as good as most other things.

George said...

THE THIRD GIRL is a terrible book, but now we know Agatha Christie was suffering from Alzheimer's which explains a lot. The same thing happened to the late work of science fiction writer Keith Laumer who also suffered from Alzheimer's.

Chad said...

One of the Travis McGee books has to do with stamp collecting--The Scarlet Ruse, I think? That one bored the hell out of me and I never finished.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And Iris Murdoch.
I know one or two Travis's were lesser ones, but it's been so long ago I can't remember.

Todd Mason said...

THE GREEN RIPPER is a Very autumnal Travis McGee. This makes some folks like it better (TMc isn't such a pompous ass as he realizes that age does certain things to all of us, that he can't Manfully hold against himself), but I can see where George is coming from. Not my favorite McGee, one of my least favorites, but they are all rather of a piece, the worst good enough and the best pretty damned good, but not really JDM's best work.

Todd Mason said...

And I see I'm conflating at least some of THE GREEN RIPPER with THE LONELY SILVER RAIN. 21 TMc novels can do that to one.

Richard R. said...

Having been an art-English co-major in university, then an Art College for my MA, I'd read a ton of art criticism and appraisal over the years, so I liked the art aspects of BURNT ORNGE HERESY. I also liked Burke's TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN. I'll certainly agree that PLAYBACK is the weakest Chandler, but tend toward the belief that any Chandler is better than none.

Books that just didn't "do it" for me, books that most everyone else thought were great? THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, FRANNY AND ZOOEY, TENDER IS THE NIGHT, GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. I only liked parts of GONE WITH THE WIND, though I kept slogging because I thought I should read it. I'd certainly not read it again. About ten years ago I told that to a female acquaintance who said "It's a woman's book". Maybe so.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Agree especially with Mill and Floss and Tender is the Night, which I have tried many times.

Anonymous said...

Who liked MILL ON THE FLOSS? It was awful. Couldn't get into TENDER IS THE NIGHT at all.

I did like FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, however.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

Theodore Sturgeon's GODBODY.

Erle Stanley Gardner's Doug Selby "D.A." series.

As much as I love Peter Lovesey's books, his novels as "Peter Lear" just didn't do it for me; I slogged through the first two and gave up on the third.

James Bond was fine in the novels, but the short stories...yeech!

ALPHABET HICKS by Rex Stout.

I had a surprisingly hard time with Mark Twain's CONNECTICUT YANKEE.

Hugh Pentecost/Judson Philips had a lot of interesting characters in the 1960s and 70s, but his mystery novels featuring Julian Quist, the "mod" public relations expert were dated the moment they were published. And (my God!) he wrote more than a dozen of 'em.

Many of my favorite writers either lost their touch or just phoned it in at the end of their careers; i.e., MRS. MUPHY'S UNDERPANTS by Fredric Brown.

Can't come up with exact titles, but in the late 60s several mystery writers had their protagonists going through some very bad marijuana trips and/or withdrawal. Unintentially funny and very bad.

Harold Robbins. My mistake was reading A STONE FOR DANNY FISHER, STILETTO, and THE CARPETBAGGERS first.

I could go on.

Deb said...

I have to be careful about going on a "binge" when I discover a new-to-me writer who has a large back catalog. I tend to want to consume all their available work in very rapid succession and then it's like eating too much of something that's very good, but also very rich. If I'm reading, say, the sixth book in a row by the same author and I find myself saying, "Gee, this isn't as good as numbers one through five," I have to pull myself back and figure the fault is probably mine.

Of those writers whose work I have tried not to sample in one giant gulp, but have none-the-less read a lot of, I was really disappointed with Reginald Hill's THE PRICE OF THE BUTCHER'S MEAT, which I couldn't even finish (although I love most of the Dalziel and Pascoe books). This may have had something to do with the book's narrative structure, which involved long passages of (intentionally) badly-spelled emails supposedly from a woman in her early twenties. Jeez, a little of that went a long way.

Kent Morgan said...

I hadn't read any Willeford when the owner of a store called the Book Nook of Madiera Beach, Florida recommended The Burnt Orange Heresy to me. She was impressed that I had read James Lee Burke and was buying a copy of The Last Get-Back Boogie. This was long before the Dave Robicheaux series. Based on that she thought I would like Heresy, but it pretty well turned me off Willeford for a long time. I like Connelly, but agree that Void Moon wasn't up to his standards.

Ron Scheer said...

A couple of euro authors, for me: Milan Kundera and Gunter Grass. I loved their earlier work and felt their later work was a bore.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Those of you with a bunch must keep notes or have a great memory.
Here's a topic I should post soon. Whose last work was their best work? Next week.

Graham Powell said...

I see someone already mentioned Connolly's CHASING THE DIME, which I didn't think much of. Pretty unusual for me - even though his clinical prose style leaves me kind of cold, his stories always grab me and I can't stop reading.

Well, almost always.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have only read one or two Connelly's. Not sure why because I liked what I read.

John said...

I was an avid John Irving fan until A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR which took me forever to get through, but I did finish it. Next came THE FOURTH HAND which seemed fluffy and recycled plots ideas form previous books. Only parts of it were intersting. Then he wrote UNTIL I FIND YOU and I just hated it. I never finished it. And I've not read anything of his since.

I think Christie's stinker far worse the THIRD GIRL is the atrociously boring POSTERN OF FATE. Tommy and Tuppence as senior citizens. BAD idea! And it is way too long!