Sunday, 24 January 2010

Can a mate truly review his mate's book? Matt Hilton's Judgement & Wrath - my take...

I reviewed my good mate Matt Hilton's debut novel, Dead Men's Dust, on Amazon and received criticism from one guy in particular who pointed out Matt and I are mates (what a bombshell - he must be good at Cluedo!). We're intrinsically linked for all to see over at TKnC for God's sake!

I wrote the review in my full name and never hid the fact we are mates (it never crossed my mind as I was speaking from the heart), so I guess in hindsight I was on a hiding to nothing. I don't quite get that Amazon thing where many people go to the trouble of slagging off hard-working authors under the pretentious premise of: 'just letting my fellow readers know so they don't waste their money.'

Well, one thing's for sure...your money's in safe hands with Judgement & Wrath...

From the outset I felt JAW was an improvement on DMD, which is no detriment to Matt's debut as I thoroughly enjoyed it. JAW's basic plot is ex-Special Forces Agent, Joe Hunter and his trusty sidekick, Rink, were hired to protect a female from her mega rich, bullying boyfriend. But when Hunter discovers things aren't quite what they seem, and into the mix is thrown a billion dollar pharmaceutical deal with the military and a psycho' killer known as dark angel, Dantalion, the proverbial shit hits the fan big time. So much so that the FBI become heavily involved and the contract killer is unable to accurately update his precious coded book that's chained to his side detailing his numerous victims.

Dantalion is arguably more crazy than the Harvestman, Tubal Cain, from DMD. I think he's certainly more cunning, cold-blooded and indiscriminate than Cain, which seems implausible to even suggest! The story alternates viewpoints between Hunter in the first person and Dantalion in third person. This works a treat and creates many plots twists whereby Hunter (and the reader) thinks one thing, yet in the next chapter you discover another more intriguing or disturbing angle.

If I was to be hyper-critical, like some reviewers who seem to revel in being negative, I noticed a few coincidences where luck played a part in life or death situations. On reflection, I feel this was realistic enough to be both acceptable and necessary to keep the story going, and was evenly spread between Hunter and Dantalion, as with the amount of conflict in this action-packed crime thriller there just had to be moments when things didn't go perfectly to plan for either character.

On a lighter note, I had to reach for my dictionary a few times and wondered if this book was really written by that down-to-earth bloke with the broad Cumbrian accent! This time round it was nice to get to know Hunter and Rink a little more and see they had a softer, more human side.

I must say I was surprisingly impressed with the research Matt must have put in to make JAW as authentic as possible. When I read a novel I like to learn new things and whether it be the Floridian landscape, insights into the military, unarmed combat or weaponry, I wasn't disappointed.

I won't give away the explosive climax, but to summarize: if you like rapid-paced action thrillers with penetrating end-of-chapter hooks throughout; plus sprinkles of dry humour and the thrill of the chase when good meets evil, then look no further than Judgement & Wrath.

Yours truthfully,

Hopefully I've answered the question in the title. Feel free to let me know either way.


Lee Hughes said...

lol, I remember that over at Amazon. I don't think it matters if you know the person as long as its an honest review and is subjective. You see some reviews and you know the person writing it is probably the author's mother doing her bit.

Matt Hilton said...

Col, thanks for your honest and detailed review of JAW. I read it thinking: 'Hey, I'm not bad at this writing lark!'. You make me sound quite intelligent LOL

Seriously, though, I don't see anything wrong in writing reviews for your friends - or indeed your contemporaries - as long as like Lee says it's honest and subjective.

It's a sad thing when people who don't know a writer from Adam set out to destroy their work by smearing them - and their mates - with innuendo and false claims of backhanders etc. When you wrote the review over on Amazon, it was as a fan (if that's the right word) and had no hidden agenda or anything to gain for sharing your enjoyment of DMD with other readers.

The truth is, with reviews, you get polar opposites, and that's what the 'game' is all about.

If a bad review is constructive in its criticism, then, OK. An author can learn from that. If it's just vindictive, then all writers will probably do what I do: laugh at them and then move on.

That said, this is a fantastic review and thank you kindly for spreading the news about JAW.

P.S. The £5 is in the mail ;-)

Lost Wanderer said...

I think yes, a mate can post a review for a mate's novel. Most people, if they didn't like the book, would refrain from saying anything. Of course you don't want to post a negative review of a friend's book, but you are not going to go rave about how wonderful it is either. But it doesn't mean that you can't review it if you do actually like it.

Besides Col, you have a good history of honest reviews, so I trust your judgement. I will look up Matt's book.

Lee Hughes said...

Bloody hell Matt, don't post a fiver to him!!! he'll return it as monopoly money!

David Barber said...

Are you and Matt mates? :-)
Nice review and as the others have said there is nothing with doing a review on a mate's work as long as it is honest and critical in the right way. You covered both in that one. Nice job. Hopefully, you'll have a mate reviewing your novel one day soon!!

Regards 'mate', David.

Sue H said...

The answer to the question is - YES!

However, there will always be the hecklers on the sidelines who will draw their own warped conclusions that it's a back-slapping exercise. Yah-boo-sucks to them, I say!

As far as I'm concerned, if you've read the book you're entitled to comment.

If you've enjoyed it you'll want others to read it too, but being too obviously gushy would be a turn off.

And if you do have negative comments, surely the friendship is strong enough to bear that? Otherwise you'd be shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak.

Matt's big enough (and ugly enough? No, I didn't say that....!) to take it all on board.

(Although, that said, if a man named Joe knocks on your!)

Matt Hilton said...

That's it! The secret's out. I'm removing my photo forthwith!!


Col Bury said...

Lee - LOL!
Sue - thanks.
Dave - Cheers, I hope so, bud!
LW - I agree & thanks.
Matt - You're more than welcome. Credit where credit's due (I actually held back - I bloody loved it, but didn't want another attack of Amazon-itis!).
Ps. Must be worth a ten spot!

Erin Cole said...

A great post Col...I'm dreading reviews when and if my book gets published because I know how ruthless people can be.

Here's my take: I don't pay any attention to people who criticize my parenting skills if they themselves are not a parent...I think the same applies to critics-if you haven't written a book, your comments don't have much weight about the process, details and outcome. And if a reader is giving criticism that is not constructive or professional...blah, blah, blah ;)

Also, who better to give a review than someone who personally knows the author, has witnessed their writing develop, and knows all those idiosyncrasies that shed light on their stories?

Col Bury said...

Excellent angle that, Erin. Thanks for your valued input.

Matt Hilton said...

...and don't forget nuances! LOL

Col Bury said...

Was gonna mention nuances, but I couldn't find one!

Acually I did see a good one half way through, but couldn't find the bugger when I looked back.

Robert187 said...

Good for you. The stupid idea that you can't legitimately review a friend's work stems from the idea that you can't be strong-minded enough for an objective appraisal unless there's great distance between critic and writer.
I think the best argument against that bullshit is the fact that true friendship transcends sentiment and demands honest, clear-eyed regard, i.e., respect, between and among friends.
If your friend writes a good book, rave away. If he or she writes a bad one, the choice is, pan or say nothing.
Nothing hard at all about that.

Alan Griffiths said...

Thanks for wetting my appetite Col. I have DMD in paperback (thanks to Santa) and I'll be cracking the spine on it very soon.

I'm sure I'll not be disappointed and from your review this looks like it will be a cracking series of novel.

A good and honest review Col.

Col Bury said...

Think you hit the nail on the head.

Thanks. I'm sure it'll be right up your street, fella.

Ps. Two cliches in two sentences, but at least am aware!

David Barber said...

Idiosyncracies, nuances, cliches...I just want to write. I've so much to learn! ;-)

Col Bury said...

We're all learning all the time, bud. That will never change.