Ever been rejected by an agent? This will make you feel better. Ever had a bad review? This will make you feel very good indeed
Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith is in the news a lot right now because of his controversial welfare reforms. Among his severest critics are two archbishops and 43 bishops, all of whom are alarmed that the welfare of children from low income families is going to be sacrificed in a bid to deal with the country’s economic problems.
You may remember that IDS was leader of the Tory party for two years before losing a vote of confidence in 2003, but you may not have realised that he is also a novelist.
He sent his action thriller to many, many agents before becoming party leader. David Smith, literary agent at The Annette Green Agency remembers turning it down . Apparently it is stacked to the rafters with Italian mobsters and Nazi thefts and “carnal wish-fulfillment scenes”. Hmmmm….
After he was elected Tory leader, a small publishing company did pick it up and I thought I would look up Amazon reviews to see if real readers agreed with Smith’s decision. After all, agents aren’t always right are they?
Here’s a selection of the review headlines
Ideal Xmas present for your enemies
Come back Jeffrey Archer all is forgiven
Black bin liners are more interesting
One review awarded it five stars. I thought it was a little tongue in cheek (“Ya boo to all those intellectual snobs, maybe there are one or two signs of it being rushed to the printing press but i certainly enjoyed it, my little brother enjoyed it…), but the other positive review – four stars – was unequivocal.
“It is a compelling book from cover to cover and a fast page-turner as the pace quickens to include detective work across the Atlantic to New York.
I found it a gripping and most entertaining read.“
The reviewer’s name rang a bell and a quick Google search revealed that Melissa Crawshay-Williams was Boris Johnson’s parliamentary Secretary around the time she wrote the review. It was when Boris was dealing with press speculation about an extra-marital affair – an issue that raised its head again last Sunday during a BBC interview.
At the time, Melissa had this to say about Boris her boss.
“We cannot take this at face value – yes even with a couple of photos…people (are) like praying mantis in wait trying to topple and bring down the brightest and the best … Time to go and smell the roses and count the daisies.”
That’s a double Hmmmmmm and the phrase lack of judgement springs to mind…it is also proof positive that it doesn’t always help when friends (or people who would like to be friends) review your writing.
BBC Boris Johnson interview
Laura Marcus’ blog: How the Guardian discovered what David Smith thought about the IDS novel
Guardian diary Davd Smith
Guardian diary Boris Johnson