Friday, June 14, 2013

My Response to Whitechapel's Critics

Over the years, I've grown a pretty thick skin as far as reader reviews go.  I've adopted the philosophy that once you release a book into the world, it no longer belongs to you, and the best you can do is hope you gave it the stuff it takes to survive out here.  And the book I learned to do it with, my first novel, is Whitechapel.
Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes was published in June 2011, approximately two years after it was finished.  The book was a whirlwind of activity.  I'd spent over a year researching the Jack the Ripper crimes and psychological profiles of various serial killers, trying to build a version in my mind of a person who could do such horrible things.  I spent an equal amount of time deciphering the many annotated guides to Sherlock Holmes, encyclopedias, and studies about events that occurred in Doyle's canon and those that occurred in real history at that same time.
Then, most amazingly, Bill Thompson accepted editorial duties on the book.  I'd first read about Bill in Stephen King's On Writing, and to me, there could be no finer person to work with and learn from.  During those several months I was apprenticed to Bill, I learned more about the craft than I had from a lifetime of writing.  More importantly, he was the first person to ever call me an "Author."  Not a writer, not a person who wants to write a book someday, not a cop with a novel inside of him, but an author.
And that is what I became.
Since Whitechapel, I've published over thirty-five titles, including novels, short story collections, and various anthologies for charity.  My career has led me to friendship with Harlan Ellison and others who I only once dreamed of even getting signatures from.
However, there is something significant about your first time.  And for every person who finds Whitechapel and loves it, there is another who is shocked and angered by what they read.  Most amusing is when they say, "If I'd believed the reviews" or "If I'd paid attention to the warnings."
Well, I didn't put them all over the product page for decoration, sweetiecakes.
I'm the guy at the front gate of the Grand Guignol saying, "Are you sure you want to do this?  Didn't you look at the posters?"
For Whitechapel to be written, I had to confront some terrifyingly dark realities about not just myself but the world and humanity.  I suspect that the people who've left some of the more colorful reviews felt the same way, but instead of facing up to it, ran here and cried.
Over the years, I've certainly changed as an author and I don't know that I would be capable of writing Whitechapel again.  I've said that before.  Not in terms of quality, but in terms of being willing to be so brutal on the reader.
I realize that Whitechapel is hard on most ordinary people.  I get it.  It's probably especially hard on those who ignore the warnings and think it's simply another Sherlock Holmes story and ACD knockoff.  I want to assure you right now that it is not.
For better or for worse, this is the cast and crew of Sherlock Holmes if they lived in this reality.  Not your reality, not my reality, not even real reality (if you can catch my drift on that one...) but in the reality of this book.
If you are looking for more traditional pastiches or reiterations of the original, I will be happy to make you several suggestions of books I thoroughly enjoyed.  Whitechapel was never intended to be that, and if it is viewed as such, will thoroughly disappoint.
As for my own review of the book, what can I say?  It's my first go.  I'm terrifically proud of some of it and wincing at what I'd have done differently at other parts.  That's how any book or performance goes.  To return to the original manuscript and change it to meet my standards today would be dishonest and do a disservice to that young, hungry, naive author who wrote it.
And I wouldn't piss that guy off, because according to some of you, he's a real monster.

8 comments:

  1. Havent ventured to this side of your writings yet. Im in Superbia 2 now, but am now even more interested in Whitechappel. Were thick skinned by trade. The simple fact the criticism is there speaks for itself! Keep the "pen to paper" and do what you do. I was lead to you by word of mouth and have brought many more with me. You have it, so keep it up! Stay safe brother

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  2. Thank you, my friend. I'm always happy to hear from a brother. Hope you are well and safe and keeping your head above water. Shoot me an email when you get a chance.

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  3. As I said before, Whitechapel is a masterpiece. You have every right to be proud of the work.

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  4. How can I read this and _not_ buy the book? So: bought!

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  5. Any press is good press, my friend.

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