MURDER BEFORE BREAKFAST… Killer Reviews
I whine the Body Electric.
With the release of my new mystery thriller novel, HACK, hopefully the first of many to come, I am reluctantly back on the grid with a widening electronic footprint online. At a party, a painter friend, Richard Owen, asked me what I was up to and I told him I have been required to begin a blog and a new website, have had fun doing web interviews – including my first Skype video interview – and that I will even have to take flight on twitter.
“The bastards!” Richard groaned.
Even successful authors have to plug into it all these days but we not-so-famous writers can’t hire staffs to run our websites, email responses, blogs, twitter feeds, online contests, instagram ejaculations and several other mysterious modes of networking I have yet to figure out.
But, if it was good enough for Walt Whitman, 150 years ago, I guess it’s good enough for us. Taking a leaf from the book of the hustling Edgar Allan Poe, Walt loudly sang the song of himself and basically invented the encomium, the blurb. He sent his new work LEAVES OF GRASS to poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who liked the poetry but suggested Whitman censor the overt sexual imagery. Walt ignored the advice and published Emerson’s blurb without permission. It made Walt’s reputation as a poet and cemented his place as the archetypal literary self-promoter, networker and do-it-yourselfer.
Walt set the type himself for Leaves of Grass – a sort of Fifty Shades of Gray of its day – in Brooklyn. He also printed it, sold it and, to ensure it was done right, the poet wrote anonymous rave reviews of his own work in publications like the Brooklyn Eagle. He invented the concept of Building A Buzz. Walt knew back then that nothing moves the product like a killer review.
I never had the gall to write reviews for my own true crime books but I did once get an actual killer review. The book was the 2005 Almost Paradise, about millionaire Ted Ammon, who was murdered in the Hamptons. The reviewer was convicted killer Danny Pelosi, who panned the book on Amazon.com from behind bars. The Internet has made it possible to progress from just working in the prison library to becoming a book reviewer. Danny felt my implication that his conviction betokened his guilt was unfair.
“There are many things in the book that are not factual,” including a childhood incident unrelated to the murder case, the killer wrote by remote control from his jail cell – using his then-wife as a go-between – “I know this because I am Danny Pelosi!!!”
When someone called my attention to the fact that the murderer had shot my book down, I logged on and just laughed at the idea that a convicted killer could post a review online from prison. Everybody’s a critic.
The Associated Press and others covered the unusual event. Publishers Weekly called my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, where a public relations director told them, suppressing a chuckle, that he was “Glad to see he’s reading our books.” Amazon pulled the critique but sales spiked. Who needs Walt when you have Danny?
I’m not expecting that same situation for my new novel – because I made up the killer. It is my fond hope that a fictional killer will be much less likely to threaten legal action, demand money, make death threats – or write bitchy reviews on Amazon.
I have decided to ride the grid, embrace the Matrix. The folks I have “met” in cyberworld have been very smart, funny and helpful people. So far, so good.
My new Body Electric approach to author networking is WWWD – What Would Walt Do?