Posted: April 27, 2010 in Reviewing the Reviewers, Uncategorized

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Carl Brookins, author, reviewer and definitely sea-worthy

1. What really gets your interest in a mystery?

Interesting characters and a good story.

2. What bores the hell out of you?

Long irrelevant descriptive sections that deal with location, clothing, decor, brand

names, political positions, etc., UNLESS the information is important to the

character and the plot/story. i.e., clues, vs. filler

3. What cliches would you really like to see go away?

“This novel transcends the genre.” “An author to watch.”

4. What topics, themes etc would you like to see more of in mysteries?

I suspect the absence of some of the themes I’m about to suggest are due to attitudes

of publishers and editors, rather than those of authors.

Historical themes that utilize less well-known characters and/or events.

Financial topics–remember the Emma Lathen series? If Wall Street had read those, we

might not have had the most recent financial mess.

Technology–Space travel–Professional Education–Prsospecting, as in oil or precious

metals–Our courts, local, state and federal–music–the visual arts–sports.

5. What mistakes do you think authors make?

Authors tend to be derivative–here’s the next DaVinci Code. That stems in part from

the apparently desperate need to make huge profits on every book; the focus on

best-sellers rather than interesting good novels.

6. Do you write?

Yes. I have stories in three anthologies, some stand-alone shorts that are e-books,

and six novels currently in print.

7. Who are your favorites?

I assume you mean favorite authors. You haven’t room for my list! But here are a


William Shakespeare, a wonderful story-teller to ordinary people.

Richard Prather

August Wilson

John Sandford

Dennis Lehane

Val McDermid

Kent Krueger

David Housewright

John D. MacDonald

Nancy Pickard

Laura Lippman

Wilkie Collins

Dorothy Sayers

Leslie Charateris

Michael Dymmoch

John LeCarre

Ellen Hart

Libby Hellmann

James Lee Burke

8. Why did you start reviewing? If you really hate a book will you still review it?

Through the years crime fiction had given me much pleasure. I got to a point where I

decided to share some of my feelings, and perhaps promote some deserving authors .

If I find a book to be poorly written and/or boring, or way outside my interest

areas, I am less likely to spend time reading and reviewing it. I have never read a

novel that had absolutely no redeeming values. I am more likely to chastize a

successful or popular novelist who should have done a better job. Readers have

expectations and authors should recognize that implied contract. When they don’t, I

think they should be called on it, or readers should be warned. But, because no

reviewer is ever able to review everything she/he receives, authors ought to do the

best writing they can do and be satisfied with whatever notice they get. The

unfortunate as well as the useful thing happening today is that anybody can use the

internet to publish their opinions about a given work. And what I say is good! Even

if the “review” is poor and off base, it’s a little bit of promotion. As PT Barnum

probably said, “I don’t care what you say about me, just be sure you spell my name


  1. marycunningham says:

    good post, Tom & Carl. Couldn’t agree more. You can always tell when a review is genuine or just “lip service.”


    Mary Cunningham Books

  2. I’m fascinated by how this brave new world of publishing will shake out in terms of reviewers. With content proliferating, how will we find our way to really good, incisive reviews? Or, perhaps better put, to those reviewers who are likely to steer us to reads that suit our unique tastes? Carl is definitely on my personal List–I hope I don’t miss others.

  3. tjs9261 says:

    I think we look to Carl and others of his quality and we find our way. The cream will rise to the top and word will spread…good or bad.

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