Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Monday, 14 July 2014

Impulse Witness Imprint Welcomes New Writers


Last year, HarperCollins Publishers launched a new Impulse imprint called Witness, devoted to thrillers, mysteries and stories of suspense.

British novelist, Frances Fyfield's 'Gold Digger' is the first Witness title to make its print debut in trade paperback. It's a difficult genre to pinpoint but its themes include family jealousy, greed and hatred.

'Gold Digger' may well win accolades from the author's followers but I found it an odd read. The subject of his children's enmity - Thomas Porteus, aged 70 - dies on page 1, leaving behind his grieving much younger second wife Di Quigley, aged 27 so, although we never get to know him, we are told a lot about him.

Good start

One dark and stormy night ten years earlier, oddball Di, who smokes cigars, (an author's device to make characters more interesting, like an eyepatch or a limp), breaks into the Porteus mansion with intent to rob. 'She had the morals of a guttersnipe, the eyes of a magpie and intelligence as fierce as fire...' She knows the house well, was brought up in a dysfunctional family in the area, went to parties there, belongs to a gang and is known as Mad Di. When she tries to rescue him, Porteus, bound up in a chair, urges her to get out before the police catch her but she gets caught anyway. In prison, she educates herself in art appreciation and carries on a correspondence with the victim, an art collector.

This early part of the novel gets straight to the point without any meandering and is compelling stuff, full of intrigue and no wasted words, promising a jolly good read. I was hooked. Fyfield creates a strong sense of creepiness in this creaking old mansion with its cellars and wall-loads of priceless paintings. And these are what his children are after, having been cut out of his estate when their mother left him for a wealthier man and poisoned their minds against their father. They aim to steal and sell what they can grab, while one psycho daughter plans Di's elimination. But a diabolical plan to discredit them in the act has been set up by Porteous himself, aided by his art dealer, Saul and Di.

Exposition and characterisations
After that, the plot freezes while the local hairdresser and a gossipy client discuss Di's nefarious background, which, given that Di has grown up in this place somewhere by the sea, must have been common knowledge to the entire population for many years. Delia, the gossip, having done her job for the sake of the readers, disappears under the dryer.

Several characters, some quite major to the plot hover on the sidelines like crabs in the sand without taking centre stage and 'showing' readers what they're made of, so lack three-dimensionality, for example Di's wicked father who skulks about in the vicinity without actually putting in an appearance. We are 'told' how dangerous he is but we never actually see him behaving dangerously. He remains a shadowy figure who never develops. A wayward young girl Peg, moves in after Di picks her up on a train but quite what she is doing there became the major mystery of the novel for me. As she wears Di's clothes as part of her rehabilitation, I anticipated this as a bit of seeding for one of the children to mistake her for Di, setting about her with a cudgel but no such luck. Thomas's young grandson, Patrick runs away from home to visit the big house, as a show of solidarity, leaving me with more questions than answers. 

Thomas's ex-wife Christina, said to have fallen off a cross-channel ferry and drowned, left him when he was but a struggling schoolteacher taking the children with her. After he'd made his fortune from his inventions, Christina tried to make a comeback, which failed. But now, having had seeds of bitterness and hatred sown into their heads all their lives, they want his money. Only Di stands in their way. They are a nasty bunch of people.

More action needed
The opportunity for an action-packed thriller is all there but it didn't happen for me. Very little action took place until the end and even then I wasn't engaged. I found the protagonist unattractive as a character and couldn't root for her, it lacked emotional pull and I was confused about some of the plot and characters. I had no trouble with the actual writing, which is sound. But much of the narrative consists of back story or introspection, dealt with throughout in chunks of either expository dialogue, 'telling' characters what they must already know or inner dialogue, both of which froze the plot. Plenty of action in its place would have driven the plot forwards and 'shown' characters coming to life on the page and propelling the plot forwards and this was the crucial missing element. The art history lecture given by Saul was also a plot-stopper. And the constant barrage of f... and c... words from Jones, the dodgy ex-policeman, may well be a device to show character but it certainly became an irritant after a while and he soon lost my vote.

Chance for new writers

Impulse's Witness digital publishing imprint editors are interested in looking at material from new writers, as well as international bestselling authors and writers can submit their writing by checking submission guidelines on http://wmmorrow.hc.com/witnessimpulse/welcomenote

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