Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Goes With The Territory

One of the great pleasures of writing novels is that, if you're lucky, people read and talk about them, and even post their thoughts on the internet. Of course, one of the really frustrating things about writing novels is that... people read and talk about them, and even post their thoughts on the internet.

I noticed a report from a book club that had just read Gabriel's Story. Rather cool that the old Western is still getting read, so no complaints there. Nor will I complain about the gripes they had with the book. That's fine. I had a hard time stopping myself from posting a comment in response to two things they said, though.

One was that I hadn't done my research, as evidenced by the fact that I referred to double barrels on a rifle. They wrote simply that rifles have one barrel, and admonished me to "do your research"! That's pretty damning. If a historical novelist doesn't even know that double rifles don't exist he's got to be pretty crap...

Thing is, there are double rifles, and there have been double rifles for a long time. They were especially used to hunt big game during the colonial period, but that included usage in America. They're not as common a single barrel rifles, but they do exist. This website - Mick's Guns - has wonderfully detailed photos of vintage double rifles. Like this one:

Now, the blogger could have argued that I have too many double rifles in the novel, but that's not what he said. He could have argued about the time period prevalence of them in my particular setting. But he didn't do that either. He just said that something I have in the novel doesn't exist, and that I obviously hadn't done my research. Someone reading that will think I'm pretty crap, but they'll think it largely because the reviewer hasn't done his research.

He also refers to skipping through the "more disturbing rape scenes". That line will leave a reader thinking not only that there were multiple rape scenes, but also that they were disturbing, presumably graphic. But this isn't true either. Yes, there is rape in the book, but it all happens off screen. It's disturbing, but not because you're forced to watch it as a reader. It's disturbing because you know that it's going on just out of view. The book did win an Alex Award from the American Library Association - which is given to adult books that they recommend for teen readers.

This sort of thing happens all the time, and usually I don't even think about responding. Not sure why I almost did this time. It was probably that personal direction - "Do your research!" - which I could consider to be directed at me. Although, to be honest, it's not just directed at me. My editor, copy-editor, agent and all the other production people have a hand in checking facts as well.

Of course, I didn't respond. It's just one of those things. Goes with the territory. Glad to be getting read. That's what matters...



Blogger David said...

Hey David,

Everyone knows there isn't Santoth in the South! They only exist in the far East past Acacia!

10:27 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Oh, you caught me! I was hoping no one would notice that. ;)

4:40 AM  

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