Thursday, July 17, 2014

Excuse Me, Will You Blurb My Self-Published Book?

Thriller Guy gets a lot of requests for blurbs and reviews from writers who are self publishing, either in Kindle, in paper or both. He used to get requests from publicists who were flacking their client’s regularly published books, but TG didn’t/doesn’t like doing it because of his Godlike position as a Big Time Book Reviewer. It just didn’t seem like the right thing to do, ethically, vis-à-vis his professional position. But this concern doesn’t apply so much when talking about the self-publishers, and TG is aware of and sympathetic to their publishing plight. This is becoming more and more a problem for TG and his published writer friends. (Problem is probably too strong a word, and will certainly garner no sympathy from the very folks TG is addressing.) This scramble for blurbs has come about because of the seismic shift in the publishing industry, where more and more writers are either eschewing legacy publishers from the beginning or resorting to ePublishing because of failure with the former. One of the ways to advertise self-published books after they’re up on Kindle is to get as many people to write a review as possible, hopefully a positive review. And when the writers are advertising the books on the web or elsewhere they love to have these short blurbs from successful writers with recognizable names. Hence, asking these published writer friends for blurbs.

But there are difficulties.

Friendship. Often these folks will come up to the published writer at parties, book signings, kids soccer games, anywhere, and play their friend or friend of a friend or friend of a relative card, and it is very difficult to turn them down. The published writer always feels like some grade of asshole for refusing to do it.

Time. Every hour TG spends reading your book means that Allen Appel is not working on his. Any hour any writer spends reading someone else’s book means an hour not working on his own book. Often, those writers asking for a short review or blurb will helpfully just prewrite what they want for TG or someone else to say and send it to him to approve. While this does solve the time problem, it does not solve the honesty problem. TG has never lent his imprimatur to any book that he has not first read. (For some reason TG is writing like an old man this morning. Imprimatur? Seismic? Eschewing? Where the hell are these words coming from? Thank God for spellcheck.) And most of TG’s writer friends feel the same way. Fortunately, TG can use his book reviewer excuse, but most writers just have to hem and haw and often allow themselves to be roped into something they really, really don’t want to do.

Money. TG actually does this sort of thing as part of his business. He doesn’t charge to write reviews and blurbs (some people do) but he does charge to read a book and offer comments and help. It’s not the writing the review or the blurb that burns up time, it’s reading the book. And as TG has already pointed out, he’ll have to read the book before he can do anything. So, essentially, when the hopeful writer asks for the blurb he’s actually asking TG to supply his service for free. And as any writer will tell you, time is his most precious commodity, so asking for it is just like asking for his wallet so you can have some of his money.

Honesty. What if the writer can’t weasel out of it and goes ahead and reads the book and it sucks? Take it from TG, this is often the case. In fact it is almost always the case. As anyone who has ever read this blog knows, writing is tough and very few people are actually good at it. So, is the favor seeker going to be happy with an honest assessment if it’s not positive? Of course not, he’s just looking for the great blurb or review, he’s not interested in honesty. So then the blurber/reviewer is just supposed to lie? Believe it or not, TG has always found that most writers are an above average lot when it comes to honesty, so they hate to be put in this position. So they either go ahead and lie, obfuscate in any number of writer ways, or piss off the favor seeker. A no-win situation.

This is not to say TG doesn’t review/blurb for a few of his writer pals. These are a few advisors who provide the same service for Allen Appel. So what happens when the favor seeker offers to return the favor? He’ll be glad to read your book and advise you if you’ll read his. More embarrassment. Frankly, TG and Allen Appel have all the help they need and, thanks, but no thanks, it’s just not going to happen. So what’s a self-published writer to do?

Here’s the way to go about asking for this. When you meet a published writer, he/she will generally be happy to meet you as well. As TG has written many times, writing is a sometimes unbearably lonely and difficult proposition and it’s always nice to meet a kindred soul. So go ahead and yak about the difficulties, complain about the business, talk a bit about your own book, but don’t ask for any favors. If the writer is interested in you or your book -- and you’d be surprised how often this might happen -- he’ll ask to see your book. Go ahead and give him a copy. If he looks at the book and decides to read it and likes it, he’ll probably offer to help you out. Without being asked. This will always take much longer than the writer of the book thinks it should take (please don’t call or write asking how the reading is going) and if there is a complete silence, please don’t ask the writer how he liked the book because you are not going to be happy with the answer. TG guarantees that.

All of the above has actually been a preamble to the original topic TG wanted to discuss: BookLife, a service from Publishers Weekly. As I said before, there are lots of services on the Internet that promise to get you reviews of your books, as long as you pay them their fees, which can be quite high. Kirkus, one of the chief names in the reviewing business, charges $425 for a review with a nine week turnaround time or $575 for a 4 to 6 weeks turnaround time. That’s a lot of money. Here’s a blog by an indie writer about his experience with Kirkus and some suggestions as to where you could better spend your money on reviews. 

Before doing any of this, I’d first check out BookLife.

I only recently became aware of this program. The BookLife site is still in beta, and it’s a bit difficult to navigate, but persistence will get you where you want to go. You have to create and account, but it’s all free. You then can submit your book for review and if it’s chosen it will be reviewed and the review will run in a supplement in the magazine. PW also has an advanced marketing service called PW Select that costs $149. TG doesn’t know much about this service and is neither recommending it or not recommending it. If anyone out there is part of PW Select, comment and let us know your experience. One thing TG does know is that a (good) PW review is the best piece of advertising you can have for your book, so signing up and sending your book for possible review is one of the first steps in having a successful book launch. Did TG mention that it’s for free?

And please stop asking published writers to review or blurb your ebooks. Unless you’re married to them, sleeping with them, used to sleep with them (and TG would be careful with that one) or are directly related by blood, there are better ways to go about this. As noted above. Good luck.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Politics in Thrillers Continued...

In last week’s blog Thriller Guy told about having to review a book in a series that he doesn’t like in the first place, where the author excoriated the Democratic Party and President Obama every chance he got, whether or not it had anything to do with the plot or the characters. It was a pathetic performance on many levels. But it underscored a basic problem in book reviewing: what if an author’s beliefs – political, spiritual, whatever – are antithetical to those of the reviewer? Obviously the reviewer has a responsibility to either turn down the assignment, or, as TG does, attempt to remain scrupulously neutral, judging no book by the personal beliefs of the author.

Let TG assure you, it has not always been easy.

The big problem is, when an author indulges him or herself by using his or her work to advance a personal agenda, the resulting work almost always suffers. It is no secret that many if not most bestselling authors these days have pretty much complete freedom to write whatever they want. Publishers -- craven, greedy entities that they have become -- simply turn their heads and continue to rake in the money that they know will spill from the pockets of the legions of a particular author’s fans. It has been clearly established that there seem to be no editors, except the fawning, sycophantic cheerleaders, of these writers. Manuscripts fly through the process with no critical evaluation and soon the Advanced Reader Copy arrives on the critic’s desk. Fortunately, most of these bestselling authors are actually pretty damn good writers. They, in particular thriller writers, have learned the best ways to get the thriller writer’s job done -- to write books that readers will find interesting and exciting. So they probably don’t need much in the way of editing anyway. But there are still those that defy common sense and the rules of fiction, those who have ridden to the top of the financial heap no matter how bad, really bad, their work is.

TG has to admit that in trying to remain absolutely non-judgmental of the author’s personal beliefs, he probably errs by being too nice to many books that should be excoriated. To those of you out there (TG’s wife included) that think that TG is too nice to too many writers, he must repeat his reviewing mantra: TG’s job (remember, TG is a thriller reviewer) is to tell those people who like to read a certain type of book if this particular book is a good example, or poor example, of that type of book that they like. TG has found that, even though it may feel good for a while, it does no good to point out in a review that an author doesn’t write very well when 98% of all readers are simply interested in if the story is exciting. They really do not give a damn about the quality of the writing, at least in this genre.

This does not mean that TG simply rolls over and surrenders to bad writing, plotting, characterization or any of the many sins that novel writers are prey to. In most reviews where he is up against poor performance, he employs one or more of his subtle tricks to point out problems while not making fun of the lack of sophistication, knowledge or beliefs of the reader. TG is a book reviewer, not God. (Even though he has many godlike characteristics.)

Several years ago TG wrote a long article about political thrillers. As part of the article, TG wrote to many well-known thriller writers, most of them bestselling authors, and simply asked them about their personal politics. From this distance in time, TG now thinks it was a pretty nervy thing to do, and he was surprised that the writers were so accommodating. And he was also surprised that the answers were so reasoned and, well, smart. It is no secret that the majority of thriller writers, particularly the military thriller writers, skew to the right. Some of them, personally, probably to the far right. And yet these guys (there are very few women writing in this genre) know that obvious, blatant political opinions are a mistake. Sure, they still get their bias in – because it’s the bias that most of their readers espouse – but they know not to let it get in the way of their stories. So, kudos for them, if for no other reason than reviewers love to read a great story as much as anyone else. Trust me, it’s no fun to read the ones that grate on your nerves, the bad ones. Most people can simply not start or if having started put those books down and leave them unread. TG must grit his teeth, gird his loins and plow ahead, always trying to be fair and at the same time, honest.

By now you’ve probably had quite enough of TG’s whining about how tough a job he has. (Has TG mentioned how poor the pay is? Don’t get him started.) So lets move along to a selection of the comments the bestselling writers gave about the place of political opinions in writing novels. TG has decided that it will be best if he doesn’t identify the writers. It was at least an imposition and at most misguided (that’s putting it mildly) to have even asked the questions in the first place. Thriller readers will be able to figure out who some of these people are because they mention the titles of books they have written. Fine. I’m not “protecting” their identities because they say anything wrong, quite the contrary, I think every one of these guys is an excellent writer and every one of these guys writes excellent books. And they’re smart. So here are some thoughts from thriller fiction’s biggest names, when asked about putting their personal political opinions in their writing.

Could you tell us your particular political philosophy? Conservative? Liberal? Various shades of both?
While it's really none of anyone's business, I can say I'm a social liberal, and a fiscal conservative, and by that I mean a Rockefeller Republican, if anyone remembers what that is. Clinton was actually one of those.
Some authors make their political views plain in their fiction. Do you think this applies to you?

Do you see any problems or downside to this?

Personally, I don't believe an author's political views belong in his or her novels. You want to express that, write non-fiction or a memoir.
When you read a novel, if the author’s politics are visible does this color your thinking about the book?

The moment it becomes clear, I throw the book across the room. Unless the author is Phillip Roth. He's another story altogether
Do you think political agendas can be advanced through fiction?
Not very successfully, from what I've seen.

Could you tell us your particular political philosophy?  Conservative?  Liberal?  Various shades of both?

I’m a moderate, progressive Republican in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson Rockefeller -- fairly libertarian on social issues, center-right on fiscal issues; a wing of the GOP, alas, now nearly extinct.

Some authors make their political views plain in their fiction.  Do you think this applies to you?  Do you see any problems or downside to this?

I try not to preach my political views in my fiction – mostly because doing so would kill a novel’s power and effect.  As Virginia Woolf wrote in her classic 1924 essay “Character in Fiction,” I believe that all novels, that is to say, deal with character, and that it is to express character - not to preach doctrines, sing songs, or celebrate the glories of the British Empire, that the form of the novel . . .has been evolved. . . [W]here so much strength is spent on finding a way of telling the truth the truth itself is bound to reach us in rather an exhausted and chaotic condition.”

However, when a writer creates a character with full dimension, who exists rather than merely functions, who drives a narrative, the writer can use that character to convey truths, drive emotions, and touch a reader’s soul.  In The Accomplice, I strived for Woolf’s approach in showing, for example, the dangers of political extremism of any stripe. 

When you read a novel, if the author’s politics are visible does this color your thinking about the book?

Sure.  I don’t want a polemic, but I’m glad to launch into a political vortex where I can form my own judgment.  Some artists can separate their views from their narrative, as newspapers separate opinion pages from news.  I admire Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing because Lee presented a raw, racially charged scenario and let his viewers draw their own conclusions even as he signaled his own.

Do you think political agendas can be advanced through fiction?

Sure.  That’s part of the reason that Plato in The Republic advised banning poets.  Orwell’s 1984 offers a powerful example.


Could you tell us your particular political philosophy? Conservative? Liberal? Various shades of both?

I started out pretty much as an independent, even voted for Reagan twice and the first George Bush.  It was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and the whole investigation involving the pompous special prosecutor Ken Starr that really pushed me to the left.  Mostly, the Republicans in congress flat out disgusted me over that and have pretty much continued to disgust me ever since.  George W. Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, the whole neo-con philosophy for me was just another way of saying let's lie as much as we can get away with.  Now you have the Tea Party whack jobs and a Republican candidate for president in Romney who reminds me of the guy who knocks on your door trying to sell you something and not taking no for an answer.  F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that "the rich are different than you and I."  Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to Mitt Romney.  Bottom line:  I'd be a centrist, if we had a center in this country.  But we don't.  You're right or you're left and I come down squarely on the left.

Some authors make their political views plain in their fiction. Do you think this applies to you?

I made my views very plain in STRONG AT THE BREAK in which my female Texas Ranger character Caitlin Strong goes up against a right-wing militia movement plotting a second civil war.  Boy, did I get some angry e-mails on that one!  The thing that was strange about those e-mails is that they totally ignored the facts.  I based the book on actual data and general mindset of the way these people think.  But the hate mail I got chose to focus instead only on my treatment of Dick Cheney and the neo-cons, ignoring the very real danger these groups represent and the hatred that dominates their movements.  It seems typical of people with a conservative mindset to just ignore facts and live in a bubble blown up by Fox News.  That said, I'm a storyteller first and foremost, so I doubt you'll see my politics make their way onto the page again.

Do you see any problems or downside to this?

Sure, that being when you become a political spokesman instead of a storyteller, you risk alienating and/or losing your readers.  That's not why people pick up fiction in general and thrillers in particular.  We're entertainers and we need to stick to entertaining.  As the great Sam Goldwyn once said in the early days of Hollywood,  "if you want send a message, use Western Union."

When you read a novel, if the author’s politics are visible does this color your thinking about the book?

That's a real good question.  Call it the "24" effect after the great Fox television show.  Hey, there's probably never been a more right-wing series ever, but I absolutely loved it.  I love Vince Flynn and Stephen Hunter's books, but they're probably as right wing as I am left.  I stopped reading Tom Clancy even before I knew how far out on the lunatic fringe he was, so that had nothing to do with his politics--I just didn't think his books were very good any more.  I couldn't tell you the politics of Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Michael Connolly, David Morrell, James Rollins and almost all other writers I love to read.  I think ours is an apolitical industry and that's one of the things I love about it.

Do you think political agendas can be advanced through fiction?

Wow, great question and I don't really think so because of the points I made directly above.  People are picking up fiction for the same reason they watch television or go to the movies:  they want to escape, be entertained.  They don't want to think, never mind argue.  So the question isn't so much can political agendas be advanced through fiction, as do political agendas really have any place in fiction

 Could you tell us your particular political philosophy? Conservative? Liberal? Various shades of both?

LB: I started out in the '70s and '80s as a conservative, but I haven't always voted Republican. I'm much more politically active now, and have volunteered in the last two presidential campaigns. It's not like rooting for a sports team. If you want your guy to win, you've got to help out. And save me from ideologues and people who think they've got THE answer.

JD: I consider myself a realist as well as an independent. My voting record is all over the place. Most people would probably consider me a hawk on foreign and defense issues, though to my mind I'm a moderate.

Some authors make their political views plain in their fiction. Do you think this applies to you?

LB: No, although a little bit of the writer has to go into every character. If it matters at all in a novel, the people in a story should have politics consistent with their characters and their function in the story.

JD: I start with story, not politics or philosophy. I think the majority of my characters' politics are either ambiguous because it's not relevant to the plot or book, or along the lines of [renegade FBI agent] Andy Fisher's in The Helios Conspiracy: "The good ones are bums and turds. The bad ones are worse." I'm not as extreme as that - I've known a few very honest and hardworking politicians, from town councilmen to congressmen. But I think I agree more often than not with Fisher's cynicism, if not quite his phraseology. For me, the characters come first. They express their worldview, not mine. If it's appropriate, then their politics come through in the story. I think that I can write a character who has liberal views as well as I can write a character who has conservative views, and vice versa.

Do you see any problems or downside to this?

LB: No. My politics may shape the narrative in some way, but my only goal is to tell an interesting story and deprive my readers of a good night's sleep. When I watch a movie, I don't care about the actors' politics. The same applies to books.

JD: I think you run the risk of turning people off if the politics are one way or another. That's unfortunate, but if that's what the story calls for, that's what you have to do. In the Red Dragon Rising [my series with Larry Bond], we tried to imagine what would happen if global warming and climate change led to a war. Some people decided they didn't like the series because they don't believe that global warming is taking place. By the same token, I think a lot of people are attracted to the Rogue Warrior series [which I write with Richard Marcinko] because the character is anything but politically correct. (I should probably note that the heroic president in Red Dragon is partly modeled on John McCain, and that the Rogue Warrior character has worked with both Republican and Democratic administrations, and not had nice words to say about either.)

When you read a novel, if the author’s politics are visible does this color your thinking about the book?

LB: Yes, because it's a distraction. I want to read a good story. A novel isn't about the author. I don't care about his personal politics any more than his religion or his shoe size.

JD: Only if it gets in the way of the story.

Do you think political agendas can be advanced through fiction?

LB: I write to entertain, not share Great Ideas. Books like that have been written, and have had tremendous effect. If an author shares his thoughts, that's his choice, and the reader's choice as to whether or not they're worth anything. A person's political philosophy must be evaluated in the real world, not in the artificial context of a novel. 

JD: Very rarely. Ayn Rand is an obvious exception.

Could you tell us your particular political philosophy? Conservative? Liberal? Various shades of both?

I am conservative. I believe in a strong military, less government, balanced budgets, no federally mandated healthcare (or most any other program), and a greatly revamped flat tax system with few deductions or subsidies.

Some authors make their political views plain in their fiction. Do you think this applies to you?

It's in there, but I don't make it a prominent feature of the plot. I try to present both sides of an issue and point out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and then I pick the correct one.

Do you see any problems or downside to this?

Oh yes, lots of them, especially if the story gets bogged down by the politics or if you get too personal. I think you can write about issues fairly freely as long as you don't point out a particular person's deficiencies. I was talked by a publisher into creating a president much like Bill Clinton (including a strong First Lady like Hillary) and was roundly criticized by many readers for doing so. Like the old Hollywood saying goes, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union--don't put it in your script."

When you read a novel, if the author’s politics are visible does this color your thinking about the book?

Oh yes, even if I agree with them.

Do you think political agendas can be advanced through fiction?

Like any ingredient or device an author employs, if it interferes with the flow of the story, it doesn't belong. If you're writing a military techno-thriller, political scenes that aren't germane to the story only interfere and frustrates the reader. They need to be tossed.


 My answers to the questions (in I hope a sort of coherent fashion):

I think the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have been so abused by the business of getting elected they are almost meaningless.  I've been a Senate staffer and a political reporter -- most recently for AOL's  I think of myself as actively independent.

I think that with the demise of private space and any frontier, "politics" now encompasses everything we do from brushing our teeth to pulling the lever for who we want to be President.  I think the "politics" that comes through in my fiction is my belief and hope for the individual, for truth, for justice.

I have occasionally been stunned to get hit with a political diatribe in the middle of a novel, one that is clearly not the character's -- acceptable and necessary -- but is instead the author's poorly veiled propaganda, no matter how sincerely felt.  There are great dangers in this, most easily illustrated by a thriller published about 1973 in which Richard Nixon is by name cast as a moral and just and naive gracious leader.  The truth is, "contemporary" fiction under the old ways of publishing when a book could take a year to get into the readers' hands from the editor's desk rendered writing about fiction and "contemporary" events absurd.  Think of the "thrillers" that got rendered moot and boring because that were published the week before 9/11 after being in development for five years.

I question whether "political platforms" can be advanced through fiction, though our history is replete with fiction advancing political consciousness leading to political action.  To name a few:  UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, ATLAS SHRUGGED, ALL THE KING'S MEN, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN IVANOVICH, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE.  Good fiction always tries to turn lights on in the readers' imaginations, and when the lights come on, we see political, social and personal perspectives.  But starting any work of imagination with a "political agenda" rather than an artistic intent is creating propaganda.  And it shows.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Impeach Obama!

Before jumping into this week’s rant, TG would like to point discerning Thriller Readers to a nice interview with TG’s writer pal Matthew Quirk, whose latest book, The Directive -- the second in his Mike Ford series -- has recently hit the stands. “Hit the stands,” now there’s a phrase that marks TG as a publishing dinosaur. Hit the screens is probably more accurate these days. At any rate, if you haven’t read his first book, The 500, do so and then follow it up with The Directive. And read the interview in this month’s copy of The Big Chill here. On to the aforementioned rant.

Did Thriller Guy catch your attention with that headline? TG recently reviewed a legal thriller by a big name professional (not John Grisham) who must remain nameless for professional reasons, and TG was shocked, yes, shocked! by the level of vituperation the author held for the Democrats and President Obama in particular. The author is, in real life, (meaning when he’s not writing novels, even though he probably doesn’t really write them as he’s known to employ a ghost) a high state government official. He’s obviously a Republican and in his new novel, an entry in his long-running series, he pulled out every stop to sneer at the federal government, democrats and Obama. In fact, at times TG was embarrassed for the guy. He could almost see the flecks of foam flying off the author’s lips.

TG must insert here his usual disclaimer and apology for not using the author’s name so he could flay him personally. Because of TG’s exalted position in the pantheon of working book reviewers, he is not allowed to reveal names and titles when excoriating authors and/or books that he has reviewed. Especially those he has recently reviewed. Sorry, folks, that’s just the way it is.

So TG was pleased to read an amusing article by Ron Charles in the Book section of the Washington Post on June 29th about an article the conservative book critic and publisher, Adam Bellow, wrote in the National Review. The theme of Bellow’s rant (not Charles' article, Charles was making fun of Bellows) is that the world of arts and letters, particularly the fiction industry, has been co-opted for years by bleeding-spleen liberals who have used their media platforms to crush the artistic hopes, dreams and novels of conservatives and those of the further right-wing variety. TG had to laugh. Yeah, it’s a damn shame about the fortunes of such beaten-down conservative thriller writers like Tom Clancy and Brad Thor. Those poor guys have made nary a cent in the business.

What we have here is another dope who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, stepping into the fiction book-writing business, in particular, as far as TG is concerned, the thriller-writing business, and spouting off, revealing not only his lack of information but his own wild-eyed political biases that leave him virtually blind, deaf and decidedly dumb in a larger discussion of an interesting topic. So it was with a sinking heart TG realized that he was now going to have to read the original article in the National Review, and not just the clever piece Charles wrote about it in the Post. Oh the burdens TG must shoulder just so his readers can remain sitting comfortably in front of their computers. Instead of picking each paragraph apart, TG is simply going to excerpt some of his pronouncements.

“We (conservatives) need our own writing programs, fellowships, prizes, and so forth. We need to build a feeder system so that the cream can rise to the top, and also to make an end run around the gatekeepers of the liberal establishment.

“What good will it do to write a novel? May as well ask what good it did to show the revolutionary flag at Bunker Hill (a battle we lost, by the way). We need to hoist our flag and show the strength of our resolve in order to build morale and win recruits.
“Remember, this is still a fight that can be lost. Will we as a society reject the new regime of liberal thought control or will we let it impose a politically correct orthodoxy on us that we will all have to live with for the rest of our lives?

“Yes, conservative voices can now be heard throughout the land, and the GOP is poised for victory in the upcoming midterm elections. But even as we appear to be winning the political argument, for the moment anyway, we are losing on the cultural front. For proof, you need look no farther than the recent successful attacks on conservative spokesmen. Do you oppose any aspect whatsoever of Barack Obama’s transformative agenda for America? You’re a racist. Racist, racist, racist!

“This is a bare-knuckled attempt to enforce an ideological orthodoxy by policing the boundaries of acceptable speech. The methods used — anonymous accusers, public shaming, forced apologies, reeducation programs — come straight out of the Stalinist playbook, and they are not only shockingly illiberal. They are shockingly effective.

“The Left has adopted this strategy for obvious reasons: They cannot win the argument on its merits, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere they can’t consistently win (or steal) elections. Political power eludes them. But like Mark Antony at Caesar’s funeral, they have become expert at using the media pulpit to turn the passions of the mob against their enemies.

“Fear not, however — this is no doom-and-gloom scenario. I actually come bearing good news. A second front is opening in the oddly misnamed culture war (which has nothing to do with culture). The tools of our salvation are at hand. There’s a new posse in town. We just need to wake up and support them.
“Meanwhile, more and more, I started hearing from conservative authors asking if I would look at their novels. I read quite a few of these, and while some of them were awful, many others were entertaining and well done. But they didn’t rise to the level of proficiency required for mass-market publication, and no sectarian market existed for conservative-themed fiction. So I suggested they self-publish, making use of the new digital-distribution technology.

“How do we fight back against this liberal establishment with its politically correct regime of thought control? There is only one way that I know of and that is by turning their weapons against them and channeling the spirit of the Sixties counterculture.

“The new conservative counterculture is a rebellion from below and from without. Fueled by the rise of digital self-publishing technologies, it is a simultaneous revolt against the hierarchical control of mass media and the ideological narrowing of acceptable discourse.

“In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.”

If this is the sort of thing you feel is right and true, TG heartily encourages you to read the entire piece. As crazy as some of this seems -- at least to TG -- he is happy to read the endorsement of digital technology to come to the aid of writers who can’t get published. (Even though they admittedly haven’t reached the level of proficiency for mass-market publication.) And rather than TG having to refute all the dopey theories Mr. Bellow is espousing, TG would just like to suggest to him that liberal writers, even the proficient ones, have just as much trouble getting the legacy publishers to accept their work and publish it and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with their political bent.

TG does agree with another of Bellow’s statements, that is that most conservative writers, at least working in the thriller genre, know to keep their political opinions down to at least a low simmer. When they let this worldview take over, (like the author TG began this discussion with,) the fiction is subsumed beneath politics, and thriller readers, no matter what their political bent, don’t like that. They’re reading for thrills, action, and story, not polemics. That’s the real message Bellows should be trumpeting, but instead he has produced the usual self-pitying screed that blames the forces of his political opponents rather than the limitations and short sightedness of his aggrieved compatriots.

Mr. Bellows should read the thriller genre. The political leanings there are far more heavily weighted on the conservative end of the spectrum, but the better writers wisely tamp down much of that bias and just try to write terrific stories, because they know if they push the buttons that Bellows is urging them to push, they’re going to lose readers. And not just liberal readers.

Several years ago TG wrote an article about political thrillers. As part of his research he interviewed a number of well-known thriller writers, intending to use this as a sidebar to the article, and asked them about their own political leanings. It will come as no surprise that many, if not most of them, were conservative. But their answers surprised TG with their thoughtfulness. For unrelated reasons, the sidebar was not used with the article. In his next blog, TG will run some of these thoughts. Stay tuned.

Did TG mention that Adam Bellow is the son of the great novelist Saul Bellow? Does anyone besides TG hear the whoosh of someone whirling in his grave?