Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Jonothon Fairfax

This entry is part 77 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’m an indie author – so naturally, when I see an author such as Christopher Shevlin who has done well from his writing it makes me swell with pride that my fellow professional has –

No wait, I remember. I hate him. Jealousy bubbles like acid in the pit of my stomach and heart, making me want to cry and throw things because Shevlin has achieved the three things I want to from writing:

  1. A living
  2. A Guardian review
  3. A mother who isn’t ashamed of him (I assume)

On the other hand, he is a reminder self-publishing success is achievable.

Anyone can publish a book online and thousands of creti- people do. But the success stories tend to be outside of our line of vision, not noticed because they’re not megastars like Stephen King. They’re just earning a living.

And no one’s interested in people who are just earning a living.

Even those who achieve huge success from self-publishing tend to be shuffled into traditional publishing until we forget they did it alone.

E. L. James, for example.

So when you do see an author who sits in that middling ground, doing well without selling millions or even hundreds of thousands it is a reassuring boost it is achievable.

And also, as stated, I hate him.

The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathan Fairfax

Considering the above, I guess no one is going to believe me if I say anything the slightest bit derogatory about this book.

But you should, because I spit venom at the author, but the book I can take and review on its own merits so you can believe me when I say – it’s not brilliant.

This is another quirk of indie publishing that, when you see a book that has made it, wading through the piles of self-published shit and holding its own against traditionally published books, you expect it’s going to be glorious.

Not always true.

Once you reach a certain quality threshold (which isn’t very high if 50 Shades of Grey is anything to go by), any book can make it. It’s the author’s hard work in pushing the book and a healthy dose of luck that will propel it up the ranks.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying this book is terrible. It just did not live up to the high expectations I had of it.

The copy I have was given to my mother for her birthday by her friend, and she read it, earmarked the humour as my kind of humour, and gave it me to read after her.

And the humour was indeed the irreverent but intelligent humour I enjoy. The kind of thing you’d get in the Discworld books, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or even Extras.

It was – the humour, I mean – the strength of the book.

When something is funny, readers are more willing to forgive weak plotting.

Both the Discworld series and Hitchiker’s are a great example of this. The former often suffering from weaker third acts and the latter sometimes forgetting to include plot at all, with various situations being used as a vehicle to tell whatever joke Douglas Adams thought of next.

This wouldn’t work in, say, a murder mystery, or a romance. But comedy gets away with it because it is making us laugh.

Fairfax’s plot, while ambitious, felt a little lacking. It involved a political conspiracy and the potential leaking of critical documents.

The trouble was the conspiracy was a little nonsensical, like it came from a Bond film, and the plot that hung around it was a bit sketchy at times.

The characters were stronger. While the book is named after one man, he was only one of several central characters, all of which were colourful enough and somewhat interesting.

The plot – such that it was – also moved pretty well, with few slow bits and lots of good set pieces.

But in the end, everything served the humour. This does bug me a bit because I like my comedies to have a proper plot (Like John Dies at the End did) but it did have me laughing all the way through and, considering the rubbish that’s out there in the self-publishing market, this was worthy of rising above the rest.

Well, not all the rest. Not my books, obviously.

Congratulations, Shelvin.

Next Time

Next time out we’re diving into the beautiful world of scripts (again) and looking at one of the greatest directors around with the trilogy of Batman films.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: One year, three weeks and Simon PeggMan vs Bookshelf: Nolan’s Batman >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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