When I post a book review I usually include a link to the author’s website. Perhaps because I’ve read more books than usual this week or perhaps because I’m seriously involved with web design in my work right now I’ve been struck by how few authors have decent websites.
- The first review I posted this week was of Alex Barclay’s Blood Runs Cold. Barclay’s website commits one of the cardinal sins of web design by having a slow to-load flash gizmo that you can’t skip through and for your trouble you get three lousy links to PDF extracts of Barclay’s books. Ho hum.
- My next review led me to Alexander McCall Smith’s website which contains some useful information but would not win any design awards in 2009, especially not from anyone with even a slight vision impairment given that its standard font seems to be about 6 or 8pt.
- At least those authors have some kind of web branding of their own whereas the only site I could find for Leah Giarratano when I posted a review of Voodoo Doll was a short blurb at her publisher’s site.
- Finally, yesterday’s review of The Red Dahlia led me to Lynda La Plante’s website and prompted this posting. Why on earth in this day and age would a successful author have a website that hasn’t been updated in nearly three years?
In some ways I guess Giarratano has got it right: if you can’t maintain a website properly then don’t have one at all. That’s certainly a better alternative than La Plante’s outdated site or Barclay’s singularly uninformative one. But the phenomenon of bad author websites got me thinking: why are there so many authors without a decent web presence? Do they, or the publishing industry in general, still believe that if they close their eyes and wish it to be so the Internet will disappear in a puff of smoke? Do they not realise that the old selling models are crumbling in the web 2.0 world and that making the most of social networking and new media will increasingly be the difference between putting food on the table and having to work a second job to pay the bills? Does no one see that today’s consumers want a little more than hundreds of advertisements for the books?
Of course I’m generalising. There are authors with web savvy including the six authors who collectively blog at The Kill Zone and talk about everything but where to buy their books. These are people whose work I will seek out because of their interesting web presence. Irish crime writers also seem to ‘get it’ if Declan Burke’s Crime Always Pays blog and Gerard Brennan’s Crime Scene NI are anything to go by. And new generation thriller writers like Scott Sigler and J C Hutchins are so enmeshed in new media that they don’t even bother with traditional publishers. They blog and podcast and participate fully in a range of online communities and are, undoubtedly, models for the new millennium.
What about your favourite authors? Any of them have a web presence to be proud of?
Title: The Red Dahlia
Author: Lynda La Plante
Publisher: Simon and Schuster 
The body of a young woman is found on the banks of the Thames in London. She is so disfigured and mutilated that even seasoned police struggle to maintain their composure. As the investigative team starts undertaking the hundreds of mundane but necessary tasks that will help them identify the woman and. hopefully her killer, they are taunted with news that the case is a copycat of a 1940′s murder which occurred in California and was the subject of a recently published book. DCI James Langton and DI Anna Travis are, for the second time, brought together to work on the case.
La Plante is a prolific writer of both crime fiction books and television shows but, apart from the Prime Suspect TV series, I’m not a particular fan of her work and haven’t religiously followed any of her series. Even then I think my fondness for that show has more to do with Helen Mirren’s acting in the pivotal role of Jane Tennison than La Plante’s writing. I’ve read a couple of her books before and have found them readable but not outstanding. I gave this book a go due to the recommendation of a friend but, again, I found it lacked something.
The plotting is good although it drags a bit for the first half. However it does a good job of showing the frustration that police must feel when there are no leads or clues or evidence in such cases. When the police have a key suspect and start investigating him and his family the suspense starts to build and I did become keen to find out how, or if, the case would resolve and there was a real build up of suspense towards the end. Unfortunately for me I found the increasingly detailed descriptions of the heinous acts committed by the main suspect took me out of the story rather than kept me riveted as I’m sure they were supposed to do.
I don’t have to like characters to be engaged by them but I do want them to be interesting in some way and none of the characters in The Red Dahlia had the ‘X’ factor that makes them stay with me after I’ve finished the book. Anna Travis is certainly clever with a vulnerable side but it felt a bit like La Plante had a checklist of characteristics and life events for her that were being marked off as the book progressed. James Langton is a similarly cardboard cutout character; another near-alcoholic, obsessive copper that I’ll forget all about inside a month. Neither the victims of the awful crimes nor the suspects were depicted in such a way as to generate much of a reaction in me either. There were some genuine human emotions displayed by the two daughters of the main suspect but their roles in the story weren’t enough to carry the entire book.
The last 100 or so pages of the book were great in terms of pacing and story development but in a near 500 page book that simply isn’t good enough. The rest of the book contained to much unnecessary filler, such as the entire thread involving the profiler which added nothing to the plot and minimally to character development. In combination with characters I didn’t care much about I was left with a somewhat ho hum reading experience.
My rating 2.5/5
Karen reviewed the book at Euro Crime and liked it much more than I did
The Mystery Reader also reviewd it and had similar thoughts to me