I’ve recently finished reading something factual about chemical and biological warfare. I’m looking for ideas for my next Patrick Sansom book in which he will have to travel in clandestine fashion to Iran on a humanitarian mission. Crikey!
Anyway, after that depressing venture into Man’s darkest hour I felt that I needed something ‘light’, a bit of swashbuckling adventure to cheer me up. That is how I found myself reading ‘Treasure of Khan’ by Clive Cussler. It was a book that I picked up off the staff table at work where it looked like it had been placed having been read and was being passed on in a sort of unofficial lending library fashion. Either that or I stole it from someone who inadvertently left it there after their tea-break. We don’t get many English language books in the staffroom at Istanbul City Zoo, so you don’t ask questions if you see one lying around.
I’ve only read one other Cussler. That was ‘Raise The Titanic’ and it was many years ago. Many, many years ago. However, I will never forget something that I read in that book that I still believe is one of the most absurd descriptions that I’ve ever come across. The hero of the book ends up shagging the woman, naturally, and when the dirty deed is done replies to her enquiry after her performance that she made love like a ‘spastic tiger’. I still have no idea whether he meant it as a compliment or not. Cussler must like the word spastic because I came across it again in this book. Maybe that’s what reminded me of that quote from RTT.
So, what’s this got to do with hope springing eternal? Well, I’m on page 124 and I can’t actually believe how appallingly this man writes. There’s a long way to go – nearly 700 pages if I can tough it out – but to be honest I’m beginning to wonder if life might just be too short to persevere with it and that battered copy of ‘Brighton Rock’ keeps winking at me from my bedside table. But it might turn into one of those reading experiences where one just keeps going because a) it can’t really be that bad all the way through, can it? and b) I have to find something of merit in it somewhere and c) every awful page that I read makes me more optimistic about my own writing.
Cussler has over two dozen titles to his name – some are collaborative efforts, admittedly – and he is so famous that he must be a multi-zillionaire. He has legions of fans. Some of his books have been made into films. But if the writing in this particular book is characteristic of his writing generally then he is dire. Honestly, I found myself thinking that if I was reading this as a first draft of something that I had written I’d have pressed select all and delete and gone and mowed the lawn.
Everything about the writing is just so bad. The descriptions of people are so bad, the ‘quality’ of the writing is so bad, the plot, such as it is so far, is so bad, the dialogue is atrociously bad. It’s just all-round bad. And I know that any one of my five books is better than this rubbish. I am not exaggerating when I say that when I was an English teacher I marked stories of ten year-olds who had a more engaging writing style than what I’ve read so far.
So, hope springs eternal. If this crap can get published surely I can. Can’t I? Bodrum mansion here I come.
By the way if you’re still wondering what the hell a picture of a golfer is doing in this post the answer is: Tiger Woods putting a bit spastically, as Mr Cussler might be tempted to pen.