I’ve complained a bit lately (“lately,” you say?) about the various horse-puckey mechanisms that encourage Americans to ignore all but the most formulaic and famous of our national fiction. But part of this is perhaps the fault of writer-reviewers; even if we produce novels ourselves, we both avoid and screw up fiction reviews, because they are hard (and also not conducive to clickbait, you barnyard Internet animals).
The more enthused a reviewer is about a piece of fiction, ya see, the less we want to spoil its surprises—be they plot twists, turns of phrase, or a sweet new massage of a time-honored theme. We know the writer worked hard to come up with that left turn, dammit. Thus we overcompensate, giving the reader only the vaguest idea of why he would profit from the story, and the writer’s hard work is all for nought.
So I’m painfully aware of the need to strike a balance with Roy M. Griffis’s By the Hands of Men trilogy, which is the most touching as well as the most enjoyable historical fiction I’ve read in quite some time—though there were some technical flaws which I hope that I, as the second volume’s copyeditor (there’s my full disclosure for you), was able to resolve.
The first book, The Old World, was released to very little fanfare (unless you count me); the second, Into the Flames, came out on December 10, 2015—to what I hope will be a response more commensurate with its merit.