Monday, February 26, 2007

Elizabeth George Hates Me

Okay. This is very emotionally disturbing for cut me a little slack as I get hysterical later.

You guys know how I feel about readers, and readers being God as far as I'm concerned, and blah blah blah. You also know that I have said publicly, right here on this blog, that characters belong to writers and they know them better than readers do.

Well, as Ben Franklin said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Because I've been thinking of this a lot lately. See, in the comics world, reader loyalty is a big deal. reader opinion can actually change stories. While this may not always be good, I think in a series it is a good thing. And perhaps I'm not as inconsistent as I originally thought because really, despite the enormous popularity of Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris wasn't strictly writing a series.

But series are different. Readers get very, very emotionally involved in the lives of ongoing characters in books. You introduce someone in one book and they die in the next? Well, yeah, that's sad. You introduce someone in one book, marry her to the MC of the book, and then have her brutally murdered while eight months pregnant, thirteen fucking books later? And then, as a sequel to that soul-destroying carnage, you write a sequel book about the kid who committed the brutal murder, and what he did before committing said murder? 400 pages of this shit?

You, my friend, must hate me.

Elizabeth George? She hates me.

You must understand. It isn't just how awful the senseless death of a pregnant woman makes us instinctively feel (Lacey Peterson, anyone?) It isn't just that the murdered woman was someone we all liked and trusted from the first page of the first book, someone we thought of as a friend, someone whose happiness we were pulling for. Or that in marrying her, her husband seemed to finally be coming into his own again and growing up.

It's that once we discovered she was pregnant, we had to wait FOUR GODDAMN YEARS, breathlessly anticipating the birth of the baby, wondering what it would be, wondering how our intrepid detective would deal with having a vulnerable baby at home. Eagerly we sat through one volume of self-written short stories, one nonfiction book about writing, and one volume of short stories written by other people edited by Elizabeth George. We plodded on through a not-very-satisfying book about irritating minor characters, all the while thinking this was the longest literary pregnancy in the history of the world (which it may or may not be.)

Four fucking years we were strung along, only to have the lady die in what was essentially a drive-by shooting, totally unconnected with the rest of the book. It wasn't even that clean or simple. Our friend, our detective, had to make the decision to turn off his pregnant wife's life support.

The hubs called me from Tesco the other day. "Elizabeth George has a new book out. Do you want it?" he asked, a little warily, because he remembered the fury with which I finished the last one and what a miserable mood I was in for days.

I hemmed and hawed and told him to bring it to me. Curiosity killed the cat.

But in this case satisfaction most definitely does NOT bring it back. I am done. Done, done, done. That I was treated with such contempt is absolutely beyond my ability to forgive.

I know when you write series books things have to change. I know readers aren't always going to be happy. It isn't the death that bothers me so much (I mean it does, it totally does, but). What bothers me is that I wated so long for it, and now, just over a year later, I have another book about the same fucking incident. No aftermath. I still don't know how any of these people are dealing with what happened.

(What makes matters worse is the rumors that have flown around for some time, saying that this death was written because the TV series made from the books--which isn't a good series, btw--has gone in a different direction with the relationship, and so did not marry the detective and his wife, etc., and that they wanted the books more in line with the series. I don't know if I'll go that far.)

But I am literally shaking with rage. If you hate me so much, Ms. George, just stop writing the books and do something different. What you did to me was inexcusable, and expecting me to read the same horrible, depressing story twice is arrogance beyond measure.

(I'm going to post more about how this relates to series books tomorrow or Wed.)


crowwoman / rhian said...

I haven't read any of these December, but four years of waiting for the character to spit out a baby? That just sounds horrific. Four years? Shudder. Poor character.

December Quinn said...

And she never even got to spit him out. She died instead.

I have to say in the interests of fairness that the books--most of them, up until With No One as Witness--are really excellent, especially if you like mysteries. Really, really excellent. I bought the first one on a whim, and by the time I was halfway through I called my husband and work and told him that under no cirumstances was he to come home without stopping at the bookstore and buying the next two in the series for me first. The book was that good.

Which is why these last couple are so disappointing as well--not only do they just plain suck, but the writing isn't as good either.

Bernita said...

Think I would feel the same way, December.
No cartharsis in this sort of tragedy.

Isabella Snow said...

I don't think I've ever read a series. And now I shall avoid this one, for sure!

Anna J. Evans said...

This is horrible. I can't believe she did that! That's a betrayal of your readers, plain and simple. I's a mystery series right? more entertainment than deep literary crap? You expect meaningless death in literary crap because it's the nature of the beast, but not in something you're reading for entertainment. Shame on her. Deep Deep SHAME!!


December Quinn said...

No, Bernita, that's exactly it. Tragedy surrounds the series itself; the main characters are homicide detectives. We as readers get just as involved in the lives of the victims and survivors as we do with the detectives. But there's a level of trust implied there. We trust the author to allow some people to remain safe. We trust them to entertain us. Now that trust has been violated for no reason.

December Quinn said...

I love reading series, Isabella, and like I said, it's a shame because George is a wonderful writer, and the rest of the books are fantastic.

Just stop after In the Presence of the Enemy (I think.)

December Quinn said...

Exactly, exactly, exactly, Anna. Like I said to Bernita, you read books like that to be entertained. You trust the writer to solve the case at the end, to give us a world we can escape into, where bad things happen but our special ones are safe.

So I get her point, but it violates our trust, and her implied promise to us.

JK Rowling is a good example; people die, but we're warned ahead of time. So no trust is violated, because we expect it, and sad as we may be, we were able to prepare ourselves.

Erik Ivan James said...

December, if there is such a thing as a "rant award", you would win every time! Yours are the best.

BernardL said...

I understand your dislike in being strung along for so long, only to have a plot theme you've waited for evaporate in such a contrived manner. It reminded me of the ironic ploy Stephen King did recently. King petitioned the author of the incredibly popular Harry Potter books not to kill off Harry Potter. This from a guy who regularly kills off main characters to the point I'd have to list them in an Excel spread sheet. :)

In reference to your series author, I'm convinced as with most other endeavors, it's the money. As you pointed out, the TV series people must have made her an offer she couldn't refuse.

December Quinn said...

Thank you, Erik. I've been a little off ranting form of late, but with spring comes fury, apparently. :-)

I've missed your comments!

December Quinn said...

That's exactly it, Bernardl! It evaporated in a contrived manner. I feel like someone promised me a diamond ring in the next year, and kept promising it for four years, only to finally show me the ring and refuse to buy it for me. Like how my parents used to do. (That's mostly a joke.)

Good point about King. But again, at least with King we kind of expect somebody to die. We don't know who it is, but we know somebody we learn to care for isn't going to be there when we read "The End".

Stupid TV people.

Ann(ie) said...

I don't even know who Elizabeth George but it cheeses me off when authors jerk their readers around.

kis said...

Sometimes that kind of thing is great, like when George RR Martin killed off half the Stark family and their allies in his infamous "red wedding." Here's the people you think are going to come out on top at the end of the series, and he's having the bad guys cut them to pieces. I read that whole chapter with one hand over my mouth--it was awesome. Of course, although unexpected, it fit the storyline and the feel of the books.

Waiting four years, only to have the pregnant wife shot in an unrelated, random drive-by, that just bites. You probably felt like someone had stabbed you through the heart.

I don't think people necessarily have to be warned ahead of time--and the whole tease of will JKR kill off Harry, or won't she, really irritates me for some reason. I do think that, if you have to do something like this, there are ways to do it right. The way they killed off Claire Kincaid on Law and Order was sad, but satisfying. The ironic tragedy of the situation allowed the viewer to find meaning in it, and the subsequent episodes had everybody dealing (or trying to deal) with her death. The audience felt sad, but not furious or betrayed.

If all Ms. George can do to help the reader through it is tell the same crap from the killer's POV, that's just adding insult to injury. Bleh.

Ann(ie) said...

"The way they killed off Claire Kincaid on Law and Order was sad, but satisfying. The ironic tragedy of the situation allowed the viewer to find meaning in it, and the subsequent episodes had everybody dealing (or trying to deal) with her death. The audience felt sad, but not furious or betrayed."

In another poignant TV death, I felt the way they killed off Maude Flanders was really special. Homer taunting the T-shirt cannon girls with his belly until they shot Maude off the bleachers brought a tear to my eye. If only she hadn't gone for hot dogs...

littlebirdblue said...


That's exactly what I thought of; the Song of fire and Ice books of George R.R. Martin.


I don't know who Elizabeth George is. The only sites I found were for a very prolific woman writer of uplifting spiritual books, with titles such as, The Remarkable Prayers of the Bible and A Woman's Walk with God

But...that's not what you're talking about, right? Please?

Anonymous said...

I know that feeling. In Mary-Janice Davidson's Monster Love there are explicit rape scenes... and in the end when the werewolf breaks free she comes back because her rapist is the only one who ever loved her and the only one who accepts her. It left me with a resounding WTF.. and for George (who I haven't read, but most certainly won't now) to not only string you along for 4 years AND THEN write a second book about the same event...atrocious.

December Quinn said...

"Jerked around" is exactly how I feel, Annie. And yes, I am rather irritated by it, to say the least.

December Quinn said...

Kis, in George's defense, there is a group of readers--I believe they are a minority, from what I've seen, but who knows, maybe I'm the loon--who like the twist and think this will take the books in a new direction. They also seem to be the group who enjoy the tv show, so maybe they like the idea of book/show coming more into line with each other. I stopped watching the show--TV movies actually--so can't say for sure.

And I agree, the JKR hints that Harry may die piss me OFF. If that boy dies, I will not give the books to my kids, etc...I think it would be a very not-smart move to kill him off. And honestly I don't believe she'll do it. I think it's just teasing. I mentioned her specifically, though, because she does prepare us for the idea that there will be deaths of major characters, which is nice.

And yep, I did feel stabbed through the heart, and yep, to then write another book about the same event bites. Like I said, I think the woman hates me. Why else would she think I'd sit quietly and accept that handful of poo she gave me?

December Quinn said...

Oh, poor Maude. No foot longs, foot longs. :-)

No no no, kis! I don't know who that Elizabeth George is, or why she's suddenly at the top of the Google list, but I mean this Elizabeth George:

Elizabeth George.

December Quinn said...

Michele, are you serious! I've never read any MJD--her rudeness towards her fans and/or readers who dare to give her bad reviews put me right off--but that is way beyond the pale. I'll take all kinds of sick shit from a good writer--I've written some awfully sick sht myself--but I thought we'd left that "rape=love" idea back in the freaking early 80's soap operas where it belonged.

Sam said...

Testing testing!
My post was eaten by the Google Monster!

Sam said...

Helen brain dead? How can you tell? Seriously - what a sappy character she was. And St. James and Deborah - simply dreadful. Thomas makes me gag. He's put me off blond men for life.
But there's Barbara - and for that character (and the brilliant writing and super plots) I buy the books. I've read ALL of them. I'm such a fan. (OK, I prefer Martha Grimes because she doesn't have any characters who make me roll my eyes and go "Sweet Jesus what an idiot" under my breath.) But I like Elizabeth Georges books. My favorite was probably Missing Joseph - Oh, and Well Schooled in Murder was super.
As long as I didn't have to read about Helen or Deborah, I was fine.
(And now Helen is gone. Finally. I can't wait until she gets rid of Deborah...)

December Quinn said...

Lol, Sam, as it happens I totally agree about Deborah, what an irritating flake. But I liked Helen, she was one of my favorite characters--the only one who didn't have Big Issues we all had to be bored with all the time.

Yes, I do think if Deborah had been the dead one, I wouldn't have cared a bit.

December Quinn said...

Oh, and I'm sorry, but her marriage to St. John is CREEPY. He's known her since she was a little kid. It's creepy.

Lola said...

She may well hate you, but I love what she inspired you to write. So I'll thank her for that. :)

Luckily I haven't read any of her work, and now I doubt I will. I'll just read yours instead.


Cora Zane said...

OMG. Thank you for the warning. I don't think I'd want to read anything like that. I sat through a gazillion page Tami Hoag novel once that ended with no real resolution - you had to wait for the second book to come out to find out who the kidnappers were. I DID buy the second book, but from them on out, I steer clear of her novels.

I hate deaths in long series. That is why I'm a bit a'worryin' about this upcoming Harry Potter book. *_*

December Quinn said...

Lol thanks Lola! Mine aren't mysteries though. Well, actually, now that I think about it, there's usually some sort of mystery happening.

I do tend to rant on and on, don't I?

December Quinn said...

Hi there Cora! Thanks for commenting!

Oh, that would drive me nuts, that Tami Hoag thing. I bought a horror novel last year (which ended up being pretty good, although I don't remember now who wrote it--I did blog about it, I'll have to look it up.) which ended up being the first in a trilogy. And not even really the first in a trilogy, but it was originally one long book broken up into three. And I bought it at the Forbidden Planet in Bristol and my local bookstore is crap, so I had to wait until next time we made the hour-and-a-half trek to Bristol to get the other two books. It made me mad.

And I share your HP fear. If she kills that kid I'll die myself. I think Hagrid, Neville, one or two other professors (including Snape), and some other buddy of Harry's are going to die. Plus perhaps a Dursley for extra fun.

Who do you think will die?

acaligurl said...

4 years is a heck of a long time to get a tragic ending.!