This publication Serial Killers, by Robert Lean is offered as a collection of short stories. The subtitle Top 10 Aggressive Serial Killers on the Planet, Based on True Crime Stories leads us to believe we will read several stories. The table of contents lists four chapters, so it seems we will be doubling up here a bit. The subtitle does say “on the planet,” so I guess we are supposed to excuse the situation where in chapter four, the killers are actually extraterrestrials responding to orders from some headquarters on another planet.
We have all heard “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Heard, yes, but we do it anyway. With respect to the sometimes necessary grammar breaches that journalism claims as a right when trying to compress meaning, into headlines, “Based On True Story,” displayed on the book’s cover, doesn’t get to claim that exception. It is ungrammatical and, by itself, possibly a minor point. Added to the mess that follows, it compounded the annoyance I felt at looking though this attempt at a story.
I reviewed this publication at the author’s request for a review. Occasionally I get such requests with the caveat, “this is a proof copy only, please excuse as yet uncorrected errors.”. Instead, at Kindle location 264 there was a request to leave a review on Amazon. If I am going to post a review on Amazon, the review will be of what I have read, not of something that might be revised in the future. At any rate, no such warning came with this work.
Because this is a very short work, I read through it quickly and was appalled at the disrespect shown to the reader by touting and advertising this as a product ready for publication. My first impression was that this was written by a non-native speaker of English. I teach English in an English as a Foreign Language program. If I were being generous, this work would receive a C grade conditional on submission of an acceptable revision. If the author is a non-native speaker and writer of English, my advice is to get a proofreader, you are not even at the editor stage yet. If you can’t do this, at least get a native English speaker to look over it for you. If the author is a native English speaker, my advice is far different and could only be given in a face-to-face interview with the author.
So why did I post the review on my blog? These posts are for my students in a literary criticism class. I want them to read many kinds of literature; the good, bad, and the ugly. This work fits two of the categories. Now on to some, not all, glaring deficiencies.
“Why do they have abnormal behaviors,” (loc 39). Think about rephrasing. It is minor, but it clangs.
“A few basic traits that researchers and psychoanalyst and some of they have identified separate serial killers from normal people are:” (loc 50-51). “Some of they????” This is insulting.
“I hope these stories chill you as much as they chilled me when I read about them and while I created stories based on them.” (loc 59-60). You may have created stories based on them, but there is no reference to sources anywhere. I guess I could just google terms to find the information, but how do I know it is the information you used?
“Brazilian friends over at our house. One of them was called Pedro.” (loc 68-69). This was the first clue that told me the author was possibly a non-native user of English.
“And I said to myself, “If my father can do to me then I can do to Diana!” (loc 89-90). This reinforced the above possibility.
“I wish to talk to you only about one other time when I was born as Countess Elizabeth Bathory way back in 1560.” (loc 107-108). At this point I might go back to Amazon and ask for a refund. This time-traveler killer thing is not what I was led to expect.
“That man was a shrew and, somehow, seemed to read me like an open book.” (loc 130). There are commonly accepted definitions of shrew. The author might want to consult a dictionary, not a thesaurus.
“When their happiness changed to fear for the first time during our encounter gave me a high that no drug in the world could give.” (loc 145-146). An editor is not necessary here, a proofreader would have caught it.
“Finally, I found Thurzo and large family scattered all across America.” (loc 149) Same as above.
“for the British settlers and at other times they fought against the settlers. They chose their side depending on their needs.” (loc 159-160). It would have been polite to give a time reference. Of which conflict are we writing?
The following three items should be considered together for context:
- “The serial killers worked out of various places including Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois and Kentucky.” (loc 157).
- “credited” with being the first known serial killers in America.” (loc 158-159).
- “immense pleasure in plundering and killing as they marched with dacoits, pirates, or soldiers pillaging villages at will.” (loc 162-163).
It is possible there were dacoits; anything is possible. But if you are going to suggest that members of armed bands from India and Myanmar were running around in Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kentucky, it would be very helpful to cite a reference. If you claim creativity in fiction, I would criticize this as absurd. I suspect that pesky thesaurus again.
“Actually, there was nothing to talk.” (loc 212). Back to the suspicion of a non-native English language writer.
“All three of us came from a distant planet so far away from Earth that it would take Death to put us back there.” (loc 221-222). And this is where I will leave the story. After reading this, I would definitely contact Amazon for a refund.
And now off to post this review on Amazon per the author request. For any readers of my blog, my apologies for wasting your time.
It gets better tomorrow. (I hope).