A few years ago when The De Vinci Code hit the book stores, the subject sounded intriguing and I looked forward to reading it. I bought a hard backed copy and settled in for a cozy weekend read . . . that lasted a couple or three chapters until I put it down without marking the page . . . and walked away.
I'm not qualified to be a critic EXCEPT by virtue of the many, many books I've read and IMO Dan Brown is a terrible writer.
Others, off the top of my head - Robin Cook, Anne Rice, Stuart Woods and Jonathan Franzan.
How on earth do these people become best selling authors?
Please add to this list or start one for writers who are not considered great authors, but write popular fiction very well.
I think King creates wonderful, often unforgettable, characters. He seems to have trouble "closing" - not just the books, but various sections of the books. I've wondered whether he blocks out his stories and skips around filling them in.
The one that frustrated me most was Insomnia. I had to force myself to trudge along through the long long long long mid-section until the plot picked up. But, looking back, the book has more good than not . . . just would have been better with abt. 100 pages cut out. I guess he does that to fill pages and it shows.
A couple more writers with ups and downs - Jonathon Kellerman and Dean Koontz. Some very good books - some almost unreadable. What causes this, I wonder.
The da Vinci Code bored me too. It reminded me of those films that are all action and no characterisation or plot. I got about half way through before ditching it.
I haven't read any of the other authors but have been disappointed in Robert Harris' recent stuff, even though I can't complain about bad writing. His first three novels were really grippig, but now he's started churning them out at the rate of about one a year, they seem to have lost their impact.
His Alex Cross character was very winning for awhile, then it seems to me he just got lazy. Didn't need the money so much and had to keep on fulfilling his contract anyway.
I notice he now has a co-writer. Wonder why? I have not bought or read anything by him for about 3 years. I think he could write at one time, but, whether he lost his ability or gave it up, he does not write well now.
Very poor. Alex Cross tells us how good he is at things, though we never see him being especially good at anything.
The procedural bits are laughable. The adventure bits are pathetic. His knowledge of law is scanty - he knows it's against the law to kill someone, and that's about it.
He can't write coherantly. He misreads other writers greater than him (Kurt Vonnogut's "So it goes" was not a hippy not caring line, but just the opposite), and doesn't understand that the stations on the Underground railway were not places of despair.
He's a right tit. The worst writer I have ever read. And his eyes are too close together.
Now for something a little more upmarket. Or so I am told
I have tried to read a s byatt's Possession three times. People keep telling me how wonderful it is so I keep trying. My copy has a bookmark half way through, so I must have struggled that far.
But how? It may be terribly well written but boring. No plot, no intrigue, uninteresting characters and pretentious poetry (which, incidentally, is clearly written by the same person even though it is meant to come from two).
Oh, Possession is terrible. Pages and pages of bad victorian prose (very accurate pastiche; but bad prose is bad prose), a ridiculous climax in a Yorks graveyard (it would take two people a lot longer than she gives them to dig up an old grave in the middle of a storm, at night), people introduced just to describe them, oh, all sorts; and the only way she could explain the puzzle was to have a third person flashback to olden days - Ruth Rendell does that kind of thing much better. I once saw her (or someone very much like her) walking along Lancaster road. IHow I longed to kick her up the bum. Of course, I did not. (It might not have been her.)
When I'd finished Possession, I went to the library and got out Flashman, for some flesh and blood, living characters. God, it was like sinking into a warm bath.
Whereas HP Lovecraft, a known bad writer, is actually very effective. And I think S King is good as well. Even his bad books - It, Insomnia, The Tommyknockers (there are more) - are enjoyable to read; they just don't hold together that well. At his best - The Shining, Salem's Lot, Misery, Dolores Claibourne, The Dead Zone, Gerald's Game Pet Semetary - he is amazingly good.
Generally, genre fiction lasts better than "Literary" fiction. (I will argue this if you like.)
I think it's hard to declare a particular writer "can't write well", except for Patterson and Robin Cook - both dismal. A lot of writers blow warm and cold. I really liked Ian McEwan's Amsterdam, but Atonement was terrible. Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides and Beach Music were wonderful, but the new one, South of Broad, left a lot to be desired and could have easily been 100 pages shorter without losing anything the least bit important.
Stephen King definitely has his ups and downs. Insomnia is one of his worst (at least 150 pages too long), but if the reader can fight through the first two-thirds, he starts to tie it in with all his other Derry books and it turns into a good read.
Dean Koontz is another who has some really terrible - ill written - books, and a few gems like From The Corner of His Eye, One Door Away From Heaven and the Christopher Snow books.
I guess the writer of popular fiction who has never really disappointed me is Nelson DeMille. His new one, The Lion, a sequel to The Lions Game, is just out and on order. Looking forward to it.