One negative review does not go unpunished. Back in January of this year I downloaded a copy of Rejection: A Lou Drake Mystery written by Thomas Matthews. The several reviews posted at Amazon uniformly gave it five stars. I was frankly underwhelmed, gave it one star, failed to understand why all the other reviews were five starred, and went on with my life. Take a look, at http://www.amazon.com/Rejection-Publishing-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/product-reviews/B008J6SWZ2/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_summary?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=byRankDescending
Soon, an e-mail popped up from someone named Stacy Matthews. “As an editor I would beg to differ and so many New Yorkers have come forward and said there was nothing wrong with the way the setting was staged. The structure was classic contemporary fiction. Take at look at Patterson, Kellerman, Reich and other thriller and suspense writers. [non sequitur, Stacy.] Beside two small typos this book was well crafted, well characterized and devoid of the clichés you claim. One question... you seemed well versed on the content. If you hated it so much why finished reading it? There must have something here that held your interest.”
My negative review had resulted in a literary “fatwa” Argumentum ad hominem. Was this a dutiful wife, daughter or sister pumping the book?
A second irritated reviewer said of my critique, “Wow, I don't agree with a single thing you wrote. I got this as a freebie, wasn't expecting much, and ended up thoroughly enjoying the book.
A third irked reader chimed in, “So by your argument we should also avoid any of the Scott Turow books set in the fictitious Kindle County? Please...”
I replied, thoughtlessly thinking this was a literary discussion, “My concerns were for a lack of accuracy and sloppy writing and editing." By then, Thomas Matthews personally sent me an e-mail apologizing for the errors and typographical oversights. But his wife (sister, daughter?) came back with “Wouldn't listen to this guy. The book is great.” and a few days later, “Christopher Reich, Lee Childs, Marry [sp] Higgins Clark and Lisa Genova all may disagree with you. 5 stars across the board. Can all these best selling authors be so stupid they wouldn't know good writing if they saw it? Just saying, you know?” My criticism, I think, was giving her sleepless nights.
Then, as though Jesus Himself came back to crit the Bible, Jerry Shapiro wrote, “You sound like someone expecting to read your morning newspaper. This was a novel. A fictional story. This wasn't an English exam. I doubt you'd have praise for a hack writer like Mark Twain. No, I'm guessing you're a pompous wannabe. Get a life. BTW... I AM the Jerry Shapiro in the novel!”
What have I learned? (a) the Amazon star system is manipulated by friends and family. (b) If you post a review for a very poor book, as I once did for Jerzy Kosinski’s Cockpit, the lap dogs will yip and yap at your heels for months! And (c) Any form of literary discussion and criticism of small-time authors is being held hostage to the rush for sales, ranking and fame.