Honky Tonk Samurai

Honky Tonk Samuraiby Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books (Little Brown & Co) 2016

Method of selection: Required textbook at my local honky-tonk samurai class. I’m trying to earn my Shitty Belt
First sentence
: I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard.
Worst sentence: In less than a half an hour, about noon, my butt crack would be completely filled with sweat and breathing air would be like swallowing fishhooks.
Awards Joe R. Lansdale has won for his writing: Edgar Award, eleven Bram Stoker Awards, American Mystery Award, British Fantasy Award, Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, the Sugarprize, Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award, Spur Award.
Martial Arts Halls of Fame he is a member of: United States, International

Before I start my review, watch this:

That’s the author, Joe R. Lansdale, teaching a martial art he made up called Shen Chuan, which is Chinese for “Shitty Book”. I’m not saying he couldn’t kick my ass, all I’m saying is that Joe R. Lansdale invented a martial art to beat up anyone who calls him out for writing shitty books. The student he’s abusing here gave him two stars on Amazon.

Honky Tonk Samurai is crap. Like, it’s not just shitty. It’s also just lousy. It’s a barnstorm of lousiness. And I don’t feel bad saying that because Joe R. Lansdale has written something like 40 novels, some of which have won prestigious awards, such as the Grinzane Cavour Prize, which no longer exists but when it did, the award was handed out in an Italian Castle, possibly haunted by shitty ghosts. And you don’t get bigger than that unless it’s an award handed out in a bigger castle.

This book doesn’t start with a car ride or an upcoming wedding or a murder like most shitty books but it does start with two guys in a truck and an unhappy marriage. Lansdale tries to make his writing funny

holding a whitebread fart out of courtesy

and he tries to make it edgy

a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh

and he tries to make it meaningful

By the time you’re fifty you start to realize just how much of your time on earth you’ve wasted.

He tries to make it quaint and lowbrow, in a shit-kicking southwestern kind of way, but he doesn’t manage to kick the shittiness out of his own writing. Yet, it must have impressed somebody somewhere, perhaps an Italian ghost with a lot of that Old Ghost Money to burn because Sundance has been making a show out of it. The acting has been described as “shit-kicking” and overall the show has been reviewed as “Wednesdays on Sundance.”

You can usually tell how shitty a book is by how overblown and impossible the puff quotes are. Like the Austin Chronicle, which calls Joe R. Lansdale

…the new Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner gone madder, and the last surviving splatterpunk…

The New York Times Book Review says Joe R. Lansdale has

…a folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace.

What the fuck is a front-porch raconteur? Have you even met one? Does he work in the New York Times Book Review office? weaving tales of bygone shitty books through his missing front teeth and corncob pipe while eating pone and tack whatever pone and tack are?

I wonder if all those awards Joe R. Lansdale has received were really for the books he DIDN’T write. Like, “thanks for not shitting in our pool this year, Joe. The world of novels is better off. Here’s your trophy, sir. Please don’t Shen Chuan my puppy.”

Other reviews: Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased, Milo’s Rambles, Written By Sime

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Career of Evil


by Robert Galbraith
2015 Mulholland Books (Little, Brown)

Method of selection: Wanted to pick on a MALE author for a change. It backfired.
First sentence
: He had not managed to scrub off all her blood.

When you put “evil” in the title of a book, it makes it instantly shitty. It is the fastest 0-shitty track time possible. And the library had a lot of copies of this book. There will be a lot of opioid addicts trying to pawn this book so they need a lot of copies. Obviously shitty, right?

I did not know who Robert Galbraith was when I picked it up, but I quickly noticed the absence of any prologue, and dropped my opioid-taking device right there in the library among the other addicts. The publisher may have been jerking off while on opioids the day he was supposed to read it. Or someone tore all the prologues out to pawn them for opioids. But I checked all 1,100 copies on the shelf. No prologue (and someone stole my opioid-taking device while I wasn’t looking). Which means the author and the publisher both decided this book was good enough to start with the first chapter. Confused, and a little high, I turned to the first page, and to my complete surprise, it’s well-written, and that’s not just the opioids talking.

My confusion turned into insanity turned into cancer and they prescribed me more opioids. This is how addiction begins, and also how not shitty books should begin.

Every shitty book begins with a murder, an upcoming wedding, or a car ride. This book begins with a murder, an upcoming wedding, and a bus ride. Nearly a hat trick of shittiness. But the writing doesn’t fit. It’s good. So I looked up the author.

And…it’s JK Rowling, in case you didn’t already know. Talent can’t hide behind a shitty title and a shitty sexism-apologist pen name. And Rowling tried hard to make it shitty and failed. So in a way, it’s a failure, but in another way, it’s not shitty.

But why hide behind the pen name? Harry Potter fans are by now all in their 50’s, and they’ve experienced dozens of cancelled weddings and murders (often for similar reasons). Most of them have stalked people on a bus before (in hopes of interrupting their wedding and stealing their opioids). I think the fans can handle it (even if they can’t handle their opioids).

I’m still not going to read it. But if I saw you reading it on a bus I would not try to murder you and stop your wedding.

Other reviews: Helena Halme, Booking Mama, The Natterbox, Mugglenet

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Peril By Ponytail

Peril By Ponytail

A Bad Hair Day Mystery
by Nancy J. Cohen
2015 Five Star Publishing

Method of selection: ran into a burning building, but everyone was reading James Patterson novels. I saved the one person who wasn’t, and stole her shitty book, then lit her on fire.
First sentence: “How can everyone be dead?” Marla Vail asked from the rear seat of the car.
Rejected titles for this novel: Horror By Hooves, Wipeout By Whiskers, The Opossum Opanic, Risk of Rat Butt, The Fetlock Exigency

Other reviews: Christa Reads and Writes, Mudpies and Magnolias, I Wish I Lived In a Library, Socrates’ Book Reviews

There are a few unspoken, though often broken, rules of this site. One is that I don’t review books from the genre sections (mystery, sci-fi, romance, etc) because I worry my comments would be more about the genre, and its small but clownish class of devoted followers, than about the shitty writing. Another is that I don’t review books that are above the #1,000,000 ranking on Amazon, as that’s like pushing a hurt child into traffic. It’s not his fault he fell off his bicycle. He’s not incompetent, he’s just a simpleton. All I’m saying is that genre fiction doesn’t have any pubic hair and needs to stay off the fucking sidewalk, bitch.

But this book, despite breaking those rules (mystery section; Amazon #1,475,476), won me over with its shittiness, which makes it squarely Shitty But Charming, putting it in the company of Patricia Simpson’s classic time-travel romance novel Spellbound.

First of all, the title. It has one. Titles are a common device used by shitty book authors. Second is the first sentence of the book: “How can everyone be dead?”. So brilliantly shitty. Third, there is a typo on the first page. I want to repeat that to make sure it sinks in: there is a TYPO on the FIRST PAGE. Now, typos happen even at high levels of publishing. William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies was supposed to be called Kids On An Island, but the publisher (who mostly printed books on freshwater fishing) mixed up the titles. But a typo on the first page? Did anyone even read this book? The typo is:

…invited them to say…

Fourth, the book opens with a Cast of Characters, including a missing ghost town worker and a “wrangler” at a dude ranch, like this is Dostoevsky and anyone is paying attention to who says what. Fifth, the puff quotes on the back of the book are for a DIFFERENT BOOK by Nancy J. Cohen. They were in such a hurry to publish this that nobody even had time to read it and write a bullshit puff quote. Sixth, the publisher, Five Star Publications, is a tiny operation in Arizona that seems to mostly print children’s books and, judging by their website, appears to employ only a single person.

Now, with all that said, the writing is NOT THAT BAD. It’s simple, clear, and free of cliches. It’s certainly better writing than a James Patterson novel, which occupy the top 1,000 spots on Amazon’s rankings. It’s also vaguely humorous without being cheeky, at least to the point of understanding its own shittiness. And according to the synopsis, there’s a ghost town, a dude ranch, horseback riding, environmental activists, saguaro poachers, water right proponents, an abandoned copper mine, and a haunted hillside. Nancy J. Cohen packs a lot in to her Bad Hair Day Mysteries!

I’m not suggesting you should really read this book, but that, when the Nazi Mormon Illuminati take over and book-burning returns to your shitty town, you should spare this one so future generations will think more of the 21st century.

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Fancy Dancer

Fancy Dancer

by Fern Michaels (real name Mary Ruth Kuczkir)
2012 Kensington Books

Method of selection: ran over a librarian in my Porsche. Was ordered to read this book for community service. I remain unrepentant.
First sentence: Jake St. Cloud woke up with the queen mother of all hangovers.
Cliches used in the first page: back in the game, burning the candle at both ends, hair of the dog, square one, at the top of his lungs, with every ounce of strength, bone-chilling
Number of butterflies on the cover: 1
Number of butterflies I was able to smoosh with this book: 40 in a 3-day killfest
Net gain: 39 less flying death bugs of the apocolypse to worry about

Other reviews: AJ’s Reading Nook, that’s actually all I could find

I like Fern Michaels. The person. She grew up a coal-miners daughter and started writing in the 70’s when her shithead husband told her to get a job, but he was not supportive of her new career. Good for her ditching that bum and getting rich. Since then she’s written around 60 books. She’s put a lot of her money back into the community, funding scholarships, affordable preschools and day-care centers for single mothers, and she buys bulletproof vests for police dogs. Great lady.

But she writes shitty books. Or at least, she wrote this one shitty book. I confess I haven’t read the other 59. Perhaps they are all dynamite.

The main character in this book, Jake St. Cloud, is not a porn star. Or perhaps he is but Fern Michaels doesn’t want to talk about that too much because the geriatrics who read these books don’t know what that is. Jake St. Cloud is a business consultant. The book could have been called The Consultant, but people would have thought John Grisham wrote it. Instead Michaels called it Fancy Dancer. I’ll explain that part later.

In the opening pages of the book, Jake St. Cloud gets out of bed and takes….wait for it…a SHOWER.


No, he tried to wake up first with some cold water. And I already told you he’s not a porn star.


Sorry, no again. No monsters or anything. He turned the water to hot.


Yo, what’s with all the erect penis stuff? And why are you yelling?

“I just think they’re really interesting is all. So anyway, this is just a normal shower…”

Yup. He soaped up and everything.

“So…he showered.”

That’s right. And it felt good and he wanted to stay in the shower forever.

“That’s not very interesting.”


“Dude now you’re the one yelling about erect penises.”

I admit they are interesting.


An opportunity missed, I suppose.

Yes, the opening scene of this book is a guy taking a shower, and even for that the description is bland. This is another trick shitty book authors use, which I’ve addressed before, where they attempt to make a very mundane scene seem dramatic, and fail to do so.

I checked the summary in the dust jacket for where this shitty book might be going. I found out that Fancy is a young girl, named Fancy. She is the daughter of Angelica Dancer. Fancy Dancer. They should have named this book Fancy Title but John Grisham took that too.

Jake St. Cloud crashes his porsche and almost kills a mother and child in the other car, and instead of jail gets community service (because he’s rich and white) and is ordered to help a young child (named FANCY!!! ARRGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!1409092sbc,.pui 984 drliu9f/aibsa,.k4pbsa3 4k/d3a54id.i5rsde;ipsr8fo;ipe iugrcoi/0fa,.p4dr8ca.ib8rad-!!!!)

Excuse me….my hand slipped.

…named Fancy, who was training to be a ballet dancer but whose “career” was cut short by a terrible accident, possibly involving many erect penises but I didn’t get that far ’cause this is a shitty book.

As I said, I like Fern Michaels, but she writes shitty books. Because she seems like a good person who merely exploits the Shitty Book New World Order to fund affordable preschools and dog vests I’m going to issue special dispensation and create a new category: Shitty But For A Good Cause.

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Truth or Die

James Patterson Truth or Dieby James Patterson but really by Howard Roughan
2015 Little, Brown and Company

Method of selection: There was only one way out of the library…read three whole pages of this shitty book, or DIE.
First sentence: Had it been anyone else, any other woman, the moment might have registered upward of a 7.6 on the Emasculation Scale, or whatever it takes to rattle a man’s self-confidence until he crumbles.
Worst sentence: Claire suddenly grabbed my backside, rolling me like a kayak.
People who read that sentence and are like, “ah yes, kayaking. Say no more.”: white people

Other reviews: Matthew R. Bell’s BookBlogBonanza, The Writer’s Inkwell, 20Something Reads

The prologue has three chapters. THE PROLOGUE HAS THREE CHAPTERS. You know how much I hate prologues. This book has three. In a row. Prologue creep is a real thing, and in another generation James Patterson (who I’m confident will still be alive, still letting other people write shitty books for him), will be creating books that are 100% prologue. The book will just end when the prologue ends, because nothing Patterson wrote was good enough for the real story.

I skipped the whole thing.

A common trick shitty book authors like to use is setting up a big secret — something the characters of the book know about, and talk about, but which you, the reader, don’t understand. But then the author tells you, and it’s stupid. Such is the case for the first pages of this book, when two characters, a couple, are discussing some ridiculous secret thing the man said in bed once that was super funny. Oh the suspense. Please tell me. I have to know. It’s killing me.

“I want to spank you like Santa Claus.”

Oh. That’s the thing? I thought it would be something, you know, interesting, given how much setup it got. But okay, then what? Patterson sets up another big secret:

She then leaned down to my ear and whispered a request that was easily the dirtiest thing I’d ever heard her say. Just filthy. X-rated. Obscene.

Really? So maybe she wants to drive to the Methodone clinic and pay twenty desperate homeless opioid addicts to beat off into her gaping butthole as she swallows ghost chili peppers whole so she can shit it out on your tiny pecker and then you fuck her with the filthy cummy possibly-AIDS-infested burning spicy shit in front of a bunch of little orphans on their only field trip of the year which is a McDonald’s? Is that what she whispered?

Probably not. There is no way James Patterson’s life is that interesting. And after that first secret setup, I’m not entirely confident this second one will be any better. Or maybe you couldn’t think of anything x-rated or obscene, because being spanked by Santa Claus is the best you can do, and you already wasted it on page two. Hell, that one line was probably the basis for the whole book.

But then, the chapter ends, after two and a half pages. I looked at the second chapter, and the story just continues there, as if it was simply going on to the next paragraph. They picked a totally arbitrary place to put a chapter break. So I thumbed through the book and realized it’s all written this way. The chapters are miniscule — never longer than three pages and many as short as one page. And the way the new chapters are indented down so heavily from the top of the page, there’s a lot of white space in this book. So I did some calculations.

There are 383 pages in the main story of this book. But the way it’s broken into tiny chapters, there’s only around 258 pages of actual text. There’s also 7 pages of useless lead-in publisher crapola, 13 pages of an excerpt of another shitty James Patterson novel written by somebody else, and 4 pages listing titles of all the other shit written by James Patterson but really written by somebody else. That makes 407 total pages between the covers in this book. Imagine if you purchased a 407 page book that had 258 pages of story, and 149 BLANK PAGES. I suppose you could use that space to pen James Patterson’s next novel, but you’d probably just be pissed they charged you for all that paper.

Little, Brown and Company suggests charging $28.00 for this piece of shit. And don’t call it a novel. It’s just a ream of shitty paper with some ink spilled on it. It’s also a ream in that it reams out your dignity and reams out your bank account. If you need paper, you can buy 5,000 sheets of higher quality paper from Staples for about the same price.

$28.00. God. The people who buy this book hardcover will have to work three straight hours cleaning up a little brown to pay for it. Hopefully they don’t forget to buy food for their kids. Oh wait, James Patterson is writing young adult fiction too. Kids can live on shitty paper, right?

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The Corinthian

corinthian-georgette-heyer-paperback-cover-artby Georgette Heyer
2009 Sourcebooks, Inc.
(First published 1940)

Method of selection: Jesus gave it to me
First sentence: The company, ushered by a disapproving butler into the yellow saloon of Sir Richard Wyndam’s house in St James Square, comprised two ladies and one reluctant gentleman.
Number of perverted sexual acts I imagined doing with the babe on the cover: 4
Number of perverted sexual acts I actually did with the cover: 1
Number of states where this perverted but highly satisfying sexual act is illegal: 49
States where it is now legal: Oregon, duh
Number of states that have seen their library budgets explode since this perverted sexual act was legalized in 2007: 1
Stitches required to repair the papercuts on my scrotum: The doctor said he lost count

Other reviews: Small Review, Reading For Sanity, The Book Smugglers, AustenProse

This is the story of people of English High Society constantly attempting to avoid offending the mores of English High Society, of constantly offending the mores of English High Society, and of constantly being offended how others offend the mores of English High Society. People are offended about each others’ style of dress, of how they speak, of how they behave, of the homes they live in and the company they keep. They are offended by spoons and trains and doctors and large bodies of water. And they feel constantly sorry for themselves while simultaneously pitying others. Everyone thinks everyone else is coarse and unsavory, and they’re all just so displeased with the whole state of everything everywhere. The first three pages include:

  • the butler’s disapproval
  • a deprecating glance
  • [his] craven speech
  • a look of indulgent contempt

…and much much more. And you might say this just sounds like a Jane Austen novel, and certainly Georgette Heyer was open about that influence. But Jane Austen wrote satire and pithy commentary about social stratification. Georgette Heyer wrote historical romance, a genre which she almost single-handedly invented. In particular, she created this sub-sub-genre called Regency romance, which is set in the brief pre-Victorian Regency era.

How did the British empire manage to survive and procreate through the 19th century if they were all so disgusted about each other all the time? The answer is, of course, by raping their servants. But Georgette Heyer doesn’t talk about that, or about sex at all, because that would offend the ladies of the slightly lower class society that read this crap. So would the rampant syphilis, cholera, polio, and tuberculosis, the lack of sanitation, the dead babies everywhere all the time, the racism, and the universal domestic violence that marked all olden times. This was a time when you could actually die of diarrhea. Like, 4/5ths of the population of the 19th century died of diarrhea or an earache. Everyone else was beaten and molested. And while that may be hyperbole I didn’t actually have to stretch the truth that much. That’s why no one should ever call this kind of book “historical fiction”. It’s fantasy.

On the other hand, Georgette Heyer may have been a genius. She certainly captures the bloated, meaningless rhetoric that so entertained the masses of the 19th century. Rhetoric that says anything but what it’s actually trying to say. It is perhaps understandable that in a world without videogames or bumfight videos, decades before the invention of even the “Ball’s orb”, and with everyone swarming with parasites and venereal disease, that making complicated face noise was the only decent form of entertainment. So I give her some credit. Georgette Heyer may have written shitty books, but she crafted them, sculpted them like a gleaming shitty turd. She was known for her attention to detail and cultural accuracy. And I respect that. But I can’t read it. I can’t read it any more than I can read Latin, or Hebrew, or what girls are thinking when I’m having sex on them.

Luckily for me, she’s dead and can’t write any more of these.

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pegasusby Danielle Steel
Delacorte Press (Random House) 2014

Method of selection: Brought down a Malaysian jetliner with its shittiness. Found floating in the South China Sea, bone dry and in perfect condition. Possibly the world’s most evil shitty book.
First sentence: It was already nightfall when the stable boys heard the horses approaching.
Final sentence: Pegasus had come home.
Plot that happens in between which I made up: A cybernetic clan of hive-mind horses is sent from the future to exterminate the human race, in retribution for the years they spent enslaved to the circus. But, unable to find the cybernetic future oats they need to power their fusion bobsleds, and with their visionary horse leader, Pegasus, perishing ignominiously in a glue factory, they are ironically reduced to performing in a horse circus to survive, forced to prance around for the rest of their cybernetic lives, which is the one thing horses hate the most.
Books that are still worse than this: the Bible, James Patterson’s autobiography, Lady Chaddiwickington’s Horse-Fancier’s Guide to Horse Prancing

Other reviews: Momzinga, Always Me

This is a book about horses. Pretty pretty white fancy horses prancing prettily and doing cartwheels page after page after pretty white page. Did I mention they’re fancy? Also white. And pretty. And possibly Nazi horses. I know this because horses are referred to 14 times in the first three pages. If you include horse-related words like “stable boys” and “sidesaddle” and “riding school” and “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DERP)” it’s more like 30-35. Also, the horses’ bloodlines are pure. This is a book about the horse master race and the donkey genocide. Supposedly it’s also about an aristocratic German family and the Nazis, but seriously, this is a book about horses. It’s horse porn. And thank god all the gay marriage prohibitions have been repealed in America because after the public reads this there will be an unstoppable wave of horse marriages. Which means I can finally do the right thing and marry your mom.

The writing itself is full of words which say things, but I’m not sure what. There’s a fox hunt, some detail about horse dancing, and something about somebody’s mother dying in childbirth, but it was glossed over so it must not be important. Little happens, except for the riders returning from the fox hunt, with ladies riding sidesaddle (of course, because this is a fancy book about fanciness and fancy horses shooting horse cum everywhere) and horses prancing. There is no shortage of prancing in the first three pages.

The synopsis also claims this is a book of “hope and sacrifice, tragedy, challenge, and rebirth”. This is accurate. I hoped it wouldn’t be shitty, but it was, so I sacrificed my dignity to read it, reflecting on the tragedy of the life of a grown man who pecks out unread words for a virtual world that gives nothing back to him, challenging myself to do something more meaningful with my life, and ultimately being reborn as an angrier, more cynical shitty book reviewer.

Fuck this book. And fuck you. And fuck every horse that ever lived and the people who make them prance.

Also, fuck Danielle Steel’s kids. She has nine of them, and dedicates this book to them, an act tantamount to pony punching, and there’s nothing lower than punching a pony. Look:

Beatie, Trevor, Todd, Nick, Sam, Victoria, Vanessa, Maxx, and Zara,
To history, magic, survival, and new lives,
To the Pegasus in each of our lives, to carry us forward,
And the courage to pursue him bravely and embrace him.
I love you so very much

I’m not sure what “d.s.” stands for. Maybe “duck slavery” or “dog shoving”? What a mean lady. She really hates animals.

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Ghost Ship

Ghost Shipby CLIVE CUSSLER and graham brown
GP Putnam’s Sons (Penguin) 2014

First sentence: The SS Waratah plowed through the waves on a voyage from Durban to Cape Town, rolling noticeably with the growing swells.
Novels recently published with a similar title: Ghost Ship (2014) by Robert Palmer; The Ghost Ship (2014) by CF Miller; The Ghost Ship (2014) by John C Hutcheson; Ghost Ship (2012) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Ghost Ship (2011) by PJ Alderman; The Ghost Ship (2011) by Gerrie Ferris Finger; Ghost Ship (2007) by Mary Higgins Clark; Ghost Ship (2006) by Dietlof Reiche
Method of selection: looked for unoriginal titles
Number of Hardy Boys adventures involving a ghost ship: 30 (31 if you count the Mystery of the Ghost Barn, which mostly takes place at sea. Experts are split on this.)
Stages of grief passed through due to not hating this: anger, bargaining, huffing

Other reviews: Lavendar and Lime

Do you have any idea how painful it is for me to not hate this? Look, it had all the trappings of a shitty book: a terrible title, an overdone cover with giant block CAPS lettering, a New York Times bestselling author, a CO-author, even a prologue — which by the way, I went back and read out of curiosity after making it easily through the first three pages. The writing is descriptive without flamboyance, the dialogue is reasonably believable, not snarky, and I even liked the font (Times New Dogsled if I’m not mistaken).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from literature, and I have not elbowed out extra time in my busy schedule of kite-stealing and church-punching to read it, but Clive Cussler, Graham Brown, and the twenty-or-so editors at Putnam clearly burned the midnight oil to create an epic of just-barely-not-shittiness.

What exactly are the NUMA® files and why is NUMA® a registered trademark? I did some research, and NUMA® is the National Underwater Marine Agency®, a 501c3 non-profit founded by Clive Cussler® to “preserve maritime heritage” and also to help him sell Dirk Pitt® and Kurt Austin® series novels. Now, all those registered trademarks don’t come cheaply or without a lot of paperwork, which means one of two things: either Clive Cussler worried someone would try to steal his shitty ideas (WRONG) or someone actually tried to steal his shitty ideas already (OMG).

I paged around a bit and did find some shittiness creeping in on page 21, the start of chapter three, and more at the start of chapter four, a few pages later. The writing begins to get cheesier, and more cliche.

Perhaps poor Graham Brown wrote a shitty book that originally began at chapter three, and Clive Cussler stepped in to save it; perhaps the reverse. Perhaps a young, enterprising editor realized the reputation of the good imprint he had recently come into the employ of, GP Putnam, would be forever tarnished should they print a shitty novel and stepped in to correct it. Whatever the case, it is clear now that authors and publishers are making a cold-hearted and cynical ploy to circumvent my own untarnishable review process of just reading the first three pages. But avast, I was too cunning for such reckless bamboozlement! I therefore relegate this book not to the Not Shitty category, but a new category, Not Shitty on a Technicality. Take that ye scurvy dogs!

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The Lords of Salem

lordsofsalemby Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson
Grand Central Publishing 2013

Method of selection: Found in a shark’s belly. It was dead of shitty book poisoning.
First sentence: She awoke.
Worst sentence: Again, something was held beneath her nose and the smell thrust like a knife deep into her brain and some things grew clearer and others less so.
The first chapter ends: And then she died.
Things that have actually scared me more than this book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows; The Wizard of Oz; Falkor, from The Never Ending Story

Other reviews: None. I don’t even want to promote other people promoting this book. It’s that shitty.

This isn’t scary. Or good writing. I’m glad they specified on the cover that this is “A Novel”. I had originally thought it was some kind of gay reindeer and attempted to ride it to the North Pole. Even the librarian thought it was a reindeer!

When I first saw that horror groove metal pioneer Rob Zombie had written a novel I expected that it would be shitty. And it was. He teamed up with former Mormon and academic BK Evenson, and it’s hard to tell who’s carrying whom here. I think Evenson probably did the adjectives and verbs and Mr. Zombie did the nouns, Mad Lib style. Their first writing date probably went like this:

Evenson: First, give me a type of person. A person who frowns.
Zombie: Let’s see…an old lady!
Evenson: Yes! Now the old lady is cloaked in something. Something dark.
Zombie: A cloak!
Evenson: Heehee [writing it down]. Perfect! Now I need another noun. Something that glints.
Zombie: Do knives glint? Knives are cool. One time I saw this show where they sold real swords on TV. Like from the knights and stuff.
Evenson: That’s so radical! I saw that too and they had the one sword that was, like, all gnarled and had like spikes all over it…. Let’s see…now how about something scary that happens?
Zombie: A ritualized cesaerian section!
Evenson: Hmmm, I don’t know. Is there anaesthesia?
Zombie: No! It’s, like, in olden times.
Evenson: [writing furiously] This is gonna be hilarious!

There is also a movie written and directed by Rob Zombie with the same name, which brilliantly stars Rob Zombie’s wife, but from what I can tell from the trailer it’s a different story. Neither appear to be scary, which brings me to my first point. Witches are not scary. They never were scary. And Salem is also not scary. I live in Massachusetts. Salem is a bland north shore community with Halloween-themed family-friendly entertainment. Children have never been scared of witches or of Salem. They’re scared of bog monsters and flying dogs. So please tell Rob Zombie to upgrade his SCAREware (copyrighted).

Which brings me to my second point: It’s very very difficult to get famous writing novels. And this isn’t meant to be a joke at all. It’s extraordinarily hard work and even some of our most well-known writers would not be recognized in public, and there aren’t that many to begin with who are still living. But if you’re already famous, it is super easy to get a book deal. And it doesn’t have to be good. And what does that tell us about book publishing? That it’s a business. This book is about making money and nothing else. Please don’t buy it. Not even to support this site. It’s not even funny.

(Please do not support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)

The Lords of Salem

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doomedby Chuck Palahniuk
Doubleday (Random House) 2013

First sentence: Good and evil have always existed.
First too-snarky sentence: I’m a piggy-pig-pig, oink-oink, real porker.
Another too-snarky sentence: I would not be stuck here on the stony Galapagos that is Earth, drinking the warm tortoise urine that is human companionship, were it not for the Halloween caper cutting of a certain three Miss Slutty O’Slutnicks.
Still more snark: …on All Hallow’s Eve the entire population of Hades returns to Earth to forage for salted nut clusters and Raisinettes from dusk until midnight.
But the worst is still to come: To you predead people, like it or not, postalive people are not your bitches.
Number of pterodactyls I saw while reading the first three pages: 4 (perhaps 3, might have seen the same one twice)
Benzodiazepines I took in order to finish three pages: Ativan, Serax, plus some Benadryl for my shitty book allergies
Side effects of these medications may include: pterodactyl sightings

Other reviews: iamjanesheart, 3 guys 1 book, Life in 64 Square Feet, Bookhounds

That’s come, right? On the cover? That was intentional, right? A bukkake scene on the cover of one of Random House’s most respected imprints? Somebody spoke up, right? RIGHT? Well, if it was intentional, consider me…not that shocked really.

I loved Fight Club. I’ve read it and reread it. I have disliked everything else Chuck Palahniuk has published. He usually manages to catch my attention early on, but it never lasts and there is a wake of barely-read Palahniuks trailing behind me. Is he, therefore, a shitty author?

One thing shitty book authors do frequently is take an otherwise uninteresting scene, in this case a Lincoln Town Car (Ford must be paying authors to mention them) leaving a gated estate in the hills above Los Angeles, and transform it into epic, supreme holy business, in this case the fulfillment of a prophecy sung by ancient Egyptian oracles. It is too hard to write two or three sentences describing a car driving, and all the ugly shit that comes along behind it in simple terms, including lights being extinguished and rats being crushed. The author wants you to believe it’s important. It isn’t. It’s a prologue.

Shitty authors also like using odd devices they think clever to unfurl the narrative. In this case, each chapter is a timestamped “post” to an unnamed “web log” by the main character Madison Spencer, from her email address on the afterlife.hell server. It was in this way Chuck Palahniuk tricked me into reading that prologue, which I usually try to skip because it’s always shitty and useless and this one was no different. It’s no wonder, then, that I felt sick to my stomach after reading this flash-fiction-pulp-fiction irrelevant piece of shit that is the prologue, like eating a piece of cake dragged across some smelly dicks.

So then I read the first three pages of the real book and it it actually got worse. Madison Spencer is a ghost. A snarky ghost. A fat snarky ghost. Who escaped Hell. It feels like bad science fiction. It feels like tongue-in-cheek chick-lit. It feels like young adult fiction. It feels amateurish.

This is a blog about shitty books, not about shitty authors. Chuck Palahniuk wrote a great book that was important to me when I was 19, but he can’t write anything anymore that isn’t shitty. This book is shitty. And I think I’m ready to call Chuck Palahniuk a competent but shitty author who had two or three really good ideas once, and put them all into one book. Now he goes for shock value but he leaves us with nothing shocking or valuable.

And also, “Palahniuk” is extraordinarily difficult to type on a Dvorak keyboard. I don’t know why. Just thought it was interesting.

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