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 Publishing, 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.

* I was contacted by a representative of Five Star Publications that this review linked to their company (now known as Story Monsters) in error, instead of the correct shitty book publisher, Five Star Publishing, which doesn’t appear to have a real website, but I found their Facebook and their presence on a parent company’s website. I mean, you would hide, too, if you published this book?

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the links below.)


by Patricia Simpson
Lucky Publishing 2009

Method of selection: Torched the library. This was the only book to survive.

First sentence: “David!” Tara clutched the armrest of the Jaguar sedan as they roared into oncoming traffic outside Glasgow Airport.

Note on cover: A Time-Travel Romance from Award-Winning Author Patricia Simpson
Non-committal Puff quote: “Patricia Simpson is a master at keeping suspense going on a multitude of levels.” —Romantic Times.
Alternate titles: Templar Nights, The Sword and the Bone

I don’t know what award Patricia Simpson won, probably something unrelated to writing, but I do know that time-travel romance is one of the sixty fastest-growing sub-sub-genres in fiction today, just behind transexual western fanfiction, but still ahead of slam steampunk. I found this book via a blind pull, and no doubt it is shitty, but it’s charmingly shitty. It wins you over with its shittiness. Here’s part of the synopsis:

A week before her wedding in Scotland, Tara Lewis stumbles upon a hidden tomb and accidentally awakens a spellbound knight…She doesn’t believe in the spirit world — or true love for that matter — until the touch of the handsome knight awakens her troubled heart.

This book begins in the way all time-travel romances do. Two people discuss an upcoming wedding (see Bless the Bride for more on this topic), and a lonesome time-traveler forces the protagonist to chose between her douchebag fiancé and the handsome and chivalrous Templar Knight/Starfleet Commander/Jesus Christ. Eventually, she fucks the time-traveler, who isn’t familiar with the 21st century concepts of “condoms” or “safe words”, a space-time paradox is created as she is impregnated, and the universe is destroyed.

Spellbound is unquestionably a shitty book, but it’s shitty the way a small child is shitty. You know he’s a loser, and he’s ugly and doesn’t have parents and wets the bed, but you just can’t bring yourself to hate him even though you really want to.

Other reviews: Not found

(Support this site by purchasing this shitty book through one of the Amazon or Alibris links on this site.)