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I have discussed before the gulf between successful male and female authors. I sometimes get into trouble for saying it, but the cold hard facts are that male authors are more abundant and have a better chance of success. This is due to the fact that male readers are less likely to read female authors, but female readers have no issue with male scribes. Therefore, men get 100% of the audience whilst the women seem to only appeal to 75% at best. This is not to say that woman can not be a success - J K Rowling, Patricia Cornwell, Jackie Wilson to name a few. However, just look at JK - why JK? Because publishers felt that boys would not read Harry Potter if they knew it was written by a woman. I am not the only person who noticed this trend so has Steve Martini, 'The List' is a limp thriller that is actually a lot more interesting when it is exploring the publishing industry.
Wannabe author Abby Chandlis has a problem and surprisingly it is not her new manuscript. For the first time in her almost 40 years she has managed to write a piece of commercial work that will appeal to the masses, its just that she herself is no longer appealing. Abby believes that with a fake male author at the front she will sell more copies, therefore she sets out to find such a man. Jack is her choice, but getting involved with this ex marine may be far more dangerous than she expects. With only her and a couple of close friends knowing she is the true author of the book what is to stop the violent Jack from taking it for himself?
'The List' was an infuriating read to say the very least as it was apparent that is was a rant by the author thinly disguised as a thriller. On a positive note Martini's exploration of the corrupt world of publishing is very interesting. He explores the ideas of male authors being successful, contracts being forced on authors and the practise of pushing certain commercial authors over more artistic ones. It seems to me that Martini is a bitter man (perhaps he is actually a woman with a pen name of Steve), which is odd as he is a successful author. In the book the Abby chastises the airport fiction that dominates the market filling it full of dross - yet what are Steve's books if not legal thrillers full of dross? Is Martini not a second rate Grisham? You feel as you read this book that you may be witnessing an author self destruct as he is forced to write yet more work he feels is beneath him. It will be interesting to read the follow up novel to this to see if Martini decided to forgo success for art?
Although hidden away, for me, the exploration of the book industry was the main part of this novel. However, try as he might Martini wants us to believe it is in fact the tepid thriller that should hold our attention. To say that the plot is weak would be an understatement. The series of coincidences and ridiculous character flaws needed to crowbar any thrills is laughable. I do not want to ruin the book for anyone, but when the finale arrives you wonder how on Earth certain people have learnt the skills to be able to create hi tech bombs and weaponry - silly to the extreme.
As someone who reads too many mindless thrillers for their own good I feel that I know what is average and what goes too far into the realm of just plain bad. As a thriller 'The List' just does not work. Why would Abby bother in the first place, and why when things start to get deadly does she not go to the police? It is all just too silly to work as a piece of decent fiction. This is a shame as the elements berating the publishing world are far better. I enjoyed basking in Martini's vitriol and was interested to discover the truth behind so many best selling novelists. On top of it all although the book was written in 1997 it has dated horribly with the characters feeling like they are from a mid 90s soap opera. This is not a book I could recommend to anyone unless they are searching for an oddity.
Author: Steve Martini
Price: amazon uk - £6.64
play.com - £5.49