RARA-AVIS: Re:Charlie Huston's Caught Stealing

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 31 Dec 2006


Re your question below:

"Am I the only person who can be turned off this quickly by mistakes of this type?"

I certainly can be if the story is predicated on technical accuracy, as in, for example, a police procedural. If technical accuracy is clearly not the aim of the writer, I tend to cut a bit more slack. Hence, errors in police procedure bother me less in, say, a Charlie Chan novel or a Roderick Alleyn novel than in a Luis Mendoza novel.

And it's not just errors in police procedure that bother me.

I recall an Edgar nominee a few years back, in which a Catholic background is a major part of the setting, in which a priest hears the confesson of a murderer and immediately goes and tells someone about it. He also referred to the murder as "a violation of the First Commandment."

In the first place, as any Catholic knows, the Seal of Confession is absolutely sacrosanct. That the priest in this novel not only violated the seal, but did so without any apparent thought, hesitation, or consideration was totally unbelievable.

That he would refer to the commandment against murder as the "First Commandment" was just laughable. In Catholic tradition, the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," comes fifth. In Protestant and Jewish tradition it's regarded as the sixth. The First Commandment, in all three traditions, is "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me."

In another book, set in my home town, San Francisco, purporting to be the product of much copious research, the Mayor says something in the first few pages about a "meeting with the City Council." I stopped reading at that point. Anyone who'd done copious research about The City would've known that the legislative body in San Francisco isn't called the City Council but the Board of Supervisors.

If the book is predicated on its authors having sweated the details, than I expect the details to have been sweated.


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