What do those three things have in common? They came together last week. Author Jenna Bennett reported that her book, A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS, had received an unkind one-star review. The reviewer called it “racist” because the author used the word “darkie.”
However, not only did the book receive many four- and five-star reviews, it’s clear the “shocked” reviewer had not read much of the book and didn’t understand what she did read. The story--a cozy mystery--takes place in the South and a minor character in the book uses the term. What foolishness. Like people who want to take the word “nigger” out of Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN. The author admitted she’d had a hard time selling the book to a publisher, because many editors feared alienating their southern readers. Political Correctness, anyone?
Which is where Bridge comes in. I’m having a hard time selling my own cozy mystery because my amateur sleuth teaches Bridge. I have one chapter--out of 31--where she plays a hand brilliantly and wins a lot of money she didn’t expect. Young editors--and aren’t they all these days, fresh out of college English courses--said “Nobody plays Bridge anymore.” Obviously they don’t know Bill Gates is an avid player, there are tournaments all over the world, books like BRIDGE FOR DUMMIES, Bridge columns in every newspaper, software programs and daily Internet playing.
Just last week I sent off the manuscript to yet another editor and doing so reminded me of my college days. I lived close enough to commute, and when I’d return to the sorority house on Saturday night after a date, I had to sleep in the third-floor “dorm.” It turned out that four girls would show up, steal blankets from unused beds to keep warm, smoke cigarettes and play Bridge. After a few Saturday nights of that, I found a solution. I arrived early and “borrowed” all the lightbulbs. Naturally I hated Bridge then, but later my parents forced me to learn--in order to have a fourth--and now I love it. True Bridge players are often addicts.
In my cover letter, I volunteered to remove the one chapter, but is that “selling out” and should I insist it’s important in my character’s life? Well, maybe. I really, really want to sell that book and start my own mystery series. Like someone said, “Writing is murder.”
P.S. The Olympics are over, but please read my account of the 1984 L.A. Summer Closing Ceremonies under “Beyond Writing” on my website. http://phyllishumphrey.com. I guarantee a “good read.”
A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS