Dang Near Dead, by Nancy G. West**

Note to the reader:  A small drought sometimes occurs between publication times; the spring galleys are out now, and I am happily reading them. The review below was written during the brief time (less than 4 months during 2013) during which I was reading and reviewing DRCs, but had not yet begun my blog. Below is an unfavorable review for a badly written book, but here’s the stand-up thing about the publisher: because my review was so specific in areas I saw needing remediation, Henery Publishers auto-approved me to read their galleys after I wrote it. You’ve got to admit, that’s great.  In a few days, I will have current reviews ready for you to read, but in the meantime…

dangneardeadDear god. What was I thinking?

I had a case of the blues, and I noted my reading material was all on the dark side: Nixon, Goebbels, the Battle of Antietam…maybe I needed something to lighten things up a bit, something fun, something a little bit fluffy. I spotted this title on Net Galley, and I knew it was a risk that it would be too cutesy-pie for my taste. But upon reflection, I had enjoyed cozy mysteries by Sophie Littlefield (A Bad Day for Sorry) and Sarah Shankman (Digging Up Momma; The King is Dead), and I noted that West had won a Lefty award for humorous writing. Why not give it a try?

Why not indeed.

How can one writer manage to stuff every stereotype–many of them sexist–into one really dumb book? I don’t say these things lightly. I write here and there myself, and I try to remember that writers have feelings too. But honestly…references to needing time (on a trip to a Texas ranch) “to primp before the barbecue” and another character noting that since the clown keeps his makeup in the cooler to keep it from separating, that maybe they should keep theirs in there too…really?  Maybe it was intended to be humorous, but it fell wide of the mark. Actually, the clown was the only redeeming character in the book.

The protagonist, Aggie, has a thing for the sheriff; has this been done to death already or has it not? When spotted in a compromising situation, she distracts him by kissing him, then pushing him away. Does yes mean no, or does no mean yes?

Every overused plot device will at some point be used successfully by someone else. The previously mentioned Littlefield has done the leading-the-sheriff-on routine and done it well at times. But to use a device that is essentially old and tired, a writer needs to be so exemplary–and now I am thinking of James Lee Burke–that we completely forget that the schtick has been used before, because we are so deeply engaged by the characters and the situation in which they find themselves.

I have never thrown an e-reader. It is a good way to break an expensive device. I didn’t do it this time either…but I came close.

Recommended exclusively for the brain dead, just in time for Halloween.

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