Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loving the One You’re With

By Michael

Declaring my best-ever book review is about as appealing as standing in a crowd of my ex-girlfriends and ex-lovers (okay, it’s a small crowd) and having to declare who is the best kisser.

There could be no winning for me. I would say, “You all were the best, each in your own way.” But then, the inevitable questions would follow: What do you mean each in our ‘own way’? You mean, tongue or no tongue? Drunk or sober? Pre-coital, post-coital, mid-coital? Tall or short? Hello or goodbye? Roll-playing, obligatory, while fantasizing about someone else? Yeah, what the hell do you mean?

But here I am, facing the Criminal Minds question of the week: Which is my favorite book review? My books have been fortunate enough to receive many positive reviews. All of my reviews – or nearly all – have been great kissers. I say that my books have been ‘fortunate’ because I know of plenty of other books written by writers I admire that have received bad reviews despite their virtues.

So, what have my reviews said?

They’ve said that The Last Striptease is "A stylish and savvy page-turner. Riveting" (Chicago Tribune), “A murder mystery that will keep readers up past their bed time” (Florida Times-Union), “Delightful. A hoot from beginning to end” (Toronto Globe and Mail), "Hard-boiled fiction with tenderness and compassion" (New York Newsday), "Seemless, well thought out, entertaining and intelligent crime fiction" (CrimeSpree Magazine), etc.

Which of these reviews kisses best? Call me a slut, but I’m ready to kiss them all again. Line them up, clear my calendar, make dates – I love them all.

As for my second mystery, the reviews have said that The Bad Kitty Lounge “is stylish, and ranges from melancholic to howlingly funny” (Booklist), is “a tidy, gritty tale about the legacy of violence, greed and family ties” (The Sun-Sentinel), “is a superb Chicago Noir . . . a fabulous investigative thriller with spins and twists [that] keep the reader off kilter throughout” (The Mystery Gazette), etc.

Time to buy another set of lips and clear my calendar again.

Surely, one would think, there must be some bad reviews mixed in with the good. But do I seem like the kind of man who would kiss and tell? I do? Then, what the hell --

Newsday has compared The Last Striptease unfavorably against Christa Faust’s wonderful first mystery, Money Shot. The drift of the review pretty much comes down to the following, which indicates that while Christa gets it right I don’t: “Wiley isn’t as Elmer Gantryish about porn as a lot of his colleagues in crime writing are. But the contemporary dirty movies he describes sound more like the stag reels shown at Elk Lodge smokers circa 1954.” I may be mistaken, but I think that’s another way of saying that I’m a bad kisser – that I kiss like a younger brother and not a passionate lover, that . . . well, that we won’t have a second date.

On the other side, The Washington Times, after opening a review of The Bad Kitty Lounge with nice praise, has concluded that the book “is hard-boiled, all right, and you have to be somewhat hard-boiled to enjoy it.” Which, I think, is a way of saying that I should kiss more like a younger brother or at least take the gun out of my holster before our lips touch.

So, which is my favorite review? I love every one of them, each in its own way. I swear I do.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Well, if it makes you happy, and you read the reviews wearing latex...gloves, I guess it's OK.

Congrats on the great reviews and the nicely philosophical approach!

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Rebecca. The relationship between book and review (and between writer and reviewer) is complicated but ultimately healthy, I figure, at least much of the time.

Gabi said...


Best comment of the week: Rebecca's latex...gloves!

Michael Wiley said...

Me? Well, at least "slut" is good Anglo Saxon, much better than, say, promiscuous.