N. R. Burnette asked me to read his new novel Cargo Lock 5. He provided a copy for free but when I realized how excoriating the upcoming review would be I decided I needed to buy a copy for myself.
I’m 15% of the way through the story, and mostly I am still reading in the hopes that I will get to read about the main character suffering and dying.
I refer to one of Kurt Vonnegut’s little rules for writing from Bogombo Snuffbox. It is a rule about characterization. In essence, no matter what you’re writing about, every scene needs to have someone that your audience can identify and root for.
Mr. Burnette has, instead, provided me with the the most unpleasant sphincter of a protagonist I have run across in living memory. Our “hero” is a narcissistic sociopath who somehow has managed to work in a police department without getting shot to death by “accidental discharge.” My current theory is that Mr. Burnette went through all the detective novels ever written, saw that most detective protagonists have one or two character flaws, and thought it would be fun to make a character with nothing but character flaws. So instead of a good man with an Achilles’ Heel, we get a heel with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. 15% of the way into the book the hero has cheated on his wife, stolen drugs and guns from a teenage prostitute, wandered the street high on the drugs he stole from a prostitute, hoped that the gun he lost kills his girlfriend’s teenage son, and brags to himself endlessly about how much he enjoys being an asshole to everyone around him.
Good detective stories include someone with a motivation to solve a crime. The final straw for me in this story was when Jake Taylor, the protagonist, encounters a father who was forced to murder his own son to stop the son’s slower death by torture. Taylor realizes that the father is about to commit suicide and decides that he wants to go for a walk because the case bores him.
I’m sorry, but there is no reason for someone this unbelievably repulsive to become a detective. He could be a traffic cop and get his rocks off ticketing people. He has no motive to solve the crime. And frankly I care more about the bad guy than the “hero”.
Characterization is appalling throughout the story so far. Mr. Burnette has obviously never been or known a 15-year-old boy, because his mommy calls home at 8 pm at his bedtime, and checks to make sure he brushed his teeth. So the 15-year-old is apparently seven years old.
Jake’s secretary, of course, lives only to please and be with him as an adulterous harlot, to the point of ignoring her own child, who is simultaneously 8 and 15. She maintains this attitude even though Jake makes a point of shoving a pillow in her face while they have sex so that he doesn’t have to see how much she looks on him with love.
Do you want this character to die yet? I do.
In fact, I’m going to stop reading this story and pretend that the bad guy wins. The world would be better off. I have no reason to care about any of the characters, and I can only believe that a third of them could possibly even exist.
The book is well-edited for an indie novel. I have found only one typo in about an hour’s worth of reading.
Pity, because it might distract me from how much I despise everyone in this book.
Sorry, folks, but a fifteen year old is either going to hate or worship her mom’s new boyfriend, pretty much, and he sure as hell isn’t going to bed at 8 pm to sleep through them having sex in the next room. The sex in this book is like the fantasy of a demented sociopath. It makes me feel nauseated, not because it is graphic, but because there is someone alive who thought this would entertain someone. The main concept of the story is that a city this bad needs a hero as bad as Jake Taylor, but the concept fails twice. First, I haven’t witnessed anything bad about the city other than it contains Jake Taylor. Second, any city that deserves a character this horrible deserves a nuke, not a plot line.