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Three books and a typo: the power of association and where endorsements take us

Three books and a typo: the power of association and where endorsements take us

By John Bond |

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This reading journey begins on 6 January. Like much of the world I am glued to the coverage from Washington of the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters. Whipped up into a frenzy by social media conspiracy theorists and a series of inflammatory speeches at a nearby rally, the rioters create history by breaching the walls of that iconic seat of government for the first time in over 200 years.

Creating history. These images affect people in different ways. For me, I am driven to lay my hands as quickly as possible on a copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, to try to understand how Republicans could possibly have gone all the way from Abraham Lincoln to being the party of Mitch McConnell and Donald J. Trump. And a wonderful book it is too. Although quite long. Stopping and taking a break at strategic points throughout the narrative (the campaign, the presidency, the Civil War) seemed a good idea. Let it take as long as it takes to grasp why a book that meant so much to Barack Obama might shed light on more recent political events.

First stop: something completely different. Girl A. Someone somewhere has done a magnificent job of convincing me that I should read Girl A. Or indeed, more likely a team of people. From title to cover to digital marketing, all the way through to a legion of glowing blurbs. And it was for me. I loved it. Devoured it in a day during one wet and cold weekend. (Everyone says they devour books in a day, but how often do they really mean it?) Looking back at those endorsement quotes, the choice definitely telegraphed that this was more in a classic crime/thriller genre than the book actually turns out to be. No less enjoyable for all that. And does it matter? Maybe not. But I’m going to need some reminding when the next book comes out that this is FROM THE AUTHOR OF GIRL A. Just to make sure.

What next? I head to the book reviews in the Sunday Times Culture section. Who says reviews no longer sell books? Joan Smith recommends The Killing Choice by Will Shindler. I take note and order not just this but the author’s first book so that I get in at the ground floor with DI Alex Finn. The books arrive. Should get through these at a lick before I’m due back at the Battle of Gettysburg.

I’m twenty pages into The Burning Men when I realise that a character called Martin Walker in the first chapters is referred to as Martin Ross in the back cover copy. At first I think this must be a plot twist. An alias which represents a reveal beyond my current resting place in the book. But no, flicking further ahead, I realise it is nothing more than a good old-fashioned typo. Which has been picked up in some online reviews but, to be honest, not that many.

Again, does it matter? Maybe not. Although what was clearly cover blurb referencing an earlier incarnation of a character name has made its way through from hardback to paperback and presumably numerous in-house processes. And that makes me feel, well, conflicted. I realise the creative process is an imperfect one. Give me a good book with errors any day rather than an awful one with a perfect spell-check. But shouldn’t we expect more from the kitemark of quality that a traditional publisher is supposed to represent?

I shall keep reading Will Shindler. He’s clearly a good thing. He even warmly thanks his copyeditor in his acknowledgements. And eventually I will get back to the battlefields of mid-nineteenth-century America. Where more pressing matters await…

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