Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

In praise of Dan Brown

Share |

My predecessor, Corey Redekop, took a run at this author in his last posting and it's rankled with me a bit ever since. This certainly won't be a flame, Corey, but I think it was a cheap shot on your part: say something controversial and then run for the door.

I don't think Dan Brown is a great author; I don't think he's a poor author, but he certainly isn't -- how did you put it? -- "a horrible, horrible author". What is that pronouncement based on? His prose is reasonably polished, sentence construction not bad, he makes his thoughts understood. A lot of published authors (and critically praised, too) don't do as well.

Let me explain further. I have heard this complaint from many other writers, but it seems to me that part of the reasoning they base their pronouncements on is flawed. The skill of a writer is not based on how many books he or she sells. The worth of the writing is not based on sales, either. How could they be? If book sales were based on merit, the best seller lists would look radically different. So would the sales of music, movies, art.

Many authors seem to feel that this fact should be true, though. Should our Dan's _The DaVinci Code_ have sold as many copies as it did based on the quality of his writing? No. Grisham's _The Firm_ had many of the same charges leveled at it. For whatever reason, both books touched a nerve with the reading public. I wish I knew what the secret was. Heck. Forget the millions, I'd like to enjoy sales in the tens of thousands.

Here's where I'll get subjective -- and criticism is always just that (something a lot of critics tend to forget). Dan's characters are not very well fleshed out. I didn't really know much more about what makes them tick when I got to the end of the book. Dan also gives one the feeling that all his historical pronouncements are based on fact and meticulous research. I think time has proven that this was not the case, and it was stupid on his part to present it so. He was writing fiction, goddammit. He could get away with saying he made up a lot of the back story.

So why did the book sell so many copies? Because people got caught up in the story. I know that I did. When I finally turned the last page, I sat there wondering why I'd read the darn thing so breathlessly, but the fact of the matter was that I had. In speaking to other people, I found the book had had the same effect on them. There is certainly some writing skill involved if an author can do that.

Come on, Corey, his plots aren't what I would call "hackneyed". It had some neat twists and the puzzle aspect of it was pretty cool. Bottom line: Dan Brown can tell a good story.

I guess it could all be summed up like this: don't judge a book by its sales.

What most have lost sight of is that Dan Brown got a lot of people reading and discussing books. That is a very important thing for our industry. My younger son read _The DaVinci Code_ and he reads maybe one book every two years. That really struck me. (And no, he didn't think much of it.)

Any time books are front of mind with the media and general public, we all win a little. Even people who would never talk to me about my writing (because they'd be sure I'd try to sell them a book!) asked me what I though of _The DaVinci Code_. Set up as an "expert", I told them. And I did wind up selling a few more books because of it.

Thanks, Dan.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Rick Blechta

Rick Blechta is the author of the novels Knock On Wood, The Lark Ascending, Shooting Straight in the Dark, Cemetery of the Nameless, and When Hell Freezes Over. A Case of You, his latest novel, will be published in the spring of 2008 with Rendezvous Press.

Go to Rick Blechta’s Author Page