Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Pigs Fly gets its butt kicked

Here is the latest review (ForeWord Clarion Review) of When Pigs Fly, and it's hardly kind. The writer's main point is that he hates my humor. Even his compliment about my storytelling is framed as a slap in the face. Mainly, though, Diet Cola is pissed off. He worked so hard to be an asshole in that story, and all the reviewer can focus on is what he drinks.

The review came through iUniverse, and they offered me the option to kill it. I told them heck no. Let it run.

When Pigs Fly
Bob Sanchez
290 pages
Softcover $17.95
Two Stars (out of Five)

“George Ashe sat in the passenger seat, inside the ceramic urn still protected by the FedEx box,” Bob Sanchez writes in a line that is typical of the humor in his latest novel. When Pigs Fly tells the story of Mack Durgin, a former police officer from Massachusetts, who has settled into retirement in Arizona only to be sucked into the biggest crime caper he’s ever seen.

Sanchez’s plot sounds original, but the novel reads like a watered down version of a Coen brothers’ script. First, there’s the compelling protagonist who wants nothing more than to settle down and enjoy some peace and quiet. Of course that can’t happen, because a box arrives with his friend’s ashes contained in an urn inside, and Mack knows that he has to fulfill a promise. The fulfillment of that promise becomes a harrowing task that involves over-the-top, one-dimensional characters like “Diet Cola”—an ex-con with a craving for calorie-free soft drinks—and an Elvis impersonator who is actually named Elvis.

Mack sets out to spread George Ashe’s ashes over the Grand Canyon. Along the way, he’s pursued by a variety of oddball characters who want to get their hands on another item contained inside the urn. This twist provides the hook that propels the tale forward.

Sanchez’s humor falls flat from the beginning because the novel seems to be trying too hard to be something that it isn’t. The characters are clichés that readers will have a hard time taking seriously. There are bad one-liners (“We’re not in Kansas anymore Dodo”) and downright shameless gags such as an Elvis impersonator getting stabbed in the eye with a tampon. Additionally, Sanchez contradicts himself often by making a point, then immediately overruling himself, as in this line: “Too bad tires were so hard to shoplift, or Ace could pick up some nice radials Stealing tires was always possible but it was tough getting them installed.” Statements like these lead readers to question the tale as a whole.

The real shame, however, is that Sanchez is actually a good storyteller when he puts his mind to it. The narrative flows well and actually captivates at times, but sadly, his writing skills are overshadowed by silly character names and lackluster dialogue.

Even in the craziest of crime capers, readers must be able to identify with the characters and believe that, as strange as the story is, it could actually happen. When Pigs Fly does not succeed in this.

Liam Brennan


G. E. said...

I must lament the misreading of such a funny crime caper, my friend. WPF has more laugh-out-loud moments contained between its covers than the reviewer has letters in his name. I enjoyed it immensely -- and intend to re-read it.

But the fact he included the stabbed-in-the-eye episode is sure to garner some readers.

Ruth D~ said...

This reviewer must have been sucking on lemons, because I never laughed so hard as when reading WPF. It sounds like he's actually trying to take the book seriously, but it's far too funny to do that. And when you need a weapon, you use what's at hand. A tampon is better than... well, we won't go there! ;>)

Toni Denis said...

You know the old saying, any press is good press. Glad you have the cajones to take some criticism. Maybe people will want to read the book for themselves now.

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Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I agree with Toni. And you can still make it sound like a good review by being selective, such as ...Sanchez is actually a good storyteller...

Good for you for not letting the review get you down - we can't possibly please everybody.