a writer's blog

Hall of Hacks, Pt.I: Harold Robbins

Stilletto at Library Thing

Stilletto at Library Thing

I know this is hideous. But you have to see for yourself, and why not start with the novel Stiletto by Harold Robbins.

Many bestselling books are sloppily written, especially when their authors have managed to make a name for themselves already, one way or another. In case you haven’t already had a “bestseller writer” tattoo stamped on your forehead, and if you want to earn your millions with, like, honest work, you might want to try and do better than this:

“Any action tonight, Jimmy?” she asked, her eyes searching the men at the bar for a response to her question.
The bartender shook his head. “Not tonight, Maria. It’s Sunday night and all the touristas are home in their beds.” He walked away and began to polish some glasses under the bar. He watched her sip at her beer. Maria. He called them all Maria. The little Puerto Rican girls with their bright shiny black eyes and their hard little breasts and buttocks. He wondered when she had had her last shot.
The hustler gave up on the men at the bar. She turned to look at the man seated at the table. She could only see his back but she could tell from the cut of his clothing that he wasn’t local.1

It gets worse from there. No wait—it is worse already! And technically, it’s sloppy shit.

First, the bartender certainly doesn’t have to explain to an experienced prostitute that it is Sunday and that it is late and that the tourists are already in bed. Guess whom he is addressing instead: yes, you.

Second, you just shouldn’t switch from one character’s head into another’s without at least a linespace. It’s confusing, it’s inconsistent, it’s disruptive, and, what else … oh yeah, right. It’s sloppy shit. You might want to memorize that as a technical term.

1 Robbins, Harold. Stiletto. New York: Signet, 1999 [orig. published 1960]. 13–14. 
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