Readers Say the Darnedest Things

Yes, I used to watch Art Linkletter. It came on TV in Bisbee while I was home from school for lunch. I could watch his “kids” segment and still make it back to Greenway School on time as long as I ran part of the way.

I started to name this blog “Fans Say the Darnedest Things,” but I changed it to “Readers” to broaden the scope.

Years ago, during the Q & A session at a book signing, a woman seated in the front row raised her hand. “My father was a doctor,” she said. “My husband is a doctor, but that doesn’t mean I can be a doctor. And just because Joanna’s father was a sheriff and her husband was a sheriff doesn’t mean she can be a sheriff.” In actual fact, Joanna’s husband, Andy, was a sheriff’s deputy running for the office of sheriff when he was gunned down, but I didn’t point that out to the lady in question. Pointing out that someone in the room is dead wrong isn’t polite and my mother, Evie, would not approve.

Instead I explained that yes, when Joanna was elected to office on what was generally regarded as a sympathy vote, most people had expected her to be sheriff in name only. I finished by asking my questioner if she had read book number three, Shoot/Don’t Shoot, in which Joanna sends herself through police academy training so she can become a professional law enforcement officer.

“No,” she told me. “I don’t like those books.”

In that case, I wondered, why the blazes are you here? For the record, the word that passed through my head was not “blazes,” and I didn’t ask that question aloud either. As far as I know, I’ve never seen that ‘reader” again.

And yesterday, I heard from another one. “Second watch was very good unfinished business I did not like I wanted mystery not family info, I dont care who lives or dies if it isnt part of the story very boring.”

Okie dokie then. I quoted the entire message because it really left me scratching my head, and not just because of the very long run-on sentence and all the missing pieces of punctuation. Obviously she objected to the part of the book that told the story of what happened to Ali’s father, Bob Larson. My problem is, Bob Larson has always been part of the story. How he and Edie lived their lives is a major part of what makes Ali Reynolds who she is. And if you only care about whether or not the bad guys live and die, aren’t you missing out on the best part of the story? If you don’t want to be bothered with any of the background context then maybe sticking to newspaper accounts would be preferable in terms of reading material.

I don’t see my characters as super-heroes. They are ordinary people living ordinary lives. That includes those very important three Ls—Living, Loving, and Losing. I want my readers to care about the good guys and understand the bad guys.

As my mother would have expected, I sent yesterday’s correspondent a polite response: “Sorry you were disappointed. My characters aren’t superheroes. It turns out I am interested in who lives and who dies, so perhaps my books aren’t for you.”

Were both these folks readers? Yes. Are they fans? No. I doubt I’ll be hearing from her again, either.