If you've talked with me about writing to any great extent, you've probably heard me mention the podcast "372 Pages We'll Never Get Back." It's one of my absolute favorites, with a fairly simple premise: two comedy writers (Michael J. Nelson and Conor Lastowka) read a book that they're not expecting to like, and then discuss it a few chapters at a time.
Beyond being entertaining as all hell, it's also a great podcast for learning to be a better writer. Hear me out: listening to these guys dissect bad books, and what makes them fail, has taught me constant valuable lessons. Their first season was about Ready Player One, and I still revisit it regularly. It's like taking an in-depth creative writing course in reverse.
All this preamble is to establish that I decided to read the latest they took on, "A Killer Christmas Affair" by Sussie Jordan. It fit perfectly in with my pursuit of strange holiday entertainment. Boy, did it fit.
Jordan's prose is clumsy, and it's clear that she's unfamiliar with a lot of basic writing technique. The story is told in first-person POV, except when she forgets and switches suddenly to third-person, or even, bizarrely, to second-person.
Despite the first-person perspective, we don't know anything about our narrator. There are no physical descriptors, no hint at her age, and attempts to place her in a family structure end up being confusing and contradictory. We don't even get her name until something like 40% into the story. Overall it's a pretty sloppy novel, a poor example of mystery writing and cozy writing.
But that's not the strangest part of the Killer Christmas Affair. Not by a long shot. In the second episode of 372 Pages that covered this book, they had made a shocking discovery: large portions of "A Killer Christmas Affair" were lifted more or less verbatim from a book called "How to Write and Market a Cozy Christmas Mystery," published in 2021. So not only was it a baffling and poorly written book, but it's also full of plagiarized material.
It was a bizarre end to my experience with this odd little Christmas book, and kind of a fun way to close out 2023. I wish you all an amazing 2024, full of original stories that weren't stolen from their creators.