One of the buzziest books of the summer is “The Escape Room” by Megan Goldin. It’s her third novel, but the first to really get rousing reviews.
Kirkus Reviews, which gave my latest Noah Greene mystery, “My Grave Is Deep” a favorable review, practically drooled over “The Escape Room,” writing, “Cancel all your plans and call in sick; once you start reading, you’ll be caught in your own escape room—the only key to freedom is turning the last page!”
With that kind of review, I downloaded the book on my Kindle. And … well …
It’s an interesting premise. Four Wall Streeters are invited to a team building exercise late one evening. They all board an elevator that will presumably take them to where they will meet others from their firm. Only the elevator stops at the 70th floor. The lights go out. The heat gets cranked up. Secrets and lies get exposed. Someone – they don’t know who – has trapped them and they will have to work together to survive. Only trouble is, they despise one another.
As I say, interesting premise. I read the book and thought, “Huh.”
Some time ago, before my first novel was published, I wrote book reviews for several publications. Though I was never overly critical, or mean, in my reviews, if I didn’t like a book I said so, and gave my reasons why.
But, now that I’ve poured my heart, soul and sweat into writing three books, I’m less inclined to be judgmental. Nobody sets out to write a bad book. A dull book. A book that generates little to no interest. (That’s me over in the corner, raising my hand!)
Writing is hard. You’re alone. Nobody to really talk to. Not like in an office where there’s camaraderie and the ability to lean on someone else when you’re not at the top of your game.
Some days words flow like water over Niagara Falls. Some days they just drip, drip, drip. And some days they dry up altogether, a river parched by the sun. I fully understand now what it takes to birth a book.
Given that, I’m reluctant to criticize anyone who manages to get published. So, I won’t.
“The Escape Room” is a good book. I highly recommend it. But I couldn’t help thinking as I read it, “This isn’t better than what I’ve written. So why does she have a major publisher (St. Martin’s Press) and I don’t? Why is her book in major bookstores (what few are left) and mine isn’t?”
Yeah, I know. Boohoo. Woe is me. Whiney-baby. (Those of you sufficiently moved to tears can send checks directly to me or, you know, buy one of my books. Not that I would deign to beg.)
Or maybe you think I’m overly arrogant about my ability. I would disagree. I know my limitations. I’m not in the same league as Lee Child or Gregg Hurwitz, or James Lee Burke, who, by the way, is the finest literary writer of mystery novels you’ll ever read. But I know I’m as good as any number of other authors, some of them fairly famous, that regularly appear in the Mystery aisle of Barnes & Noble.
There are times, I must admit, that I want to toss in the towel. Like I said, it’s hard and some days it would just be so easy to quit.
The problem is, I can’s stop writing in my head. No matter what I’m doing – reading, watching TV, eating – parts of the book tumble through my brain like boulders breaking loose from a hillside. Whatever book I’m working on, it’s the last thing I think about as I drift off to sleep, and the first thing I think about when I wake. I just can’t turn it off.
Which means, I suppose, I’ll keep at it. Maybe some day I’ll have one of the buzziest books of the summer. Maybe not.
Make that probably not.
So I’m gonna need those checks.