Let’s say this post is sort of a dry run.
I’m starting a sort of new venture,a new job I invented for myself and my brother.
It went like this…
I was wandering through the Amazon reviews pages during the weekend, and I found out this review from hell… (I’m leaving the title and author of the book out)
If I could give a zero star I would. If authors are going to set novels in a country they are not a native of then the very least they can do is research it properly. Elizabeth George has managed to do so most successfully. This book is so full or errors about the UK police force it is laughable. For example, British police officers are NOT routinely armed – thank goodness. People who work for the forensic and scientific departments are not police officers but they obviously report to the appropriate police officers. We don’t use yellow crime scene tape in this country – it is blue and white. We don’t refer to police officers as Detective or Agent but would give them their rank, for example Detective Inspector or D.I. and so on. I could go on but it’s tedious!!! I think the author has been seduced by the TV programmes of CSI as that is what it seems to ape and presumably this is where she did her research! […] My advice? Don’t waste your time. This is a few hours I will never get back!!!
And yes, it’s something I’ve already talked about on this blog in the past – doing research, the joys thereof, and the horrors of not doing it.
As I have mentioned already in the past, writing is sleight of hand – or a con game, if you prefer – in which the author (with the readers’ permission) tricks the readers into believing the story they are reading is plausible, by placing a selection of correct, factual details into what remains a made-up narrative. Get the factual bits wrong, and you get caught while you switch cards or pull a rabbit from a hidden pocket.
In other words, fail your essential research, and your story won’t work.
The readers will snigger.
This book is so full or errors about the UK police force it is laughable.
Nobody wants a sniggering audience.
And so I thought, what the heck, if there is one thing I learned in thirty years of schooling is how to do research – fast, efficiently and economically.
And I have spent my life among books, doing research.
I’m a natural scientist, I’ve been a teacher and a science popularizer, I’m an amateur Orientalist, an armchair archaeologist, and a history buff.
My brother is an aircraft engineer, an Orientalist, a musician and an amateur criminologist1.
We’re sitting on a huge reference library, we have no end of contacts – if we don’t know it ourselves, we can get in touch with someone that will give us the straight dope on anything, and do it fast.
So, why not try and make a business of it?
Doing research for authors. Because big names and big publishers have their research teams – but what about the small guy? What about self-publishers and small presses?
What about game designers?
What about the tiny bit of info you need to spice up a short story?
Need to know the color of the crime scene tape in Turkey?
… The basic workings of an atmospheric circulation system?
… Where you could get your shoes repaired in Shanghai, in 1936?
… What’s the actual name of that swingy-thingie they used in Egypt to haul water up from a well?
Drop us a line – we’ll work out a deal.
Now it’s still a bit shaky – my brother is working on the website and all that (yeah, he’s also a web-designer, while I have some experience with marketing).
In the meantime, if you have suggestions, or if you just plain think my plan is bonkers, make your voice heard in the comments. We’re starting this up, and we need all the help we can get.
Also, we’ll need a name for this venture.
It’s going to be fun…
- Yes, the Mana Brothers are the nightmare of Human Resources, when they get our CVs they just start screaming. ↩