Sunday, January 31, 2016

Francis M. Nevins, Publish and Perish

Frances M. Nevins, Publish and Perish (2000; reprint of 1975)
Available from used book sellers
(not that I'd recommend buying it)

(Had I been somewhat less forgetful, I would certainly have mentioned that it was not Sally Wright's book of the same title, published in 1997, and still available both in print and as an ebook.  I bought it once in paperback and a second time as an ebook, and I enjoyed it immensely.  This is not a review of that book.)

Someone, in something that I read, recommended this, and it sounded as if it would be worthwhile.  Sadly, no.  I spent three hours on it that I will never get back.   THERE ARE HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD.

This should have been a better book than it is.  Law Professor Loren Mensing is called upon to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Graham Dillaway (henceforth GD), a prominent author, on behalf of his old law firm (he drafted GD’s will)) and GD’s widow, Hope Foxworth (HF; also an author, but her sales have diminished and she’s now a drunk; Mensing also drafted her will).  GD apparently dies in a mountain cabin, in the company of Jackson Corby (JC), apparently in a fire.  The police bungle the investigation, though, and it’s murder. 

And now, I have to ruin the book if you haven’t already read it.  It turns out that Corby is a blackmailer and has been blackmailing GD (who is bisexual).  By the end, we discover that GD has entered into a plot, assisted by HF’s daughter’s husband and a cop, to kill JC, make it appear that GD is also dead, and disappear (he can no longer handle being married to HF). 

But…If GD is dead, he has no income; all his royalties will go to HF.  He is well-known, if not famous (his face appears on the dust jackets of his books), so disappearing will be difficult.  And how he intends to make a living is never even mentioned.  Re-inventing himself as a writer would not be easy (he’s been writing books that have sold well and been widely reviewed for 25 years)—his style is fairly well known. 

Also, it’s unclear what sort of evidence JC had to support any allegations he might make against GD.  It’s 1974.  Videotaping equipment is not readily available to individuals.  GD’s trysts are all at his mountain cabin, making surreptitious approaches difficult.  And conspiracies are also inherently problematic.  He could easily, it seems to me, have gotten JC to the cabin (as he did), and killed him and buried him there—the nearest neighbor is at least a mile away.  A gunshot?  Someone out hunting, legally or illegally.  Get JC’s car to a remote parking lot at the airport and leave it.  By the time someone realizes that the car has been there for a long time, who’s going to find the body? 

But, instead, a conspiracy that’s botched from the beginning (what’s supposed to have been an accidental fire is all too obviously arson, for example; the “corpse” of GD does not have evidence of the broken leg that GD, in fact, had; and so on).  As a consequence, instead of one death, we wind up with seven.  And, by the way, the title makes no sense—there’s been no publication of whatever evidence JC has, so  he did not perish (nor did anyone else) as a result of the publication of anything. 

Nevins has written 3 other books with Mensing as a character, but this debut novel gives me no reason to look for them. 

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