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Monday, August 13, 2012

Authors' Mistakes #2 - Colin Forbes

I had never read anything by Colin Forbes. Knowing how successful he was and how many novels he had written, when I saw a copy of Double Jeopardy at a heavily discounted price, I grabbed it.

I was keen to read that particular novel because it played in Zurich, where I lived for eleven years.

Anyhow, I soon discovered that I hated his writing style. Compared to David Baldacci’s, to name one of my favourite authors, Forbe’s prose sounded dry and rough. The dialogues were somewhat primitive. I only kept going because, as I said, the story played in Switzerland and the plot promised to be interesting.

Unfortunately, when I completed the third chapter, having only read 38 of the novel’s 373, I gave up.

The first mistake, at the beginning of Chapter 3, was that Keith Martel (the hero of the story), while at Heathrow, learns from his boss that he will fly to Geneva instead of to Zurich but, in the same page, he then lands in Zurich. This was a genuine mistake. It could have not been that Keith had flown to Zurich via Geneva, because then he would have gone though passport control in Geneva, not Zurich.

The second mistake was that Keith, when his plane reached the Swiss border near Basle (80 km before landing in Zurich, when planes usually start their descent), saw the Matterhorn through a window across the aisle. This is impossible for two reasons: Firstly, the Matterhorn is on the Swiss-Italian border, on the Southside of the Alps, while Basle is more than 200 km north of the border. With the Alps in between, even Superman would have had problems in seeing the Matterhorn from the skies above Basle. Secondly, the plane was turning east. This means that Keith, sitting on the left of the plane, would have seen through the starboard-side windows only sky.

I also had a third problem: There is no square in Zurich named Centralhof, and certainly none that fits Forbe’s description. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk being sued by people living at a real address, and invented a realistically called square.

But by then, I was fed up with the “raspy” prose, and decided to give up on the book. Who cares about possibly good plots if the reading is not pleasurable?

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