Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mason-Dixon Despot / Christopher Jones

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery/Parody

Approximate word count: 15-20,000

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


If we’re to believe the “other books by” listing at the beginning of this book (we aren’t), then if I counted correctly (possibly not, since I ran out of fingers) Christopher Jones aka Woody Stewedfarts has previously written an even dozen books, with this volume making a baker’s dozen. The reality appears to be that this is his only book and that listing (which includes such titles as It Depends, My Love: U.S. Travel Guide for the Incontinent) is part of the parody.


Subtitled A Bear Stonington Mystery (The Woody Stewedfarts Books), this book parodies the Stone Barrington mystery series authored by Stuart Woods.


Is it possible to have a reaction to a book that is bipolar? If so, I did to this one.

We’ll start with the beginning. We’ve all heard the old saw that you can’t judge a book by its cover. It would be more correct to say you can’t always accurately judge a book by its cover. Regardless of the claim, most readers do. Certain kinds of covers attract our attention in the bookstore. Different color schemes, fonts, and the look and feel in general provide clues as to genre and the story within. You’d think that a cover would be inconsequential in an eBook, but it turns out the opposite is true. Not only is the cover what makes a book jump out from many on a page in an internet bookstore, but the cover has to work at drawing a potential reader’s attention even when compressed to thumbnail size.

I won’t review a book based on its cover and had already made the equivalent of the buying decision before I saw this one, but seeing the generic cover created certain expectations as to what I would find. It told me the author hadn’t done his homework by finding out what it takes if you want your book to have the best chance of success. Successful Indie author Joe Konrath, who blogs on what it takes for Indie success, continually harps on the same things. He says a book must not only be well written, but also have a good product description, be priced low (relative to your legacy published competitors), and look professional (which includes the cover, formatting, and editing). I fully expected to crack the virtual cover to discover a plethora of other problems.

In this case, not meeting my expectations is a good thing. I expected to find all the typical issues indicating lack of adequate copyediting: typos, spelling errors, grammar, issues with homonyms, etc. I found none. As in zero. That almost never happens, regardless of who the author is or how their work made it to publication. That doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something, but no one is going to reject this book as being unreadable due to copyediting issues unless Jones has a big problem with something that is a blind spot for me.

This review is getting long and it is past time I actually talked about the book, where my bipolar reaction continues. It has been a few years since I last read one of Stuart Wood’s Stone Barrington books, but from what I remember (with a little help refreshing my memory by scanning book descriptions of those I have read) I think Jones’ Bear Stonington is a well formed character who parodies Woods’ character well. While there were times it felt as if the caricature was going over the top slightly, each reader’s reaction is likely to be different, and it is much better for a parody to go a little too far than not far enough.

Where I have an issue with this book is with the actual story. While we know the mystery (or at least what Bear’s mission is for this case) relatively early, it isn’t until the halfway point that Bear takes any concrete action toward accomplishing his mission. Up to that point, he is spinning his wheels while his character is getting established. Once we get to the case, there isn’t a lot of meat there (although laughs remain plentiful). What conflict the story has is not with the theoretical antagonist in the story, but with Bear’s ennui as he delays working on the case. Possibly this is parodying something I’m not getting in Wood’s books, but for me, an exercise in parody isn’t enough if the story doesn’t work too.


Some minor adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant typo or proofing issues. The formatting was okay with the exception of the font, which changed back and forth between two different looks at random intervals. It appeared to have a specific font defined rather than using the default, which is preferable in most cases (and also helps prevent this kind of issue).

Rating: *** Three stars

1 comment:

Chris Jones said...

Big Al: Thanks for the review. I did indeed wallow in parodying the focus on Stone Barrington's super-cool lifestyle, which often overshadows whatever plot there is (a recent Barrington novel seemed to quote large portions of the user guide for a new airplane he was learning to fly at the behest of a new client; meanwhile, there was no story!) But I love Stuart Woods and I hope my affection for his creations came through.