Why is it that some authors have to ruin their books with swear words or ongoing sex scenes? Is it really necessary to pepper the story repeatedly with crude words and references? It truly ruins a book for me, even if the plot is good. I remember an English professor in college posing the question to our class: Did we or did we not think that using swear words in a story was necessary to getting the point across to our readers? A few folks felt that a swear word or two helped the reader see the emotion of the character in a clearer sense. I disagreed. I think a writer can get their point across with other means. I do not have to swear or shout for my children to know I am angry or excited. They can tell from my tone and facial expression.
Why have this discussion? Because I just read a book that had too many swear words, most especially the “F” word, and a few too many sex scenes. It ruined the book for me and the plot was a good one. The book – New York Dead by Stuart Woods. The protagonist was a detective by the name of Stone Barrington. He is injured in the line of duty and at the opening of the book he’s worried about his return to work physical because his knee isn’t totally healed. Of course, he is in a bar drinking (Why does everything revolve around drinking in a bar?) and as he leaves and walks home a body comes falling down and lands on the ground. Talk about the case of one’s career falling into your lap.
The falling victim is a famous beautiful female national newscaster. Stone starts the investigation, but ends up losing the witness/suspect because his knee gives out and he tumbles down the stairs. Sasha, the faller, is not dead and she is caught on video opening her eyes and looking around. The ambulance comes and whisks her away to the hospital, but she never arrives. Where is she and has she died? It is like she has just vanished.
In continuing the investigation, Stone comes across a weird mortician who has written Sasha a thousand letters telling her how wonderful she is, but has never threatened her. In the weird world of the broadcast news he discovers that Sasha had many enemies, and many lovers, both male and female. Stone becomes obsessed with the station’s assistant and even when he discovers via photographic evidence that she is two-timing him he can’t resist her. It also doesn’t matter that she gets married to someone else.
A series of unrelated murders and missing persons occurs. Cab drivers are being shot in the head for no apparent reason. Yuppies go missing. The mayor and police commissioner are putting extreme pressure on Stone and his partner, and are even willing to pin the murder on of Sasha’s lovers. Hank is innocent, but gets railroaded all because the big wigs want to close the case.
Stone’s partner, whose name is not coming to my memory at this moment, is a foul-mouthed jerk who can’t form a sentence without throwing in a few “F” words and sexual comments. He thinks he’s a ladies’ man. He sounds like a pig with an inability to speak proper English. While Stone won’t go along with railroading Hank, his partner does. Stone finds himself kicked off the police force, while partner ends up making 1st detective.
This would have earned more than 3 stars from me if it had not been riddled with swear words and sex scenes. There were many subplots that ended up fitting into the whole picture. The story was really good, and would have stood up well without the trash.