>> Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The first official review of Something Rotten is in and it's . . . pretty good. Here's what Kirkus had to say:
Gratz is cornering the niche market of novels containing dissimilar topics. Here he combines Hamlet and hardboiled detective pulp. During a vacation from their academy, Horatio Wilkes accompanies his buddy Hamilton Prince to Denmark, Tenn. Just two months after his father passed away under suspicious circumstances, Hamilton's Uncle Claude has married Hamilton's mother. Claude now controls the Elsinore Paper Plant, a multibillion dollar company blatantly polluting the Copenhagen River. Horatio, with a knack for investigating, is determined to expose Claude's corruption while Hamilton, dismayed by what he believes is his mother's betrayal, drowns himself in alcohol. Ultimately, Horatio relies on environmentalist protester Olivia to reveal secrets about Elsinore. The many parallels to Hamlet are interesting, but Gratz wisely avoids producing a carbon copy of the tragedy. Horatio admirably plays the loyal friend but has a cocky voice that is too self-assured and as a teen rings unauthentic. However, this well-crafted mystery has appeal for readers familiar with both Raymond Chandler's novels and Shakespeare's masterpiece. The reviewer is completely right to say that Horatio is too self-assured and has an unauthentic voice. It was never my intent to write a truly "authentic" teen voice in Something Rotten. My goal was to write a highly stylized voice to mirror the style and tone of 50s and 60s noir. Horatio talks and acts like I wished I had when I was a teen; just as Chandler's Philip Marlowe is the man every man wishes to be, Horatio is the boy every teenage boy wishes he could be.
Horatio always has the right snarky comeback at the right moment - not minutes or hours or days late like the rest of us. Horatio speaks the language of the teenager working on his lines alone in front of the mirror. It's aspirational fiction, in a way; Horatio's character is enjoyable (I hope) because we like to imagine ourselves ever being that cool, even though we know it's impossible. (Well, at least it is for me.) I feel the same way about Veronica Mars. Could any teen ever be that cool and smart and confident? We only wish.
And the idea that I could have cornered the market on anything after just two books reads like a compliment to me. :-)