tony mcmanus

On writing, writers, books and publishing.

‘An author’s works are public property; he who purchases may judge, and publish his opinion if he pleases; and the authors I have endeavoured to commemorate may do by me as I have done by them. I dare say they will succeed better in condemning my scribblings, than in mending their own. But my object is not to prove that I can write well, but, if possible, to make others write better.’                                                                                                                                                           Byron.




They don’t make literary feuds the way they used to. Maybe authors are kinder than they used to be—or maybe they just have Twitter. Either way, I love to hear about author feuds of yore, and so I’ve collected (and ranked) twenty-five of the best below.

But first, some rules. In order to qualify as a literary feud, both parties must be literary authors in their own right (no editor-author squabbles), and the argument must be two-sided—that is, there should be at least one exchange, two shots fired. No simple unremarked-upon bad review or unacknowledged shit-talking will suffice. For instance, Bret Easton Ellis’s bizarrely vicious attacks on David Foster Wallace in the years after his death don’t rate, because Ellis is just trolling. As far as I can tell, Mark Twain simply bullied Bret Harte, who kept his mouth shut about the whole thing. The Rick Moody/Dale Peck incident—already toeing the line as Peck, while a novelist, is arguably better known as a critic—devolved into a publicity stunt. I wouldn’t count Hans Christian Andersen overstaying his welcome at Charles Dickens’s house a feud, no matter how bad his manners. Same goes for Rimbaud and Verlaine’s gun-toting lovers’ quarrel. And alas, I must also exclude Ayelet Waldman’s 2011 Twitter-salvo to Katie Roiphe: “I am so BORED with Katie Roiphe’s ‘I like the sexist drunk writers’ bullshit. She happily trashes my husband, but guess what bitch? He not only writes rings and rings and rings around you, but the same rings around your drunken literary love objects.” (Oh look, there, I included it. Hey, no wonder Roiphe doesn’t like Twitter.) On the other hand, some writers have had so many good feuds (ahem, Salman Rushdie) that I’ve had to pick and choose from among them (John le Carré over Mo Yan; Updike over Francine Prose). Which only reminds me that I’m carrying on in this introduction, so now, without further ado, please find below twenty-five fascinating author feuds from the last 200 years.


Ernest Hemingway vs. William Faulkner

This one is admittedly a bit of a stretch, feud-wise, as there was no confrontation to speak of (and one of the comments was given in private), but given the players, I consider it of interest. In a 1947 visit to a University of Mississippi creative writing class, Faulkner was asked to rank himself alongside other contemporary writers. His response, as transcribed at the time (but only published three years later, in The Western Review):

1. Thomas Wolfe: he had much courage and wrote as if he didn’t have long to live
2. William Faulkner
3. Dos Passos
4. Ernest Hemingway: he has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb. He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used
5. John Steinbeck: at one time I had great hopes for him—now I don’t know.

According to A.E. Hotchner in his Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir, when Hemingway was told about Faulkner’s statement, he responded:

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use. Did you read his last book? It’s all sauce-writing now, but he was good once. Before the sauce, or when he knew how to handle it.

24:Keats vs. Byron


John Keats vs. Lord Byron

To be fair, this is more of a perennial rivalry than a true feud. Bryon was a snob and mega-privileged; Keats was middle-class and jealous of Byron’s success. Neither liked the other’s work, and both were weirdly bitter about it. John Keats, who was quite short, reportedly exclaimed to a friend after reading a good review of Byron’s work: “You see what it is to be six foot tall and a lord!” Lord Byron, after reading a good review of Keats’s, wrote to a friend:

Of the praises of that little dirty blackguard KEATES in the Edinburgh—I shall observe as Johnson did when Sheridan the actor got a pension. “What has he got a pension? then it is time that I should give up mine.”—Nobody could be prouder of the praises of the Edinburgh than I was—or more alive to their censure—as I showed in EB and SR—at present all the men they have ever praised are degraded by that insane article.—Why don’t they review & praise “Solomon’s Guide to Health” it is better sense—and as much poetry as Johnny Keates.

Keats died of tuberculosis at only 25, and some of his friends, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, claimed that his death had been hastened by the stress caused by negative reviews of his work in The Quarterly Review. Byron found that hilarious. He even made fun of him, posthumously, in his famous epic poem Don Juan:

John Keats, who was killed off by one critique,
Just as he really promised something great,
If not intelligible, —without Greek
Contrived to talk about the Gods of late,
Much as they might have been supposed to speak.
Poor fellow! His was an untoward fate: —
‘Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuffed out by an Article.

23:weiner vs. egan

Jennifer Weiner vs. Jennifer Egan

In the most mutual of Weiner’s myriad literary beefs, she took issue with Jennifer Egan after she won the Pulitzer and told the Washington Post:

My focus is less on the need for women to trumpet their own achievements than to shoot high and achieve a lot. What I want to see is young, ambitious writers. And there are tons of them. Look at The Tiger’s Wife. There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models? I’m not saying you should say you’ve never done anything good, but I don’t go around saying I’ve written the book of the century. My advice for young female writers would be to shoot high and not cower.

Soon after, Weiner complained on Twitter: “Agh. Did Egan really have to pause, mid-victory lap, to call Kinsella, McCafferty “derivative and banal?”” and soon after tweeted: “And there goes my chance to be happy that a lady won the big prize. Thanks, Jenny Egan. You’re a model of graciousness.”

Weiner started a major discussion, but both she and Egan later apologized.

22:Updike vs. Rushdie

John Updike vs. Salman Rushdie

Much smaller than Rushdie’s disagreement with John le Carré, but still a good mini-feud. In 2006, John Updike reviewed Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown in the New Yorker. His opening line was this: “Why, oh why, did Salman Rushdie, in his new novel, Shalimar the Clown, call one of his major characters Maximilian Ophuls?” He goes on: “Readers of this review will be spared, as the reviewer was not, the maddening exercise of trying to overlay Rushdie’s Ophuls with the historical one. The two have no connection save the name and a peripatetic life.”

“A name is just a name,” Rushdie told the Guardian when asked about the review. “‘Why, oh why. . . ?’ Well, why not? Somewhere in Las Vegas there’s probably a male prostitute called ‘John Updike’. The thing that disappointed me most about Updike is that he did not say in that review that he had just completed a novel about terrorism. He had to sweep me out of the way in order to make room for himself. I don’t subscribe to the very predominantly English admiration of Updike. If you take away Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, and some of the short stories, there’s a lot of . . . slightly . . . garbage. Think of The Coup! The new one is beyond awful. He should stay in his parochial neighbourhood and write about wife-swapping, because it’s what he can do. . . I’m allowed to say it, because he was really rude about me.”

21:Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemingway vs. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Literary history’s most famous frenemies met in 1925, and soon became friends—Fitzgerald even sang Hemingway’s praises to the influential editor Maxwell Perkins, helping to jump-start his career. But Hemingway wasn’t particularly grateful, and soon began badmouthing Fitzgerald. In a (fairly negative) review of Scott Donaldson’s book about the pair, Michiko Kakutani writes,

Hemingway, who ”could ill abide being beholden to anyone,” clearly resented Fitzgerald’s help, and in this book, as in many others, he receives the bulk of the blame for the friendship’s demise. He emerges from these pages as an ingrate and bully, a megalomaniac who projected his own insecurities onto those closest to him and who believed he needed to reject friends and lovers before they could reject him. Fitzgerald, in contrast, comes across as a well-meaning but annoying fellow who hero-worshiped the wrong people, and who consistently sabotaged himself by getting drunk and behaving like a fool.

. . .

Hemingway was condescending about Fitzgerald’s work and mocked his former friend as a coward, a lap dog to the rich and a henpecked husband in thrall to a manipulative woman. He likened Fitzgerald to a dying butterfly, a glass-jawed boxer and an unguided missile crashing to earth on a ”very steep trajectory.”

Ten years after Fitzgerald’s death, Hemingway wrote:

I never had any respect for him ever, except for his lovely, golden, wasted talent. If he would have had fewer pompous musings and a little sounder education it would have been better maybe. But anytime you got him all straightened out and taking his work seriously Zelda would get jealous and knock him out of it. Also alcohol, that we use was the Giant Killer, and that I could not have lived without many times; or at least would have cared to live without; was a straight poison to Scott instead of a food.


A.S. Byatt vs. Margaret Drabble

Byatt and Drabble are unique on this list: they are not only enemies, but sisters—and their enmity goes back further than their writing careers. They were highly competitive as children, pitted against one another by their mother, who reportedly favored Drabble. According to the Telegraph, their relationship was further damaged by Drabble’s decision to become a novelist. “Sue always wanted to write,” Drabble said. “I didn’t want to. I just happened to write a novel when I was pregnant and had nothing to do.” And yet her first novel came out before her elder sister’s. But what really sealed it was Byatt’s The Game. “She may not have known what she had done until she had written it,” Drabble told theTelegraph. “Writers are like that. But it’s a mean-spirited book about sibling rivalry and she sent it to me with a note signed ‘With love,’ saying ‘I think I owe you an apology’. . . It’s irresoluble now. It’s sad, but beyond repair, and I don’t think about it much any more.”

19:H.G. Wells vs. Henry James

H.G. Wells vs. Henry James

Like others on this list, Wells and James started off as friends and mutual admirers. But they disagreed fundamentally on what literature was for, and in 1915, Wells published Boon, a satirical novel that mocked James’s writing style. When James read it, he wrote to Wells somewhat wounded:

I have more or less mastered your appreciation of H. J., which I have found very curious and interesting after a fashion—though it has naturally not filled me with a fond elation. It is difficult of course for a writer to put himself fully in the place of another writer who finds him extraordinarily futile and void, and who is moved to publish that to the world—and I think the case isn’t easier when he happens to have enjoyed the other writer from far back—

James summarizes the appeal of his own works this way:  “They rest upon my measure of fullness—fullness of life and the projection of it, which seems to you such an emptiness of both.”

Wells wrote back:

To you literature like painting is an end, to me literature like architecture is a means, it has a use. Your view was, I felt, altogether too prominent in the world of criticism and I assailed it in lines of harsh antagonism. And writing that stuff about you was the first escape I had from the obsession of this war. Boon is just a waste-paper basket. Some of it was written before I left my home at Sandgate (1911), and it was while I was turning over some old papers that I came upon it, found it expressive, and went on with it last December. I had rather be called a journalist than an artist, that is the essence of it, and there was no other antagonist possible than yourself. But since it was printed I have regretted a hundred times that I did not express our profound and incurable contrast with a better grace.

James’s reply was his last to Wells:

My dear Wells.

I am bound to tell you that I don’t think your letter makes out any sort of case for the bad manners of Boon, as far as your indulgence in them at the expense of your poor old H. J. is concerned — I say “your” simply because he has been yours, in the most liberal, continual, sacrificial, the most admiring and abounding critical way, ever since he began to know your writings: as to which you have had copious testimony. Your comparison of the book to a waste-basket strikes me as the reverse of felicitous, for what one throws into that receptacle is exactly what one doesn’tcommit to publicity and make the affirmation of one’s estimate of one’s contemporaries by. I should liken it much rather to the preservative portfolio or drawer in which what is withheld from the basket is savingly laid away. Nor do I feel it anywhere evident that my “view of life and literature,” or what you impute to me as such, is carrying everything before it and becoming a public menace—so unaware do I seem, on the contrary, that my products constitute an example in any measurable degree followed or a cause in any degree successfully pleaded: I can’t but think that if this were the case I should find it somewhat attested to in their circulation—which, alas, I have reached a very advanced age in the entirely defeated hope of.

. . .

I absolutely dissent from the claim that there are any differences whatever in the amenability to art of forms of literature aesthetically determined, and hold your distinction between a form that is (like) painting and a form that is (like) architecture for wholly null and void. There is no sense in which architecture is aesthetically “for use” that doesn’t leave any other art whatever exactly as much so; and so far from that of literature being irrelevant to the literary report upon life, and to its being made as interesting as possible, I regard it as relevant in a degree that leaves everything else behind. It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. If I were Boon I should say that any pretence of such a substitute is helpless and hopeless humbug; but I wouldn’t be Boon for the world, and am only yours faithfully,

Henry James

walcott vs. naipaul

Derek Walcott vs. V.S. Naipaul

“It’s going to be nasty,” Derek Walcott told the audience at the Calabash International Literary Festival in 2008. He then proceeded to read a poem entitled “The Mongoose,” which begins:

I have been bitten. I must avoid infection
Or else I’ll be as dead as Naipaul’s fiction.
Read his last novels. You’ll see just what I mean:
A lethargy approaching the obscene.

Snap. But what had Naipaul done to deserve such treatment? According to the Guardian:

For years, the writers [had] discreetly sniped at one another in print and in interviews. Naipaul’s inclusion of an essay on Walcott in his 2007 memoir A Writer’s People—and its attendant publication in the Guardian—delivered a backhanded compliment by effusively praising Walcott’s earliest work [he calls Walcott “a man whose talent has been all but strangled by his colonial setting”], and seems to have provoked the poet into making such a public attack.

17:ford vs. hoffman

Richard Ford vs. Alice Hoffman

Never one to take a bad review well, that Richard Ford. Famously, after Alice Hoffman published a critical but not savage review of The Sportswriter in the New York Times, Richard Ford took a gun and shot a hole through one of Hoffman’s novels before mailing it to her in pieces. “Well my wife shot it first,” Ford told the Guardian, “rather proudly.” “She took the book out into the back yard, and shot it. But people make such a big deal out of it—shooting a book—it’s not like I shot her.” Still, you can tell he was thinking about it.

16:Hemingway vs. Stevens

Ernest Hemingway vs. Wallace Stevens

I’ll just let Papa tell it himself (in a 1936 letter to Sara Murphy):

Hangover came about through visit of my lawyer Mr. (Maurice) Speiser whom I cannot see without the aid and abettment of alcohol plus seeing off in southern farewell the Judge (Arthur Powell) of the Wallace Stevens evening (when Hemingway and the poet Wallace Stevens had a fistfight). Remember that Judge and Mr. Stevens? Nice Mr. Stevens. This year he came again sort of pleasant like the cholera and first I knew of it my nice sister Ura (Ursula) was coming into the house crying because she had been at a cocktail party at which Mr. Stevens had made her cry by telling her forcefully what a sap I was, no man, etc. So I said, this was a week ago, ”All right, that’s the third time we’ve had enough of Mr. Stevens.” So headed out into the rainy past twilight and met Mr. Stevens who was just issuing from the door haveing just said, I learned later, ”By God I wish I had that Hemingway here now I’d knock him out with a single punch.” So who should show up but poor old Papa and Mr. Stevens swung that same fabled punch but fertunatly missed and I knocked all of him down several times and gave him a good beating. Only trouble was that first three times put him down I still had my glasses on. Then took them off at the insistence of the judge who wanted to see a good clean fight without glasses in it and after I took them off Mr. Stevens hit me flush on the jaw with his Sunday punch bam like that. And this is very funny. Broke his hand in two places. Didn’t harm my jaw at all and so put him down again and then fixed him good so he was in his room for five days with a nurse and Dr. working on him. But you mustn’t tell this to anybody. Not even Ada (MacLeish, wife of the poet Archibald MacLeish). Because he is very worried about his respectable insurance standing and I have promised not to tell anybody and the official story is that Mr. Stevens fell down a stairs. I agreed to that and said it was o.k. with me if he fell down the lighthouse stairs. So please promise not to tell anybody. But Pauline who hates me to fight was delighted. Ura had never seen a fight before and couldn’t sleep for fear Mr. Stevens was going to die. Anyway last night Mr. Stevens comes over to make up and we are made up. But on mature reflection I don’t know anybody needed to be hit worse than Mr. S. Was very pleased last night to see how large Mr. Stevens was and am sure that if I had had a good look at him before it all started would not have felt up to hitting him. But can assure you that there is no one like Mr. Stevens to go down in a spectacular fashion especially into a large puddle of water in the street in front of your old waddel street home where all took place. So I shouldn’t write you this but news being scarce your way and I know you really won’t tell anybody will you really absolutely seriously. Because otherwise I am a bastard to write it. He apologised to Ura very handsomely and has gone up to Pirates Cove to rest his face for another week before going north. I think he is really one of those mirror fighters who swells his muscles and practices lethal punches in the bathroom while he hates his betters. But maybe I am wrong. Anyway I think Gertrude Stein ought to give all these people who pick fights with poor old papa at least their money back. I am getting damned tired of it but not nearly as tired of it as Mr. Stevens got. It was awfully funny to have a man just declaring how he was going to annihilate you and show up just at that moment. Then have him land his awful punch on your jaw and nothing happen except his hand break. You can tell Patrick. It might amuse him. But don’t tell anybody else. Tell Patrick for statistics sake Mr. Stevens is 6 feet 2 weighs 225 lbs. and that when he hits the ground it is highly spectaculous. I told the Judge, the day after, to tell Mr. S. I thought he was a damned fine poet but to tell him he couldn’t fight. The Judge said, ”Oh, but your wrong there. He is a very good fighter. Why, I saw him hit a man once and knock him the length of this room.” And I said, ”Yes, Judge. But you didn’t catch the man’s name, did you?” I think it was a waiter. Nice dear good Mr. Stevens. I hope he doesn’t brood about this and take up archery or machine gunnery. But you promise you won’t tell anybody.

Of course, Hemingway was 20 years younger than Stevens at this time. But more importantly: what a gossip.

15:proust vs. lorrain

Marcel Proust vs. Jean Lorrain

Probably one of the few times that a book review led to an actual, pistols-drawn duel—but not actually because of the book in question. In an 1896 review of Proust’s Pleasures and Days, Lorrain suggested that he was gay, and described him as “one of those pretty little society boys who’ve managed to get themselves pregnant with literature.” After a second snarky essay a few months later, in which Lorrain (writing under a pseudonym) insinuated that Proust was having an affair with Lucien Daudet (the son of M. Alphonse Daudet), Proust challenged Lorrain to a duel. (Both Proust and Lorrain, by the way, were definitely gay.) Both shots went wide—probably on purpose—and everyone’s honor was restored.

14:Sartre vs. Camus

Albert Camus vs. Jean-Paul Sartre

Trust these two to have a falling-out over the concept of the freedom of man. Here’s a fun sum-up:

13:William Thackeray vs. Charles Dickens

 William Thackeray vs. Charles Dickens

To be fair, Dickens used a patsy in his feud with Thackeray—but I’ll still count it on principle. The two were close friends and eventually literary rivals, though Dickens reached fame and critical approval first. Things were only as tense as could be expected until the famous “Garrick Club Affair,” which ruined their friendship.

Here’s what happened: In 1858 Charles Dickens separated from his wife, and Thackeray let it slip that Dickens was having an affair with a teenage actress, Ellen Ternan. In response, Dickens let one of his protégés, Edmund Yates, publish a slanderous attack of Thackeray in Dickens’s magazine Household Words.

“Mr. Thackeray is forty-six years old, though from the silvery whiteness of his hair he appears somewhat older,” the piece began.

His face is bloodless, and not particularly expressive, but remarkable for the fracture of the bridge of the nose, the result of an accident in youth. . . No one meeting him could fail to recognise in him a gentleman; his bearing is cold and uninviting, his style of conversation either openly cynical, or affectedly good-natured and benevolent; his bonhomie is forced, his wit biting, his pride easily touched—but his appearance is invariably that of the cool, suave, well-bred gentleman, who, whatever may be rankling within, suffers no surface display of his emotion.


Our own opinion is, that his success is on the wane; his writings never were understood or appreciated even by the middle classes; the aristocracy have been alienated by his American onslaught on their body, and the educated and refined are not sufficiently numerous to constitute an audience; moreover, there is a want of heart in all he writes, which is not to be balanced by the most brilliant sarcasm, and the most perfect knowledge of the workings of the human heart.

Thackeray wrote to Yates: “As I understand your phrases, you impute insincerity to me when I speak good-naturedly in private; assign dishonorable motives to me for sentiments which I have delivered in public, and charge me with advancing statements which I have never delivered at all. . . I am obliged to take notice of articles which I consider to be not offensive and unfriendly merely, but slanderous and untrue.” But the real problem was that Yates had lifted conversations from the privacy of the Garrick Club, where all three men (Thackeray, Dickens, Yates) were members, and where, as Thackeray puts if “I and other gentlemen have been in the habit of talking without any idea that our conversation would supply paragraphs for professional vendors of ‘Literary Talk.’”

Thackeray put the issue to the Garrick Club, who—despite a letter from Dickens pleading in support of Yates—kicked him out. He continued to write more articles and even a book criticizing Thackeray, and Dickens resigned from the club. “I never exchanged a word except of kindness with this Mr. Yates until the appearance of this article against me,” Thackeray wrote to Charles Kingsley. “What pains me most is that Dickens should have been his adviser: and next that I should have had to lay a heavy hand on a young man who, I take it, has been cruelly punished by the issue of the affair and I believe is hardly aware of the nature of his own offense and doesn’t even understand that a gentleman should resent the monstrous insult which he volunteered.” And to his mother, Thackeray wrote, “I am become a sort of great man in my way—all but at the top of the tree; indeed there if truth be known and having a great fight up there with Dickens.” He was sad at the loss of his friend; but reportedly the two made up after a chance encounter only a few months before Thackeray’s death.

12:ford vs. whitehead

Colson Whitehead vs. Richard Ford

In 2002, Colson Whitehead reviewed Richard Ford’s A Multitude of Sins for the New York Times Book Review.  It was not a positive review. “Almost every story deals with adultery, invariably in one of two stages: in the final dog days of an affair, or in the aftermath of an affair,” Whitehead wrote.

The characters are nearly indistinguishable. If I were an epidemiologist, I’d say that some sort of spiritual epidemic had overtaken a segment of our nation’s white middle-class professionals, and has started to afflict white upper-middle-class professionals. These characters could use some good advice, and if they had friends, they might be able to ask for it, but they don’t have friends. Sometimes the men are named Roger or Tom, sometimes the women are named Nancy or Frances. If they have children, we rarely see them. Some of them meet in fancy hotel rooms, others prefer out-of-the-way motels. Whatever the specifics, adulterous or not, they bide their time for opportunities to offer portentous declarations about their predicaments like: ”Other people affect you. It’s really no more complicated than that’ and ‘I am sure now that all of this had to do with my impending failures.’ These declarations will strike you as plain-spoken and hard-earned wisdom, or easy banalities, depending on your mood or level of generosity.

Two years later, Ford was still pissed enough to approach Whitehead at a Poets & Writersparty. “I’ve waited two years for this,” he said. “You spat on my book.” Then he spat on Whitehead. Reporting this to Deborah Schoenman, Whitehead said, “We had a few heated words—he said, ‘You’re a kid, you should grow up,’ which coming from him was a bit funny—and then he stalked off. This wasn’t the first time some old coot had drooled on me, and it probably won’t be the last. But I would like to warn the many other people who panned the book that they might want to get a rain poncho, in case of inclement Ford.”

And fifteen years on, Ford is sticking to his guns. “I realize that how I feel about my bad treatment is only one compass point among several legitimate ones,” he wrote in Esquire last summer. “But I can tell you that, as of today, I don’t feel any different about Mr. Whitehead, or his review, or my response.” Most people think he’s rather in the wrong.

11:John Irving vs. J.P. Donleavy

John Irving vs. J.P. Donleavy

In a 1986 interview with the Paris Review, John Irving described meeting J.P. Donleavy at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

I went to the airport to meet him; I’d written three novels—but not yet The World According to Garp; I wasn’t famous. I didn’t expect Donleavy to have read anything of mine, but I was surprised when he announced that he read no one living; then he asked if we were in Kansas. I told him a little about the Workshop, but he was one of those writers with no knowledge about writing programs and many prejudices about them: to be a student of writing was a waste of time; better to go out and suffer. He was wearing a very expensive three-piece suit, very handsome shoes, and handling a very posh walking stick at the time, and I began to get irritated. In a meeting with Workshop students, he told them that any writer who was lowering himself by teaching writing wasn’t capable of teaching them anything.

. . .

Cheever tried a few times to engage Donleavy in some conversation, and as Cheever was as gifted in conversation as any man I have ever met, I grew more and more furious at Donleavy’s coldness and unresponsiveness and totaldiscourtesy. I was thinking, frankly, that I should throw the lout in a puddle, if there was one handy, when Cheever spoke up. “Do you know, Mr. Donleavy,” Cheever said, “that no majorwriter of fiction was ever a shit to another writer of fiction, except Hemingway—and he was crazy?” That was all. Donleavy had no answer. Perhaps he thought Hemingway was still a living writer and therefore hadn’t read him, either.

. . .

I should add that drinking wasn’t the issue of this unpleasant evening; Cheever was not drinking; Donleavy wasn’t drunk—he was simply righteous and acting the prima donna. I feel a little like I’m tattling on a fellow schoolboy to tell this story, but I felt so awful—not for myself but for Cheever. It was such an outrage; that Donleavy—this large, silly man with his walking stick—was snubbing John Cheever. I suppose it’s silly that I should still be angry, but George Plimpton told me that Donleavy has a subscription to The Paris Review; this presents an apparent contradiction to Donleavy’s claim that he doesn’t read anyone living, but it gives me hope that he might read this. If the story embarrasses him, or makes him angry, I would say we’re even; the evening embarrassed Cheever and me, and made us angry, too.

After reading the interview, Donleavy wrote a hilariously snooty response, which was then published:

I was not carrying a cane at the time but remember a request from Mr. Irving to speak with him privately which I did and during which meeting I suggested to him, that if he had the option to leave the cosy world of teaching, it was better to go suffer and pursue a writing career outside of university. This advice he seems to have taken, and I’m told, he was heard to mention it on a radio broadcast some years ago. As for snubbing Mr. John Cheever, I distinctly recall pleasantly meeting this distinguished gentleman in his classroom during one of his teaching sessions. Also, I am informed by the friend sending me this cutting from the Paris Review that one of Mr. Cheever’s students (now a published novelist), was at the time at Iowa and was present at my talk and quotes Mr. Cheever as saying he thought the lecture and reading wonderful and that one’s tailoring was sublime. As someone who was always only dressed to keep warm and comfortable, Mr. Cheever’s reference to my tailoring comes as a surprise but clearly is not the remark of a man who has felt snubbed, and I suspect there is some other reason for Mr. Irving’s remarks.

It is true that I do not have untold sympathy for the American academic fraternity nor did I keep up with the literary scene then, nor do I now. But I note in the paragraph on page 95 preceding the present above matter, that Mr. Irving refers to the interchangeable use of “I” as a first person narrator with third person narrator. At least it is evident that this device, first used in The Ginger Man, has made an impression on Mr. Irving. All this has come to my attention not as a subscriber nor as a recipient of complimentary copies of the Paris Review and which latter I assure Mr. Plimpton I do not receive.

To which Irving responded: “I’m sorry you had to suffer that arcane and mannered flapdoodle from Mr. Donleavy,” before reiterating most of his points.


Truman Capote vs. Gore Vidal

This feud was all about literary jealousy. Early on, Vidal was disgruntled at the appearance of a Life magazine photo spread entitled “Young U.S. Writers: A Refreshing Group of Newcomers on the Literary Scene is Ready to Tackle Almost Anything.” It’s not that Vidal wasn’t included—he was, in a tiny, awkward photo. Capote rated three-quarters of the first page. Socially, they were cordial, but Vidal was offended by Capote’s manner and irritated by his name-dropping. “The instant lie was Truman’s art form, small but, paradoxically, authentic,” he wrote. “One could watch the process. A famous name would be mentioned. The round pale fetus face would suddenly register a sort of tic, as if a switch had been thrown. ‘Eleanor Roosevelt. Oh, I know her intimately!’”

The rivalry was mostly made up of petty things—a comment here, a snub there, a bad review whenever called for. “I first met Truman at Anaïs Nin’s apartment,” Vidal once said. “My first impression—as I wasn’t wearing my glasses—was that it was a colourful ottoman. When I sat down on it, it squealed. It was Truman.” Once, according to Fred Kaplan’s biography, Vidal called up Tennessee Williams and, pretending to be Capote, elicited some “uncomplimentary remarks” about his own writing. Then, when he next saw Williams, he alluded to those remarks, in order to make him believe Capote has betrayed him by repeating the conversation. That’s some brilliant mean girl-ing. He also famously called Capote’s death “a brilliant career move.”

Hilton Als interpreted the feud this way:

[Vidal’s] disdain for Truman Capote—another child of an alcoholic mother—had less to do with Capote’s impulse to embellish the truth than with his skill at imagining characters, no matter how derivative his early short stories were. (Vidal never produced anything in fiction on the order of Capote’s MiriamAmong the Paths to Eden, let alone Breakfast at Tiffany’s or In Cold Blood.) And I think Vidal rather resented Capote being, often, the only other known out homosexual in the room. (Vidal could love Tennessee Williams because the stage was Williams’s thing, not prose.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t add Capote’s much-quoted quip: “I’m always sad about Gore—very sad that he has to breathe every day.” And in an interview after Capote’s death, Vidal shuddered, “Capote I truly loathed. The way you might loathe an animal. A filthy animal that has found its way into the house.”

9:lewis vs. drieser

Sinclair Lewis vs. Theodore Dreiser

A 1931 article in The Montreal Gazette (headline: “Noted Authors in Reported Fracas“) cites the Evening Post to report that “Theodore Dreiser, novelist, slapped the face of Sinclair Lewis, Nobel literary prizewinner, at a dinner last night.”

For context, Lewis had just beat out Dreiser for the Nobel Prize, becoming the first American to receive the honor—though some interpreted the choice as a subtle snub to the entire country by the Swedes. Dreiser was devastated, and though Lewis tried to reach out to him, Dreiser wouldn’t have any of it.

Now they were both at a literary dinner for a Russian novelist. According to Anthony Arthur in his Literary Feuds, Dreiser congratulated Lewis, but Lewis responded with a “sneer,” and then, during the meal, “fondled a bottle by the neck and muttered how he’d like to break it over Dreiser’s head.” Lewis was asked to give an impromptu speech, but refused, standing up and saying “I feel disinclined to say anything in the presence of the man who stole 3,000 words from my wife’s book and before two sage critics who publicly lamented my receiving the Novel Prize.” In 1928, Dreiser had been accused of plagiarizing parts of The New Russia by Sinclair’s wife Dorothy Thompson for his volume Dreiser Looks at Russia.

After the meal, Dreiser confronted Lewis. “I know you’re an ignoramus, but you’re crazy,” Dreiser said. Lewis repeated his claims, and Dreiser slapped him. Or, as he reported it: “I smacked him. And I asked him if he wanted to say it again. He said it again. So I smacked him again. And I said, ‘Do you want to say it again?’” According to Arthur:

At this point Lengel entered the room and heard Lewis say, “Theodore, you are a liar and a thief.” Lengel grabbed Lewis, thinking to restrain him from attacking Dreiser, but Lewis was limp and unresisting. Lengel told Dreiser that he’d better leave. Lewis said again, “I still say you are a liar and a thief.” “Do you want me to hit you again?” Dreiser demanded. “If you do, I’ll turn the other cheek.” Dreiser said, “Aw, Lewis, you shit!” Lengel was pushing the bigger man through the door when he turned and shouted, “I’ll meet you any time, anywhere. This thing isn’t settled.” Lewis followed, muttering something. Dreiser said, “Lewis, why don’t you peddle your papers somewhere else?”

The tabloids were all over this, and Dreiser reportedly got a few complimentary telegrams, including one that said: “Thank you for slapping Sinclair Lewis. You did just what many thousands of Americans would like to do.” Well, Lewis still got the Nobel.

8:Garcia Marquez vs. Vargas Llosa

Gabriel García Márquez vs. Mario Vargas Llosa

February 12th, 1976: Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez meet in Mexico City at a movie premiere. García Márquez is happy to see his friend—who promptly punches him in the face, leaving him bleeding, and shouts “How dare you come and greet me after what you did to Patricia in Barcelona!” Patricia, of course, was Vargas Llosa’s wife. According to the Independent (via the New Yorker):

Mario strayed. He fell in love with a beautiful Swedish air stewardess whom he met while travelling. He left his wife and moved to Stockholm.

Distraught, his wife Patricia went to see her husband’s best friend, Gabriel. After discussing the matter with his wife, Mercedes, he advised Patricia to divorce Mario. And then he consoled her. No one else quite knows what form this consolation took…. Eventually Mario returned to his wife, who told him of Gabriel’s advice to her, and of his consolation.

Hence the famous black-eyed photograph of García Márquez. “I took the picture two days after the incident, when he came to my house,” said friend and photographer Rodrigo Moya. “It was difficult to take a picture in which he looked this good. I have some pictures in which he looks like he was really beaten up, like beaten up by the Mexican police.” Since then, both writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but as legend would have it, they never spoke again.

7:theroux vs. naipaul

Paul Theroux vs. V.S. Naipaul

In the 90s, V.S. Naipaul, who reportedly suspected his longtime friend Paul Theroux of seducing his wife, sold off a book that Theroux had personally inscribed to him, getting about $1,500 on the internet. Theroux responded by writing a very damning book about their friendship, Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents, which he later called an “unsparing and accurate portrait of the man, minus the instances of racism and physical abuse that I was forbidden by lawyers to publish. . . In thirty years . . . I mainly saw his sadness, his tantrums, his envy, his meanness, his greed, and his uncontrollable anger. But I never saw Naipaul attack anyone stronger than himself; he talked big and insultingly but when he lashed out it was always against the weak—women who loved him, his wife, and waiters: people who couldn’t hit back, the true mark of the coward.”

But in 2011, after fifteen years of animosity, the two made up—or at least shook hands. According to the Guardian: “Spotting Naipaul in the green room at the Hay festival, Theroux turned to McEwan and asked what he should do. “Life is short,” McEwan replied. “You should say hello.” And with that, handbags were holstered.” As Naipaul’s wife described it: “Paul approached him and said he missed him. It was very gracious and wonderful of him. So that is the end to the literary feud.”

“After so many years, we’ve finally spoken,” said Theroux. “I just had an experience today with a capital E.”

6:Nabokov vs. Wilson

Vladimir Nabokov vs. Edmund Wilson

This is about as literary as a feud can get: fighting over Pushkin. In 1965, Nabokov published a four-volume translation of the Russian writer’s Eugene Onegin—and his friend “Bunny” panned it in The New York Review of Books. Nabokov responded in the same publication, writing

I fully share “the warm affection sometimes chilled by exasperation” that he says he feels for me. In the 1940s, during my first decade in America, he was most kind to me in various matters, not necessarily pertaining to his profession. I have always been grateful to him for the tact he showed in refraining from reviewing any of my novels. We have had many exhilarating talks, have exchanged many frank letters. A patient confidant of his long and hopeless infatuation with the Russian language, I have always done my best to explain to him his mistakes of pronunciation, grammar, and interpretation.

He then proceeds to rebut Wilson’s review, point by point, but stops himself, on the basis of the “strange tone” of the review. “Its mixture of pompous aplomb and peevish ignorance is certainly not conducive to a sensible discussion of Pushkin’s language and mine,” he finishes. Wilson responded again, although with less fervor.

That wasn’t the only problem, of course. Wilson had also hated Lolita, and was competitive with the increasingly more-famous Nabokov, and they also butted heads politically—but it was the Pushkin thing that tipped them over the edge.

5:amis vs. barnes

Martin Amis vs. Julian Barnes

Martin Amis has made a lot of enemies along the way. But one of the earliest was his longtime friend Julian Barnes, whom he alienated on account of what sounds a lot like greed. Amis wanted a £500,000 advance for his 1995 novel The Information. Jonathan Cape offered £300,000—so Amis fired his agent, Pat Kavanagh, in favor of Andrew Wylie, who got him the money (which he reportedly wanted for dental work). The only problem was that Pat Kavanagh and her husband, Julian Barnes, were close friends of Amis’s—and Barnes was not pleased. According to the Independent:

Barnes wrote to Amis to wish him the same success as two other Wylie clients: Salman Rushdie, who was living in fear of his life because of a fatwa, and Bruce Chatwin, who died of AIDS. The letter was signed off with two words, the second of which was “off.”

Amis told the Observer that he was in a bad place at the time—he was in the midst of a divorce and his father had just died—and was “shocked” by the letter. “It was naive of me not to anticipate it,” he said. Apparently, they patched things up, but it took a decade to do it.

4:Le Carré vs. Rushdie

John le Carré vs. Salman Rushdie

This one’s a corker. It started in 1997, when John le Carré complained in the letters section of the Guardian that he had been unfairly attacked by American readers for anti-Semitisim.

Salman Rushdie responded: “It would be easier to sympathize with him had he not been so ready to join in an earlier campaign of vilification against a fellow writer. In 1989, during the worst days of the Islamic attack on The Satanic Verses, le Carré wrote an article (also, if memory serves, in the Guardian) in which he eagerly, and rather pompously, joined forces with my assailants.”

Le Carré came back: “Rushdie’s way with the truth is as self-serving as ever. . . My position was that there is no law in life or nature that says that great religions may be insulted with impunity. . . My purpose was not to justify the persecution of Rushdie, which, like any decent person, I deplore, but to sound a less arrogant, less colonialist and less self-righteous note than we were hearing from the safety of his admirers’ camp.”

Rushdie: “I’m grateful to John le Carré for refreshing all our memories about exactly how pompous an ass he can be.”

Le Carré: “Whether from Rushdie’s throne or Hitchens’ gutter, the message is the same: ‘Our cause is absolute, it brooks no dissent or qualification; whoever questions it is by definition an ignorant, pompous, semi-literate person.’ . . . Rushdie sneers at my language and trashes a thoughtful and well-received speech I made to the Anglo-Israel Association. . . Hitchens portrays me as a buffoon who pours his own urine on his head. Two rabid Ayatolahs could not have done a better job. But will the friendship last? I am amazed that Hitchens has put up with Rusdhie’s self-canonisation for so long.

Rushdie: “If he wants to win an argument, John le Carré could begin by learning to read. . . It’s true I did call him a pompous ass, which I thought pretty mild in the circumstances. ‘Ignorant’ and ‘semi-literate’ are dunces’ caps he has skillfully fitted on his own head. I wouldn’t dream of removing them. . . John le Carré appears to believe I would prefer him not to go on abusing me. Let me assure him that I am of precisely the contrary opinion. Every time he opens his mouth, he digs himself into a deeper hole. Keep digging, John, keep digging. Me, I’m going back to work.”

In 2011, the two patched things up. Rushdie extended the olive branch first (at least publicly)—speaking at a literature festival, he said “I wish we hadn’t done it,” and complimented le Carré’s literary chops. “I think of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as one of the great novels of postwar Britain,” he said. Le Carré responded in The Times:

I too regret the dispute. I admire Salman for his work and his courage, and I respect his stand. Does that answer the larger debate which continues to this day? Should we be free to burn Korans, mock the passionately held religions of others? Maybe we should—but should we also be surprised when the believers we have offended respond in fury? I couldn’t answer that question at the time and, with all good will, I still can’t. But I am a little proud, in retrospect, that I spoke against the easy trend, reckoning with the wrath of outraged Western intellectuals, and suffering it in all its righteous glory. And if I met Salman tomorrow? I would warmly shake the hand of a brilliant fellow writer.

At least one person wasn’t too happy about that. “The le Carré-Rushdie quarrel was (and is) between those who think that religion should be protected from ‘offensive’ critiques, and those who do not,” Christopher Hitchens said. “This is the original confrontation over free speech, which goes back to the trial of Socrates. I therefore did my best to make sure that no compromise or kiss-and-make-up was thinkable. One’s job on such occasions, when seeing the embers begin to cool, is to blow on them as hard as possible.”

3:Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman

Mary McCarthy vs. Lillian Hellman

Another Dick Cavett-based feud! When Cavett asked Mary McCarthy to name some over-rated writers (on the air), she noted John Steinbeck, Pearl Buck, and Lillian Hellman, “who I think is tremendously overrated, a bad writer, and a dishonest writer, but she really belongs to the past.”

Cavett dramatizes what happened next:

“What’s dishonest about her?” I asked.

“Everything,” said McCarthy. “I said once in some interview that every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ” There was an “ooh” and a laugh from the audience, but otherwise the moment passed innocuously. After the taping, the network’s lawyer—paid to anticipate litigation—did not utter even his occasional “Dick, we may have a problem.” Instead, he said, “Nice show.”

During breakfast the next morning, my assistant called. “Have you seen the papers?” she said. “Hellman is suing Mary McCarthy, PBS, and you for two and a quarter million.”

“And me?” I replied, in a prepubescent squeak. The other phone rang, and the familiar whiskey-and-cigarettes baritone rasped, “Why the hell didn’t you defend me?”

“I guess I never thought of you as defenseless, Lillian,” I managed.

“That’s bullshit. I’m suing the whole damn bunch of you.” In that, at least, she proved a woman of her word.

McCarthy laughed it off at first, but soon became nervous—after all, she didn’t have more than $63,000 in the bank, and Hellman was wealthy. Norman Mailer (the pugilist himself) published an appeal to the two of them in the New York Times, asking Hellman to drop the suit, but to no avail. At the New Republic, Franklin Foer writes:

[Hellman] was not at all interested in preserving mutual respect in discourse. What she wanted was to see McCarthy bleed—a sadistic course that she, unlike McCarthy, could afford to take, given her personal wealth and her pro bono lawyer. When her friend Roger Straus tried to convince her to drop the suit, Hellman replied, “No, I’m gonna teach her a thing or two.”

. . .

With her lawsuit, Hellman lucked into a sympathetic judge. Presented with a myriad of opportunities to dismiss the case—McCarthy’s statement was clearly intended as a joke; it was an act of literary criticism; Hellman was a public figure—he declined to reject it. If Hellman had prevailed, she would have succeeded in turning harsh literary criticism into a legally punishable offense. But she did not prevail. Four years into the suit, she died, which ended the matter. This fact did little to becalm McCarthy, who told The New York Times that “I’m absolutely unregenerate. . .I didn’t want her to die. I wanted her to lose in court. I wanted her around for that.”

2:Tom Wolfe vs. John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving

Tom Wolfe vs. John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving

In 1998, Tom Wolfe published his second novel, A Man in Full. It had some notable detractors. Norman Mailer wrote in the New York Review of Books:

The book has gas and runs out of gas, fills up again, goes dry. It is a 742-page work that reads as if it is fifteen hundred pages long. This is, to a degree, a compliment, since it is very rich in material. But, given its high intentions, it is also tiresome, for it takes us down the road of too many overlong and predictable scenes. Electric at best, banal at worst—banal like a long afternoon spent watching soap operas—one picks it up each day to read another hundred pages with the sense that the book not only offers pleasure but the strain of encountering prose that disappoints as often as it titillates.

At certain points, reading the work can even be said to resemble the act of making love to a three-hundred-pound woman. Once she gets on top, it’s over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated. So you read and you grab and you even find delight in some of these mounds of material. Yet all the while you resist—how you resist!—letting three hundred pounds take you over.

John Updike, in a review of the novel in the New Yorker titled “Awriiiiighhhhhhhhht!,” wrote that “A Man in Full still amounts to entertainment, not literature, even literature in a modest aspirant form. Like a movie desperate to recoup its bankers’ investment, the novel tries too hard to please us.”

On a Canadian TV show called Hot Type, John Irving was asked to comment on the “war” between the three. “I don’t think it’s a war, because you can’t have a war between a pawn and a king, can you?” he said. He then proceeded to call Wolfe’s novels “yak” and “journalistic hyperbole described as fiction” and said his work was “like reading a bad newspaper or a bad piece in a magazine. It makes you wince.”

Hot Type had Wolfe on next, who said of Irving: “He’s our prime subject today. His last, A Widow for One Year, is about some neurotic people in the Hamptons. They never get to town. They’re in the house. They’re neurotic. . . Irving is a great admirer of Dickens. But what writer does he see now the last year constantly compared to Dickens? Not John Irving, but Tom Wolfe. . . It must gnaw at him terribly.” Wolfe called his three detractors “Larry, Curly and Moe” and later wrote an essay about the whole thing called “My Three Stooges,” which he published in his 2000 collection Hooking Up, and which refers to Mailer and Updike as “two old piles of bones” and calls Irving’s Hot Type interview a “temper tantrum.”

Irving’s face turned red. His sexagenarian jowls shuddered. He began bleeping. It was all the show’s technicians could do to hit the bleep button fast enough. “Wolfe’s problem is, he can’t bleeping write! He’s not a writer! Just crack one of his bleeping books! Try to read one bleeping sentence! You’ll gag before you can finish it! He doesn’t even write literature—he writes . . . yak! He doesn’t write novels—he writes journalistic hyperbole! You couldn’t teach that bleeping bleep to bleeping freshmen in a bleeping freshman English class!”—and on and on in that mode. It was spellbinding. I don’t pretend to be a lip reader, but it took no particular expertise to decode bleepos that began with such bitterly lower-lip-bitten fs. Evan Solomon kept covering his face with his hand and smiling at the same time, as if to say, “How can the old coot make such a spectacle of himself—but, wow, it’s wonderful television!”

In a 2001 interview in Details magazine, Irving said, “I don’t know a serious writer who reads Tom Wolfe. . . [but] I would never have said Wolfe was a ‘bad’ writer had he not written his absurd position paper on how to write the American novel.” The “position paper” in question was “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast,” published in Harper’s in 1989, bemoaning a perceived decline in realist literature (Mailer pointedly mocks the opening of the piece with his aforementioned NYRB review).

In a video recorded in 2009, Irving said:

I don’t know, I think [literary feuds] are all generated by a kind of compiled misunderstanding. I give Wolfe the benefit of the doubt that he did not write that white paper manifesto about how the rest of us should be writing the great American novel. The piece he published in Harper’s, I believe, after Bonfire of the Vanities was first published. I don’t imagine when he wrote that that he was aware of how many writers who’d been writing fiction longer and writing it better than he does, might have been offended by that prescriptive piece. Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he was just speaking from the heart, and he didn’t know it would be irritating. But I know that that was the source of what provoked me at him, and I know it was also the source of what provoked Updike, with him too. I remember a letter from John saying that he never would have taken Wolfe so much to task in that New Yorker piece if it hadn’t been for that earlier manifesto. But you know, I think it’s an overrated feud. He and I ran into each other—he was with his wife; I was with one of my children—we ran into each other on the Washington Mall a few years ago, after all this squabbling had been much publicized, over-publicized, in my opinion, in the media. And I didn’t think it was an especially awkward or hostile meeting. I mean, we got through it without spitting and scuffling or kicking dirt on each other’s shoes. They said nice things to my son, and I believe that we were both perfectly cordial to one another, so not much of a feud in my opinion. There’s certainly people that you in the media don’t know about that if I ran into them, more sparks would fly.

Consider my curiosity piqued.

1:vidal vs mailer

Norman Mailer vs. Gore Vidal

One of the true legends: the time Norman Mailer head-butted Gore Vidal backstage before appearing with him on the December 15th, 1971 episode of the Dick Cavett show (alongside journalist Jane Flanner). There’s no footage of the head-butt, but happily there is footage of the ensuing squabble, which you can watch below. As Dick Cavett himself described it:

Mailer’s entrance was the tip-off. He came on from stage left doing that pugilist walk: his hands were fists and carried high, and he had the tousled look of having visited a favorite bar or two en route. His suit was disheveled, his bow to Miss Flanner courtly, and his refusal to shake Vidal’s extended hand caused a murmuring in the audience.

After that, the battle begins—Mailer is incensed over an essay Vidal has written criticizing him in The New York Review of Books (actually a review of Eva Figes’ Patriarchal Attitudes, but he did compare Mailer to Charles Manson, in passing), and proceeds to take pot shots at everyone’s intelligence, not to mention try to physically intimidate the other guests. Flanner sums it up when she complains about the bickering: “Not only do you insult each other, not only in public, but as if you were in private. That’s the odd way . . . It’s very odd that you act so—you act as if you were the only people here.” Mailer: “Aren’t we?” Flanner: “They’re here, he’s here, I’m here. And I’m becoming very, very bored.” The audience laughs and claps, and Flanner bows Mailer a kiss. It’s a great line, but there’s nothing boring about what’s going on.

No blows were exchanged on television, but six years later, the two met again at a party, and Mailer hit Vidal in the face, knocking him down. “Once again, words fail Norman Mailer,” said Vidal, before getting back to his feet.


Remember them? Those small, slim paperbacks your father and grandfather used to read. Novels with titles like No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Farewell, My Lovely. True page-turners they were that punched their weight and usually got the job done in less than 250 paperback pages from the pens of such writers as, James Hadley Chase, Earl Stanley Gardner, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammet, Mickey Spillane, and the one and only, Raymond Chandler. These were hard-boiled thrillers, that Americans called ‘pocketbooks’. Novels that slipped easily into the inside pocket of your jacket to be read on your journey. These were the books and writers who started it all.

What happened to them? What happened to those lean, mean thrillers of yesteryear?

The good news is many are still in print. And most are now available in digital form on the internet. And you can find old copies when you go treasure hunting in used bookstores. Quite a number of them are lying on my bookshelf.

The bad news is, the writers are dead and gone, passed away. Another Raymond Chandler novel will never be written. The torch has been passed. New eras have begun.

Apart from anything else, modern thrillers have put on considerable weight. Like the human race, crime novels are getting obese. Mean they may be, but lean no more. And it’s not just the thrillers. The increasing flab seems endemic across the genres and even infects the ‘literary’, prize seeking, works. It’s especially evident in biographies.

Visit your local bookstore and look at the big, fat fiction books on the shelves. Look at the thickness of the spines, and ask yourself, as I do, what happened to brevity? Well, on the evidence it appears it’s no longer the soul of wit; it’s definitely out of favor. Wordiness is much in vogue.

Why is this? I don’t know. How? Let’s try to find out.

But before going further, let us concede that, as in everything, there are exceptions: Classics such as Middlemarch and War and Peace, immediately spring to mind along with The Brothers Karamazov, Vanity Fair, Time and the River and many other works. And from more contemporary fair, James Jones’ From Here to Eternity, and the wonderful Shogun, James Clavell’s 1100 page masterpiece, the reading of which occupied my summer of 1974. And there are other excellent big novels that without doubt punched every bit of their weight.

So, I did a little checking. I took down some old books, lean mean thrillers all. Ian Fleming’s From Russia, With Love, and Diamonds are Forever, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and The High Window, Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon, and Double Indemnity by James M. Cain. I paced these head to head beside newer works and made comparisons.

Printed in 1974, my copy of Ian Fleming’s From Russia, With Love is 41/2” x 7”. The novel’s word count is 77,865. It’s slim and fits easily in the jacket pocket.

Printed by Amazon in 2017, my own novel, The Sum of Things has a word count of 84,456. But, as Amazon doesn’t print 41/2” x 7” books, it is in 5” x 8” format. It’s longer, wider, and it’s a lot thicker than the Fleming book and won’t fit in your jacket pocket.

Fleming’s novel has 42 lines of text per page and is 208 pages long. My novel has 31 lines of text per page and is 385 pages in length. The font is larger and the space between the lines increased. They’ve increased the white space. They’ve also increased the page thickness. What about the writing?

Thickening the paper, raising the font size and increasing the line spacing will only give you so much. To really bulk up, one needs the writer’s involvement. Writers willing to overwrite and pad out their works, and editors who either don’t care or are more than willing to push authors into doing so.

I then compared the lean prose of the older books with David Balducci’s thrillers, Absolute Power, and Total Control. I must say that I enjoyed both those novels, though I felt at the time they were more than a little overweight. Absolute Power weighs in at 704 pages and 214,720 words. Total Control yields a whopping 720 pages 219,600 words. A sample of nine David Balducci stand-alone novels gives a mean average page length of 564 and a word count of 172,115 words. Big fat books indeed. Overwritten? I’d say so.

Scott Turow is a writer/lawyer of legal thrillers. His novels are notable for their courtroom duels of impressive drama. I enjoyed his first book Presumed Innocent immensely. I also liked his second novel, The Burden of Proof. He’s a fine author who knows his legal stuff and so he writes with skill about what he knows. But he overwrites. For him, I came up with an average of 477 pages and 141,615 words. Though the book was recommended to me, one of the things that put me off reading his novel The Laws of Our Fathers was the sheer size of it; 534 pages and 212,860 words.

It’s worth mentioning that Turow is a strong admirer the British writer, Graham Greene. Turow writes that Greene is the writer he long aspired to be. He feels that Greene’s novel, The Power and The Glory, is a novel he can’t live without. I read this book at school and I also became a Graham Greene fan. The Power and The Glory delivers the goods in 190 pages and 78,445 words. Lean and clean.

Tom Clancy was a well known high-tech windbag who overwrote and even padded out his work. I only read one of his, The Hunt for Red October. I saw the movie first then read the novel and enjoyed both. However, I felt the book at 656 pages and 200.080 words was seriously overblown.

Overwriting is not the province of bad writers. Some of the greatest writers have tended to do it. For many writers it comes with the territory; it’s natural, they can’t help it. It’s a chance to show off. Thomas Wolfe was such writer. The famed editor Maxwell Perkins fought hard with that brilliant and difficult man, and against the odds convinced Wolfe to cut 90,000 words from his epic, Look Homeward Angel, and in so doing, showed the importance of good editing.

Other writers reveal a keener affinity with brevity.

John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, launched his career and is in my view the finest spy thriller ever written. It’s done in 240 pages and 60,900 words.

That chilling and, unforgettable novel, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, delivers the goods in 180 pages and 58,145 words.

The mean average for Raymond Chandler’s seven novels yields 268 pages and 80,580 words.

James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity: 115 pages 35,075 words; a novella.

   Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon: 217 pages 62,205words.

In classic thrillers, Stevenson’s Treasure Island takes just 156 pages and 47, 580 words.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, 140 pages and 53,940 words.

And though not a thriller, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a brilliant fast read at 180 pages and 54,900 words.

But, one may ask, if the overwriting is well done, should we mind? Well, since word inflation and padding run counter to the writer’s golden rule, make every word count, I feel we should mind. And that’s where editors come in. Or should come in.

So what happened to editing?

I recently read a handful of thrillers authored by Lee Child. Child is a heavy hitter, scoring over 70,000,000 sales worldwide. Seeking a new thriller writing experience, I got into him. I have to say I was expecting a new Elmore Leonard or Raymond Chandler. What I got was a shock. I was appalled at the banality of it and the almost total lack of editing. (see my blog, ‘Good Writing, Bad Writing and Market Forces’). Apart from anything else, Child seriously overwrites. He is on record as saying that his publishing house editors are reluctant to show him their notes. “They’re afraid to piss me off,” he said. That should not be the case.

To my mind, publishing house editors have become little more than cyphers today, employees who punch a time-clock, put in a shift and do as they’re told. And as today’s authors use word processors and online editing software, manuscripts should arrive on editor’s desks in a pretty clean state. So, armed with modern computer tools, copy editing seems to be little more than a walk in the park.

The more thorough, substantive or comprehensive editing, seems to be a thing of the past. It’s time-consuming and expensive. It demands greater effort, more involvement. It requires imagination. Publishing houses today possibly feel it’s a luxury they can’t afford. But it’s substantive editing that cuts most of the flab.

The days of Maxwell Perkins are over. He was the editor who discovered and nurtured. F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was under his disciplined guidance that Fitzgerald gave us The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. Through Fitzgerald, Perkins met and worked with Ernest Hemingway and together they made history. Hemingway honored him by dedicating his Nobel Prize-winning novella, The Old Man and the Sea to Max Perkins. Perkins discovered James Jones and that association resulted in the novel, From Here to Eternity, and made Jones rich and famous. Such editors function as a writer’s coach and guide, teammate and even friend. And it has to be every writer’s dream to find such an editor.

But this becomes irrelevant if publishers decide that it’s big thick books they want. They call the shots. Remember this. When you buy a book, you naturally feel it’s the author’s creation; it’s not. It’s a publishing house product. It may be that the author doesn’t like the title. He or she may not like the cover artwork. The same goes for its bulk. The big books are a marketing ploy, editorial considerations are cast aside.

I’ve concluded that the ‘fat book’ syndrome commenced in America. And I find it rather apt that publishers in the land of big servings of fast food should believe, and encourage the public, that bigger is better. I gather they like to see their big shiny hardbacks in the windows and on the display tables of high-end bookshops. I once read that Ian Fleming would have difficulty getting published today on account of his lean, come to the point style. Today he’d be more or less forced to inflate. And so it goes. But do we need these crimes against brevity? Do we need massive doorstoppers? I don’t believe we do.








What is it that drives some novels to the top of the commercial sales charts while other books wallow in poor sales rankings? What makes a blockbuster? Great writing? Maybe not.

A while back I published a blog, Bringing the Curtain Down, in which I speculated on when and why the author of a thriller series should call it a day and wrap it up. In the article, I mentioned that the writer, Lee Child, was about to publish his 22nd Jack Reacher novel, Midnight Line. Well that’s now history and #23, Past Tense, will be available in November 2018; great news for Lee Child, his publisher and for Jack Reacher fans the world over.

After I’d written the piece it occurred to me that I’d never read a Jack Reacher novel. And as Lee Child is an apex novelist, with his Jack Reacher Series a world block-busting top seller, I decided it was time to correct that anomaly and find out what all the fuss was about. I’d join the crowd and read me some Jack Reacher.

I headed into downtown Chiang Mai, to The Lost Book Shop, my favorite bookstore, and picked up five Jack Reacher paperbacks: Killing Floor, The Hard Way, One Shot, Bad Luck And Trouble and Make Me. Second hand, they were cheap but in good condition. Back home, I got into them.

I began with Killing Floor, the first in the series. Written in the 1st person, the story-line was sound and fairly exciting. But, like many of today’s novels, I found it inflated and overweight. My edition weighed in at 525 pages. I believe that good comprehensive editing would have cut it down to 350 or even less and delivered a tighter, far more dynamic book.

Next up was The Hard Way followed by Bad Luck And Trouble. Both were disappointing and, in my view, poorly written and edited and with awful punctuation. Written in the 3rd person, I surprised at the banality of it. I found the narrative staccato, awkward and packed with redundant sentences and way too much description of people and places. So many sentences lack verbs. And for me the abundance of one-word sentences and even one-word paragraphs was painful. If I had submitted this stuff to an agent I would, no doubt, have received an immediate rejection slip. I then read Make Me and felt the same. I had started reading Kill Shot when I picked up a copy of Personal which, like Killing Floor, is written in the 1st person. It was okay and I enjoyed it to an extent. I never went back to Kill Shot. And I stopped reading Lee Child.

Giving it thought, it seems as if the series has been written by two different writers. And in a way that’s true. In the 3rd person novels, Lee Child tells the tale. In the 1st person stories, there are six, Child hands the pen to Jack Reacher. And Reacher delivers the better book.

Writing in the first person allows a writer a free hand, a chance to break loose from many grammar and syntax constraints and speak just as he feels through the medium of his narrator as Mark Twain did with Huckleberry Finn. The language can be crude or elegant. The narrator may be a gentle Dr. Jekyll or a brutal Mr. Hyde. The character of the protagonist is revealed through the narrative tone. And, naturally, Jack Reacher, the loner, the rugged individualistic drifter couldn’t care less about the niceties of English grammar and good prose as he tells his tale. Right?

This freedom, I feel, is one reason many writers choose to write in the 1st person. The 3rd person narrative is a more difficult arena with law and order and rules of engagement to which the omniscient narrator should adhere or face the consequences. Some writers can switch and write well in both. On the evidence, Child isn’t one of them. Lee Child is a free-wheeling writer who has completely rejected the discipline of grammatical rules and guidelines. I believe he should have stayed in the 1st person for the entire series. And that way he could have blamed Jack Reacher for any crude and vulgar anomalies.

The old advice “show, don’t tell” is sound advice. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” (Chekhov). It was at the core of Hemingway’s ‘iceberg theory of omission.’ I believe it also reveals a writer’s respect for his reader. Of course, a good writer utilizes both; he shows and also tells. Lee Child prefers to tell not show. And it shows.

The lack of editing in Lee Child’s novels is chronic. You come across many unedited self-published books on Amazon, where lots of publications are not even self-edited. But Lee Child’s novels come from a publishing house. So why didn’t his publishers set their editors to work and rein him in? Could be that now he’s so established, they leave him be. In an interview, he once commented that his editors are “afraid to piss me off.” Really?

Lee Child seems to be a nice guy. He had setbacks and overcame them. I admire that, and his consequent success has to be applauded. I feel sure I’d enjoy a good chat and a few beers with him. In interviews, he’s open and honest. He’s said he’s not out to seek prizes; his aim is to deliver entertainment; his way. And this he does, and his books sell like freshly baked bread in a famine. But how come? What gives?

A long time ago, ‘back in the day’, I had a sweet Toronto girlfriend. Clare was well read. She loved good books, and her bookshelf revealed a catholic taste in its mix of classics and contemporary writers. She’d read George Eliot’s Middlemarch in college and wrote an essay on it. She admired a host of fine writers and poets. But she loved Harold Robbins.

Robbins was, and is, one of the best-selling writers of all time, he penned over 25 best-sellers, selling over 750 million copies worldwide in 32 languages.

Under pressure from Clare, and to please her, I got into him starting with The Carpetbaggers. I moved on to A Stone for Danny Fisher and on and on. I didn’t read the whole Robbins corpus but more than a few. And yes I enjoyed them though I didn’t rate him too highly as a writer. Just like Lee Child, Robbins wrote as he liked. It seemed he’d never heard of the ‘point of view’ rule, so quite often you didn’t know which character was thinking what.

One day, Clare was lying back on her couch flipping the pages of Robbins’ latest, The Adventurers. I teased her. I told her I thought Robbins wasn’t much of writer; a crappy one, really. I expanded on that and she agreed. “You’re right, Tony,” she said, laughing.

“You agree?” I said, surprised.

“Yes,” she nodded. “I agree.”

“Yet you read him?”

“Yes,” She smiled. “It’s crazy I know. I can’t explain it, but I just can’t out him down.”

Rick Gekowski is a writer, broadcaster, rare book dealer and former Senior Lecturer in English at Warwick University. In 2011 he held the Chair of Judges for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The Guardian newspaper once stated that “Gekowski likes to be around a better class of book than the rest of us.” Impressive, right?

Yet, in an article published in The Guardian, Gekowski came out of the closet and confessed to being a Jack Reacher junkie who can’t wait to get his hands on the latest Lee Child novel and devour it. It’s a bit like discovering that a world-renowned cordon bleu chef secretly sneaks out in disguise to a motorway transport café to nosh down on greasy burgers and fries loaded with red sauce.

In his article, Gekowski admits that, “. . . no one, I imagine, values Child for the quality of his prose. One can hardly find, in the entire corpus of the work, a single sentence worthy of independent admiration.” Yet, like Clare with Robbins, he can’t put Lee Child down.

One critic accused Child of writing ‘dreck’; a tad hard, but true. In my view, Child’s prose is dull, awkward, overwritten and uninspiring. In comparison with Lee Child, Harold Robbins was a disciplined literary genius. For me, as a writer, Child is bloody awful and the Jack Reacher series is bad writing in essence. An English teacher might well use it in class to demonstrate what NOT to do. But does it ever sell! Over 70 million worldwide. Plus all those Amazon downloads. Wow. But how? It sure beats the hell out of me.

Here’s a question I ask myself. Would the Jack Reacher Series be the success it is if it were well-written and thoroughly edited? And the answer? Probably not.

Lee Child is a Brit, English and well educated. He speaks Shakespeare’s tongue. So I must assume his bad writing and lack of respect for English is somewhat deliberate. Quite obviously there exists a vast market out there for this stuff, and Child, with the full compliance of his publisher and their tame editors, is delivering the dreck it wants. And getting rich in the process. It seems his readers not only don’t care, it appears they even love his literary dross. It’s probably another publishing house conspiracy. But for me, it’s another sad reflection on the dumbing-down of Western civilization.

Writing ability was the first to fall. Think of those university graduates who can’t compose a simple job application letter and need to hire professionals to do it. Now it seems the ability to read well is withering away.

So there you have it. Bad writing sells; big time. But I don’t advise going there. It’s a swamp. A Quagmire. Lee Child was lucky; chances are you won’t be. Keep your feet on solid ground and stick with good writing? It also sells though not in such a frenzy as the Jack Reacher stuff. But don’t lose heart. Respect the English language. It’s great, rugged and virile, with a body of literature behind it that has no equal. Use it well and write your best. And make every word count.



Jack Reacher is becoming a small industry. Apart from the movies, with Tom Cruise in the greatest piece of miscasting in cinematic history, there’s now a Jack Reacher online game. And for that morning cuppa, Jack Reacher Custom Coffee is available: ‘Robust. Full Bodied. Battle Tested’ plus a matching coffee mug to drink it from.

Though it may be a well-written prize winner, a one-off book, a stand-alone novel, has little chance of commercial success in today’s reading market. The mass of readers wants recurring heroes, protagonists who return to deliver the goods in more adventures. It’s something a reader can look forward to and feel comfortable with. Series novels are the thing. And looking back, reading of the army of fans who followed Arthur Conan-Doyle and eagerly awaited his latest Sherlock Holmes treat, I feel it’s always been so. Now it’s big time.

Series novels are invariably thrillers in the crime, mystery and espionage genres. Some come about by accident. They begin with a single book, which is then followed by another, perhaps a sequel, and then a third and so it goes on. Others are intended from the beginning. My new novel, ‘The Sum of Things’ recently launched on Amazon’s Kindle, is one of these. It’s the first in what I intend and to be a long and successful series.

While writing my novel, I got to thinking about how long a series should run for? Given that it’s successful, how far should a writer continue producing his series before calling it quits? And what criteria should he/she use to govern the series continuance? Intrigued, I began to examine some recent thriller series novels.

Probably, the most popular thriller series today has to be the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child. Two of the novels: ‘One Shot’ and ‘Never Go Back’ have been turned into successful and money-spinning movies starring Tom Cruise.

Beginning in 1997 with ‘Killing Floor’ this writer has consistently produced a novel a year, for twenty years, many of them gaining awards. His latest, ‘Midnight Line’, #22 in the series, will be released in November. His previous novel ‘Night School’, (#21) has garnered on Amazon 5,464 reviews and counting. I’m impressed. As only a small minority of readers bother to write a review, that gives some indication of the sales numbers Child’s books are enjoying. And sales have to be one of the major indices a writer will use in deciding to continue or not. But in reading some of the Jack Reacher reviews, I can see that cracks are appearing.

Many readers, some die-hard fans of the series, are complaining that the plots are becoming hackneyed and see Child struggling to come up with new situations and fresh story ideas, his style becoming more formulaic and his villains are turning into ‘buffoonish cartoons.’ It seems that Child’s creative well could be running dry. Nevertheless, based on current popularity, I’m sure we’ll see more of Jack Reacher.

Among other works, that fine British writer, Stephen Leather has now published fourteen novels in his Dan ‘Spider’ Shepard thriller series and is still getting good reviews.

Another successful series has been Andy McNab’s Nick Stone Series of thrillers. Book #19 ‘Line of Fire’ is due out in October 2017. But get this: it can be preordered on Amazon Kindle for a whopping US$ 26.78! Wow. How’s that for cheek? Not a hardback mind, an e-book. It would be a long cold day in hell before I would pay 27 bucks for a gift-wrapped, signed hardback edition much less a Kindle e-book. His previous book, ‘Cold Blood’ #18 in the series, carries a price tag of US$ 14.24, still too expensive for a Kindle novel I feel. And the reviews for this series don’t cut it anymore. The 2 and 3-star revues surpass the 4 and 5 stars; not a good sign. It’s time he quit, but I feel Andy will press on. It may be he’s seen the writing on the wall and decided to make as much as he can before it crashes.

An outstanding series of recent years was the Inspector Morse Series by the British writer, Colin Dexter. Made into a television drama with that fine actor, John Thaw, in the role of Morse, it was excellent, well produced and I enjoyed it immensely. And partway through the television series, I turned my attention to the books and enjoyed them even more.

Dexter wrote thirteen Morse novels, beginning with ‘The Last Bus to Woodstock,’ and ending with ‘A Remorseful Day’, in which Morse dies. Yes, he brought his series to a close by killing off his protagonist. Dexter made no apologies or explanation. It was the writer’s decision and his alone and therefore had to be. But his fans were disappointed, myself included.

In making Morse a heavy drinker with poor dietary habits and indifferent to his health, could it be that Dexter was setting his hero up for a finale where he could bring on the fatal heart attack that would end the series whenever he chose to? It does seem that way to me. It is worth recording that he killed Morse in a satisfying way and closed his series on a high note, his last novel receiving splendid reviews. Not for Colin Dexter the disappointing reviews of frustrated fans.

And it was death that ended another great series; the James Bond saga. Not the death of Bond, but that of his creator, Ian Fleming.

When Fleming died beside that English golf course on the 12th of August 1964 at the age of fifty-six, it brought to a close a fascinating series. Not a great writer; he didn’t have to be. But he was good. And though it’s perhaps true that he wrote fantasies for adult children, his prose was lean and spare, and every word counted. His novels were real page-turners, and he was eminently readable.

His last novel, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, unfinished at the time of his death, was cobbled together by his publisher, Jonathan Cape and published eight months later. A poor job that lacked everything we fans expected from a Bond novel, it received poor though respectful reviews. I didn’t enjoy it much. It seems that heavy smoking and lifestyle-induced ill health had taken their toll on the writer. But, unsurprisingly, it was an instant bestseller in both hard and paperback form.

Fleming left behind a corpus of twelve Bond novels and some short story compilations, and so it was over. Or should have been. However, the publishing house, Jonathan Cape refused to accept it, and with the compliance of the author’s estate, they began searching for writers able to write Bond stories in the style of Fleming in what became known as the ‘continuation’ Bond novels.

First off the blocks was Kingsley Amis. Using the pseudonym, Robert Markham, Amis produced the novel, ‘Colonel Sun’.It got mixed reviews and sold well. Bond fan that I was, I didn’t enjoy it. And I don’t read any more of the continuation series which continues to this day. Though a thing apart, the Bond film franchise seems to be unending with a fan base who’ve never heard of Ian Fleming. For me, Ian Fleming’s alter ego, James Bond, died along with his creator that August morning in 1964. R.I.P.

Should a writer ‘age’ his protagonist as a series progresses or should he make him ageless, impervious to time and therefore able to hold the ring forever and a day? I believe in the first option; it’s closer to reality and makes him more credible. And so does Lee Child. Born in 1960, Jack Reacher will turn fifty-seven on the 29th of October. Retirement at sixty? It would seem logical. The clock is ticking.

And if we were to give James Bond the age of thirty-nine when he faced down Le Chiffre at the baccarat table in that casino in Royale in 1952 he would be 104 years old today. He doesn’t look it in the movies though, and the continuation writers also seem to have ignored this reality.

My boy, James Fallon, stepping up and showing his credentials in ‘The Sum of Things,’ is a youthful thirty-five in 2017, so he has lots of things to do, lots of villains to destroy and lots of time to do it in. It’s up to me.

Several factors may determine the time to bring down the curtain on a series.

The advancing age or failing health of the author.

The author’s desire to write other things in other genres (it was Arthur Conan-Doyle’s desire to write more historical fiction that resulted in Sherlock Holmes ‘death’ at Reichenbach Falls).

Increasingly poor reviews telling the author his ability to produce good stories is faltering and on the wane and the series has run its course.

But if the series is highly successful, sells well and brings in much money, an author would be sorely tempted to press on regardless of poor reviews. To close it down would be like killing a Golden Goose.

I have to conclude there can no hard fast rule on this. At the bottom end, you have writers who publish series schlock, written fast and aimed at low-brow readers with the single intent to make money. Such crap should never see the light of day. At the top end, we have a good example in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, going strong for twenty years and twenty-two novels. I hope my James Fallon series takes the same route. And I’ll be more than happy if it’s half as successful.

Lit World Interviews

You get to choose two categories for your book on Amazon, and seven keywords. Your book’s title, sub-title, blurb, categories, and keywords all go towards producing its metadata – the stuff that Amazon’s search engine uses to make your book discoverable to buyers searching for something to buy. That’s the fabulous thing about getting your metadata as useful as you can. People who search Amazon are looking to purchase. They’re not wanting information like when they use Google. In fact, Amazon’s search engine is not the same as Google.

Amazon’s search engine actually has its own moniker – A9. Not a very romantic name, but it is individual nevertheless. Amazon wants to get a specific sale rather than direct searchers to information as Google does. So A9 works a little differently. You may have noticed a sharp zooming up the rankings when you have a couple of sales of your…

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