Got a dollar? Then you’ve got enough to enjoy a digital short by Marcia Clark, featuring Los Angeles DA Rachel Knight and her pals in the Caribbean. Should be a fun time, right? And it is…until they’re pulled into a high-profile search for a missing child.
- Nab the eBook of Guilt by Association (Book 1) for $2.99 at the following retailers: iBookstore | Kindle | Kobo | Nook | Sony
- Pre-order Killer Ambition (Book 3) in any format from your retailer of choice.
- Email your receipt to us and receive a free paperback of Guilt by Degrees (Book 2). See here for details—US only.
A recent, controversial New York Times article by Stanley Fish uses the results of a 2011 psychological study to argue readers and viewers experience no negative effects from knowing the ending of a story in advance. We asked a few of our friends what they thought–check back regularly today for their responses.
Mr. Fish doesn’t think he owes us any warning when his reviews include spoilers. I think we all deserve a warning about Mr. Fish’s reviews, not to mention his misguided opinion – and definition – of spoilers.
He starts by stating that spoilers don’t really spoil anything. But the example he gives to support that notion – that the pleasures of a first read are only different, but no better than the enjoyment one gets from a second read – has nothing at all to do with spoilers. He states: “First-time readers or viewers, because they don’t know what’s going to happen, have access to the pleasures of suspense — going down the wrong path, guessing at the identity of the killer, wondering about the fate of the hero. Repeaters who do know what is going to happen cannot experience those pleasures, but they can recognize significances they missed the first time around, see ironies that emerge only in hindsight and savor the skill with which a plot is constructed. If suspense is taken away by certainty, certainty offers other compensations, and those compensations, rather than being undermined by a spoiler, require one.”
Certainly, readers can derive different kinds of pleasure from the first to the second read of a story. The first read gives us a chance to experience the thrill of the unknown; the second gives us a chance to more closely observe the craft of the writer since we now know the outcome. But what the hell does that have to do with spoilers? A first reading of a book is not a “spoiler.” A spoiler is a giveaway of the twist without the benefit of having the chance to read the whole story. It’s what some critics – one of whom is apparently Mr. Fish – might do in a review. When a review gives away a key plot twist, the reader has no chance to enjoy the suspense of the unknown, i.e. “is Mr. X the murderer? Or is it Ms. Y?” and “will the murderer get caught?” or “will our hero survive?” Thus, the term “spoiler” is apt, because it spoils the suspenseful aspect of the reader’s experience. But when the reader learns the plot twist by actually reading the whole story, that is not a “spoiler.” In that case the reader has been able to enjoy the full experience of following the story without knowing the outcome, of trying to guess who did it, whether the bad guy gets caught, etc. Now if the reader decides to go back for a second viewing in order to observe the story from a different vantage point, for example, to see how the writer built to the conclusion, why the “solve” did or didn’t work, that’s a voluntary choice and a whole different matter. The problem with “spoilers,” is that we readers don’t get to make that choice. The review that includes spoilers makes it for us.
Now, are there some people who prefer reading “spoilers” before they read the book? I’m sure there are. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people don’t want to know the ending – and as Mr. Fish notes, in fact get irate when someone even inadvertently gives it away. It’s why I always ask, before discussing a book or movie, “have you read/seen this?” Almost invariably, if the answer is “no,” it’s followed up with “so please don’t tell me the ending.”
Mr. Fish also attempts to support his premise that spoilers don’t matter with the example of the people who watch the footage of the space shuttle, Challenger,” pointing out that, even though they know what will happen, they nevertheless root for the shuttle not to explode. But just like his first-read, second-read example, the logic doesn’t hold. The Challenger example doesn’t prove that people prefer to know how a story ends. It just proves that people – particularly in the case of a true event that ends in tragedy – can still long for a different outcome. Again, nothing to do with spoilers.
Not surprisingly, this fallacious reasoning leads to an equally fallacious conclusion: that if spoilers ruin the entire story, the work had little merit to begin with. That if all the story had to offer was the twist, then a spoiler doesn’t matter because it wasn’t worth your time anyway. Mr. Fish therefore reasons that he shouldn’t have to give a warning when his reviews contain spoilers. If the book is good enough, spoilers won’t ruin the experience.
This is an overstatement and it entirely misses the point. A spoiler doesn’t need to ruin the entire experience to have a deleterious effect. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a spoiler seldom ruins the entire reading experience. But for many of us, it does diminish the experience, and that’s bad enough. If a critic feels the need to include a spoiler in a review, then so be it. All I ask as a reader is to at least give me fair warning so I can choose. And by the way, the fact that a spoiler diminishes my enjoyment of a book certainly doesn’t mean the work was flawed or unworthy of my time. It just means that I’ve been robbed of one of the pleasures the author intended to deliver, and that I hoped to experience.
So here’s my conclusion about reviews without spoiler alerts: I look to reviews to tell me whether a book is well written, whether a story is well delivered, whether characters are well drawn. What I don’t want from critics is a review that prevents me from having a choice as to how I experience a story once I’ve decided to read it. No critic has the right to decide whether spoilers impact my experience – or dismiss any negative impact as evidence that a book is unworthy of my time. So critics, go ahead and tell me what you think of the writing. Then get out of my way.
Marcia Clark is a former prosecutor for the State of California, County of Los Angeles, in the O.J. Simpson murder case. She has written a bestselling nonfiction book, Without a Doubt, about the case, and is a frequent media commentator on legal issues. Now a Special Correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, Clark provides coverage of high profile trials and contributes a column for The Daily Beast.
GUILT BY DEGREES, the second thriller by Clark to feature DA Rachel Knight, is now available in bookstores everywhere.
Marcia Clark’s second Rachel Knight thriller GUILT BY DEGREES is in bookstores now–and the reviewers love it! John Valeri of The Examiner raves about how the novel “takes the strongest elements from an already assured debut and melded them into near perfection,” while Kirkus proclaims that Knight “transmutes the dull and ordinary into the bright stuff of legends…serious fun.” CNN champions its “fast-paced story” that “crackles with authenticity,” and the Financial Times called Clark’s newest a “blade-sharp read.”
Joe R. Lansdale’s EDGE OF DARK WATER continues to earn rave reviews online, most recently from White Cat Publications, The Mystery Reader, and Serial Distractions. Kirkus also chimed in, calling the novel “a highly entertaining tour de force.” Even the self-proclaimed World’s Toughest Book Critics can’t resist this one!
In other news, Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS film had the biggest opening weekend, ever, by a longshot. Which already has industry blogs like Cinema Blend and LA Times’ 24 Frames pondering just what went so drastically right for the franchise. Two words: HULK…SMASH!
We’d shared this last week, but in case you missed it the first time around, Nick Santora’s video of the opening scene of FIFTEEN DIGITS is leagues better than most book trailers and well worth your time…
Tomorrow marks the publication date of Marcia Clark’s second Rachel Knight novel GUILT BY DEGREES. Celebrate with a tour of Rachel Knight’s Los Angeles as depicted in the novel that CNN recently proclaimed a “a fast-paced story” that “crackles with authenticity,” and the Financial Times called a “blade-sharp read.”
The Biltmore: Rachel Knight’s home: “A grand historical landmark in the heart of downtown L.A. I’d been lucky enough to score a sweet deal as a long-term resident after getting a sentence of life without parole for the murderer of the CEO’s wife. Recently, the CEO had upgraded me to a suite with two bedrooms, claiming it wasn’t getting much use anyway. I’d been a little reluctant to be on the receiving end of even more of his generosity. But when he continued to insist, I caved in. It did make sense that my old room, being smaller and more affordable, was easier to book.”
The Tar Pit: “The cozy, art deco–style restaurant and bar on La Brea had great food and amazing drinks. Though I was kind of a purist when it came to booze, anyone who was even slightly more adventurous raved about their cocktails, like the Fashionista and the Warsaw Mule.”
Guido’s : “Strings of white lights hung from windows facing the small inlet of water next to the restaurant, giving it a festive holiday feel. At six o’clock the dining room wasn’t yet busy, but the small, intimate bar near the entrance was packed with regulars, some talking, some watching the basketball game on the television that hung from the ceiling. The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial, and the manager greeted us like we were his favorite cousins.”
Les Sisters: “Famous among those in the know for serving up some of the best Southern-style cooking this side of the Mason-Dixon Line, it would fit the bill for us in more ways than one. Aside from the killer food, the prices were reasonable, the people were great, and it was way off the beaten path, so we wouldn’t risk being seen together, which would’ve been bad for the shot-caller of a gang and not so great for a prosecutor either.”
Griffith Park: Griffith Park is a beautiful place, miles of green and home to the famous observatory as well as the Greek Theater. But what most don’t know is that it’s also a notorious body dump – as some unsuspecting hikers have had the misfortune to discover.
Rivera: ”Toni told us we owed her dinner—why, she didn’t say. But we’d been meaning to check out Rivera, a Nueva Mexicana restaurant downtown that was supposed to be the bomb, so I got us reservations. Whatever Toni thought we owed her, I figured that would settle the score.”
The Courthouse: Rachel’s home away from home: the Criminal Courts Building – now known as the Clara Shortridge Folz Justice Center. Her office is on the 18th floor, giving her a great view of downtown LA.
Marcia Clark is a former LA, California deputy district attorney, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case. She wrote a bestselling nonfiction book about the trial, Without a Doubt, the national bestselling thriller GUILT BY ASSOCIATION introducing DA Rachel Knight, and is a frequent media commentator and columnist on legal issues. She lives in Los Angeles.
Damp, salty ocean air is hell on everything. Especially evidence. If we hadn’t lucked out and found the car so fast, we’d never have had a shot at getting DNA results out of that little drop of blood on the passenger seat of the SUV. But a young surfer looking for a new break near Point Mugu had spotted the vehicle and decided to call the police; the sight of the abandoned car had given him a “bad feeling.” I found out what he meant when I went out to the scene. And I got that same bad feeling every time I looked at the photograph that’d been taken that night—something I’d done often and was in fact doing right now.
The white SUV glowed in the moonlight, a ghostly beacon on an outcropping above a rocky stretch of beach north of Point Mugu. The “soccer mom” vehicle wouldn’t have merited a second look had it been in the parking lot of any shopping mall in the San Fernando Valley. But there, in the limitless darkness of a remote overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway, it was an ominous misfit. A car like that did not wind up in a place like this. Not overnight. And not in the dead of winter.
I couldn’t help being transfixed by the sight of that Ford Explorer, iridescent and isolated, in the endless black maw of ocean and night sky. Chilling, eerie, the photo emanated a sense of menace, a prelude to a violent demise.
At least I hoped it did. I planned to use that photograph—now enlarged to poster size—in my opening statement. I figured it would help me hit the ground running with the jury. Get their minds in the right place. I’m Rachel Knight, and I’m a deputy district attorney assigned to the Special Trials Unit—a small group of prosecutors that handles the most high-profile, complex cases in Los Angeles. Unlike most deputies, we get our cases the day the body is found and work alongside the detectives throughout the investigation. And the detective I’ve been working with almost exclusively for the past few years, who also happens to be my best friend, is Bailey Keller, one of the few women to gain entrée into the elite Robbery-Homicide Division of the LAPD.
The white SUV had belonged to Melissa Gibbons-Hildegarde, the only daughter born to Bennie and Nancy Gibbons, who combined old family money (hers) and a real estate empire (his) to wind up one of the most wealthy, influential couples in Los Angeles. Which, of course, meant that Melissa stood to inherit a very sizable fortune upon their demise. They may as well have painted a bull’s-eye on her back. The arrow that found that target came in the form of Saul Hildegarde, a charismatic community activist whose passion for welfare reform inspired Melissa to abandon her jet-set lifestyle and devote herself to higher pursuits. Unfortunately, it was only after they’d married that Melissa realized the welfare Saul was most passionate about was his own. But while Saul discovered a taste for the easy life of tennis, clubs, and parties, Melissa discovered a burning desire to help the impoverished, and so she dedicated herself to the support and founding of charities around the world. Especially those devoted to the welfare of children. And it wasn’t enough for her to just send money. Melissa took the hands-on approach and accompanied her checkbook around the world, helping to build huts in Somalia and set up clinics in Nigeria. She’d even spoken of adopting some of the children she’d helped during her travels. Her friends were uniformly stunned at Melissa’s transformation. It seemed as though she’d gone from party girl to Mother Teresa virtually overnight. But Melissa didn’t see much of her friends anymore; her charity work kept her plenty busy—likely too busy to ask for a divorce. Right up until the day she’d come home early from a trip to Botswana to find Saul in flagrante with a young coed who’d apparently volunteered to work on a more personal style of welfare reform. Melissa had announced her intention to get a divorce that same night.
Three weeks later, Saul reported her missing. And when her SUV had been found abandoned on a lonely stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, the contents of her purse strewn across the passenger seat and the glove compartment rifled, it was initially believed that Melissa had been the victim of a robbery-murder, and that her body had been dumped in the ocean.