21 August 2009

Another digression: proof that Dan Brown is shite

I love the 'silly season' in the news. Today Oxfam have said that Dan Brown novels are being brought in to their bookshops in greater quantities than any other author.

My title is slightly misleading: this isn't really any proof that Dan Brown is crap at all, partly because he is one of the biggest selling authors of the last decade - so one would expect his books to be hitting the charity shops in huge quantities even if people were only averagely likely to get rid of them.

Brown is also the second most purchased author at Oxfam, so he seems to be quite popular for charity shop browsers. Maybe there is a whole subculture of people that spend their time buying Dan Brown books at Oxfam, reading them and then giving them back to Oxfam again.

None of the statistics alter the fact that Dan Brown is total cack, though. Here is a potted summary of all his plots (they are completely interchangeable):

A brilliant scientist/theologian/singing bus conductor is tortured by the 'bad guy' and reveals a terrible secret just before dying horribly.

Main book
The hero (a thinly disguised rip-off of Indiana Jones) visits the scene of the murder and uncovers the first in a series of clues that will lead him to foil the bad guy's plan to destroy the US Defence Department/ Catholic Church/ Sainsbury plc/Supertramp (delete as applicable). He is aided in this mission by a beautiful female scientist of some exotic (i.e. non-American) heritage.

The denouement where the bad guy gets his comeuppance takes place at some suitably grandstanding location (Sydney Opera House/Stonehenge/Corley Services on the M6).

The hero finally gets to have some sex with said beautiful female scientist (I guess this idea was nicked from James Bond).

And that's it. I read The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and started reading Digital Fortress (couldn't finish it because it was too crap). It's hard to understand why Brown is a best-seller given that his books have essentially no redeeming features beyond the fact you can read one in about 2 hours.

Even the so-called interesting idea from The Da Vinci Code - that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had kids - is stolen from a load of esoteric religious research from the 1970s and 80s.

My wife tells me that The Last Testament by Sam Bourne (a pseudonym for the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland) is a much better effort than anything Brown ever wrote, made all the more amusing by the fact that Freedland isn't really taking this stuff seriously: he's just using it to cross-subsidise much more interesting work, in the same way that George Clooney plays the occasional lame Hollywood blockbuster work to subsidise projects like Good Night & Good Luck. Of course it may be that Dan Brown is a brilliant physicist, comedian or stamp collector who needs the revenue from writing high-selling trash to fund his other activities.

But I doubt it.

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