WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

A gift that keeps on giving

staff-review
I thought I’d show you the review of Parts Unknown that’s really sustained me for the past fourteen years.

Unlike the print review that made the rounds at the time (a stellar one that ran in the Denver Post and got picked up by five or six other big papers), this one came as a complete surprise. First, it’s the unsolicited opinion of three employees at Books Inc. in San Francisco. I had a hell of a time getting regional bookstores to carry PU, because the big chains and distributors had, in their corporate wisdom, decided not to stock it. That a few independents took a chance on it was a sweet consolation prize. Second, I wouldn’t have known this thing existed if it hadn’t been for a friend who wandered into the store and asked if he could have it to give to me. They cheerfully agreed, so to this day I’ve had it in my office as a reminder that someone out there objectively loved my book and thought I had the chops.

Every now and then, despite setbacks, it’s a good idea to review your victories.

In case you can’t read the text in the photo, it says:

Who the hell is Kevin Brennan, and how did he come up with such an amazingly good first novel? We think this is one of the great novels of Northern California. Powerful!

Ongoing thanks to Sheila, Bob Deloria, and Koyje.

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8 comments on “A gift that keeps on giving

  1. S.K. Nicholls
    March 1, 2017

    Totally rocks! Yeah, I would keep that one framed on my desk. I am always pleasantly surprised to get a glowing review by someone totally unkown to me. Even a five star mark on Goodreads with no review makes my day, cause those folk are tough to please.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 1, 2017

      It’s always appreciated, for sure. They have no idea what it means to us, do they? 😉

  2. John W. Howell
    March 1, 2017

    Nice, Kevin. This is really special coming from employees of a bookstore. Great keepsake.

  3. Audrey Driscoll
    March 1, 2017

    An antidote to that creeping “My books are crap and I’m self-deluded when I think I’m a good writer” feeling that comes around occasionally. (But you must be past that stage by now).

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 2, 2017

      Yes, self-doubt is probably the first hurdle writers have to jump over. Things like this really help!

  4. kingmidget
    March 1, 2017

    Kevin … I’m not sure which of your books was my first read of you. But I know that after reading whatever book that was, I wanted to read more and after reading your blog a bit and seeing you had other books out there, I went out and got Parts Unknown from Amazon. I read that book and was baffled by the idea that you had not found success and audience. I’ve only read one of his books, but to me Parts Unknown compared favorably to the kind of sweeping western epic that Wallace Stegner became known for. At least that’s how I viewed it. It was an incredible work. It’s a shame you ran into the obstacles you did. I really don’t get it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 2, 2017

      Thanks so much for this, Mark. It means a lot. And a comparison to Stegner? You put me on Cloud 9!

      As for how things went the way they did, my theory is that the sales force wasn’t behind the book after lukewarm Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. They bailed, and that meant the big chains wouldn’t be carrying it. Alas.

      • kingmidget
        March 2, 2017

        It’s very frustrating how much power those reviewers have. And as for my comment, I just want to make sure you know that I wasn’t just making that up. It really was how I felt about the story as I read it that first time. You hit upon a magical thing with Parts Unknown. It’s a shame it didn’t lead to something bigger for you. It just proves the crap shoot nature of writing and publishing.

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2017 by in Writing and tagged , .
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