My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first novel from John Yeoman. I do wonder, however, just what category it should go into? On the one hand, it is an historical murder mystery; on the other it is a textbook for writing students on how to write a novel.
As the former, it makes a cracking yarn. A plethora of bodies and even more lively and interesting characters, Yeoman writes with clarity yet peculiar eccentricity which makes every page a delight to read. As the latter, Yeoman shows his skill as an excellent teacher and his bullet-points provide wonderful tips on constructing a novel.
However, I don’t think this book quite lives up to its writer’s claims of teaching you how to write a novel. It assumes a great deal about the person reading the book which I don’t think is true. Yeoman’s tips are finesses to a novel, not a step-by-step method for writing. They won’t take someone who hasn’t a clue how to construct a story and turn them into a creditable craftsman by the time they reach the end of the book – let alone a prize-winning author.
I think the best way to describe John’s book then is to call it ‘armchair reading for the novelist’. This is a book that the busy writer can justify spending time reading for fun because it will also remind him or her of important nuggets which will improve any novel or longer short story. Just how many prospective readers the book will garner however, I don’t know. In some ways, I wonder if it might have been better to bring it out in two formats: one for general readers without the tips; the other for writers with, perhaps, an additional chapter giving a treatise one constructing a novel.
Nevertheless, for someone like me, the book was a joy to read. I was gripped from beginning to end and came away with ideas with which to improve my own writing.