‘When One Man Dies,’ by Dave White

When One Man Dies

There are times when I read a book that doesn’t grab me, and I just delete it from my Kindle and move on.

And there are times when a book annoys me so much I have to finish it, just so I can give it a bad review.

When One Man Dies, by Dave White, is an example of the second category.

The book has good reviews on Amazon, and was nominated for awards.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

The first, obvious problem is that of paragraphing. As I’m sure you know, it’s the protocol among all writers of English dialogue that when a new speaker talks, you give him a new paragraph.

This book does not do that. One character will speak at the beginning of a paragraph, and the other will reply at the end of the same paragraph, without attribution. This is highly confusing. The reader has to stop frequently to figure out who said what. However, that may not be the author’s fault. It may be the fault of whoever set it up as an ebook. This appears to be a digital reissue of a previously published work.

My big complaint is the lack of character development. Author White doesn’t even describe most of his characters. I read the book through without any idea what the hero, Jackson Donne, looks like. I learned that the primary female character had long hair, but I was never told what color.

But it’s not just physical. Jackson Donne never developed a personality that I could detect. He moped around in a depressed fog, and then occasionally burst into action without discernable motivation.

I didn’t like him. I didn’t like anybody in this book (which, for the record, is set in New Jersey. It centers on the hit-and-run murder of one of Jackson’s drinking buddies. Jackson’s a private investigator and is persuaded to look into it). Almost everybody in the story is either a drug addict, a recovering drug addict, or a drug dealer. I found it hard to root for any of them.

Maybe there are charms here that I missed. But I was not impressed.

Cautions for language, adult themes, and violence.

2 thoughts on “‘When One Man Dies,’ by Dave White”

  1. Paragraphing is important, at least to the extent of providing a little clarity and organization. Personality and motivation for characters are too.

    I can’t say I’ve ever cared what a character looked like unless there was some definite reason to care. And there rarely is.

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy the book. I’ll say for my part that Amazon reviews and awards aren’t very good guides. I do look at reviews but more for descriptive clues than signs and degrees of approval. I’ve learned to follow my own nose relentlessly.

  2. The trick in fiction is not a lot of detail, but the telling, well-chosen detail that illuminates plot and character, and sticks in the mind. Which I didn’t find here.

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