I'm glad my post about reviews on Wednesday attracted quite a lot of interest. As a reviewer, as well as a writer, I'm all too well aware of the sensitivities of the subject - and its importance to those concerned.
I thought I'd tell you the story of my first bad review, back in 1991. Of course, I was excited by the appearance of my first book, All the Lonely People. It featured a Liverpool lawyer, Harry Devlin, and was the first in a series of (so far!) eight books.
The early reviews were great. Then I read one in a magazine for law students. It began well, by immediately comparing my book to Raymond Chandler. I was pleased, though surprised, as it really bore no resemblance to the work of the great private eye writer.
Then, as I read on, it emerged that the reviewer really didn't like Raymond Chandler. Nor did she like poor old Harry. And she didn't like my book, either. Indeed, she went on to make it clear she didn't have any time for crime fiction in any shape or form.
I remain unclear as to why she bothered to write the review, but I do know the magazine soon became defunct and of course I really didn't mourn it! Anyway, my book was later shortlisted for the award for best crime debut of the year. So perhaps, whatever its faults, it wasn't too terrible after all.
But the incident has stayed with me as an encouraging example of why one shouldn't get too despondent about reviews, however unkind or indeed unfair. And there is one golden rule, I think, for authors. It's a mistake to argue with reviewers who don't like your book. You have to chalk it up to experience. Not a happy experience, sure, and like any other writer, I love having my books positively reviewed. But there are much worse things in life than bad reviews. Besides, just occasionally, a bad review says more about the reviewer than about the book.