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If Jack Had
By Steven Rappaport
Black Rose Writing
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
I have a special sympathetic place in my heart for amateur writers who publish through glorified quasi-vanity places like Eraserhead, iAuthor and Black Rose, otherwise normal people out in the private sector who had exactly one story in them that they felt particularly compelled to write down; for while all these presses mentioned are legitimate ones that don't charge authors money to publish with them (the usual definition of a "vanity" press), they nonetheless make their money off the "long tail" theory of content economics, under the assumption that if they can release a million print-on-demand books that each sell one copy apiece, that still makes them millionaires, turning their business model into the same traditional one of actual vanity presses, to publish every single manuscript they can possibly get their hands on and then rely on a well-oiled publicity staff to squeeze out as many Amazon reviews as they can before moving on to book #1,463.
That's how I ended up with a copy of Steven Rappaport's If Jack Had, which serves as a great example of what I'm talking about; the first and only novel from a self-described "former stock trader, former pot dealer, and current real estate salesperson," it's clearly not up to even the minimum standards of literary quality that most professional review organizations would require for a book to even be considered, the kind of cheapie POD paperback with a cheesy Photoshopped cover that your middle-aged "artsy" uncle might give you a copy of over Thanksgiving, just to find yourself praying on Christmas on the car ride over, "Oh God I hope Uncle Steve doesn't ask me what I thought of his book." There's a legitimate place in our society for books like these, and I love that we exist in an age where non-professionals can so easily put out these kinds of titles to sell to their twenty friends and relatives who might actually care; but it's clearly the kind of book that should've never been sent to an industry-focused publication like ours in the first place, and that only was because up to recently we've had an open promise to review each and every book that ever gets sent to us, a policy we're changing this year precisely because of titles like If Jack Had. (Change #1 -- we're no longer accepting books directly from publicists, where 95 percent of these unreviewable titles come from.) Although I'm glad to see Rappaport go to the trouble of writing a book like this, and would give him the same feedback as any well-meaning nephew if I saw him over Christmas ("Great job, Uncle Steve! I can't believe you actually published a book!"), I can't in good conscience say that this novel is worth anyone besides those nephews and office co-workers of his checking it out.
Out of 10: 2.0