Amazon is funny in the way they allow leeway to troll reviewers, and yet are hypervigilant when it comes to blocking any reviews from someone who might be connected to authors. I purposefully use the word connected – if you’ve ever emailed, Tweeted or interacted with an author online, Amazon seems to track this, and this becomes grounds for disqualifying a review and a reviewer. That’s fair, if only Amazon also rooted out the trolls.
They’re easy to spot: they leave multiple reviews on a single day, they’re all 1 star, and all of them have virtually nothing to say about the content.
Although none of these “reviews” make any specific gripes about anything specific, I do want to respond to the grey highlights.
1. “A fondness for conspiracy theories…” If anyone knows my work they know the exact opposite is true. I often say I’m allergic to conspiracies, and tend to avoid them unless they deserve to be debunked. This discussion with Ed Opperman is a good example.
2. “He doesn’t bother with research…” This is one of the most popular criticisms. What malarkey. Each book has hundreds of links to research documents, interviews, videos, photos, news reports,. You’d be hard-pressed to find any true crime writing with more research, sentence by sentence, paragraph for paragraph, page for page, than the Rocket Science books.
3. “He lashes out at his victims…” There is some truth in this. I do interrogate the victims from all perspectives, including the perpetrator’s perspective, but try to maintain a compassionate and sympathetic view. Victims never deserve to die, or suffer, but we can occasional fathom mechanisms and dynamics that lead to criminals acting out in destructive ways. It’s important to understand this aspect to know how or why a situation triggered a particular crime in a particular individual. The notion that this analysis is ever “lashing out” is ludicrous.
A final aspect I want to deal with here is the criticism that I’m not a widely published or prolific photojournalist, and that all my work is self-published.
Before I wrote full-time I worked as a freelance magazine journalist. Over the course of about a decade I published hundreds of articles in over 40 different local and international magazines, and at least a dozen different newspapers. So none of that qualifies as “self-published”. Most of the written work was published “as is” in magazines with virtually no editing and no need for editing. It was this circumstance – a long form magazine article – that led me to publish my first two books. Both books started off as a series of magazine articles.
More here: Nick van der Leek – Biography
In terms of pounding the streets and interviewing people in person, I’ve done that and am in the process of negotiating possibly two books – one with a prosecutor and another with the relative of a victim. So at certain times cases are researched remotely, at other times I do venture into the field. The entire Van Breda axe murder series involved travelling hundreds of miles to attend all the trial days, and staying at some expense in hotels and guest houses.
I do have a publishing contract with a US publisher for one of my books. I’ve found it more practical, effective and efficient to self-publish, because in True Crime, time is of the essence.
If you’ve read any of the Rocket Science books and were moved by them [positively or negatively], please be moved enough to leave a review. More reviews lead to more sales, and more sales lead to more writing, and more books, and more books mean more choice – for you.