December 8, 2001
BOB GARFIELD: Speaking of cooking the books, meet Kent Braithwaite. He's the author of The Wonderland Murders, a crime yard featuring private detective Jesse Ascencio, the genre's only former-FBI agent, former U.S. Congressman gumshoe and published poet. The reviews on The Wonderland Murders were, shall we say, mixed. That's a big ironic, because Braithwaite himself is the author of nearly 400 literary reviews, every last one of them 5 stars. He is arguably, in fact, the most prolifically generous critic ever born, thanks to the Amazon.com website where anybody may file a comment on anybody book at any time. Kent Braithwaite, welcome to On the Media.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Thank you, Bob. I'm happy to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: The-- Your novels -- tell me what they are.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: I'm a mystery, I'm a mystery writer. My debut novel, The Wonderland Murders, has been out about a year and a half since last March. I took a break, and to stay in practice I did quite a few reviews this past summer as opposed to touring.
BOB GARFIELD:Well you're quite catholic in your tastes, and if you go into Amazon.com-- [LAUGHTER] you'll see that Kent Braithwaite has reviewed Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Re-Shaping the World. He's reviewed How I Play Golf by Tiger Woods, Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell -- just a whole variety of literature, and may I say you're a most positive reviewer! Verging on the fulsome! Lots and lots of 5 stars out of 5. You really like this stuff!
KENT BRAITHWAITE: I would day that anything that I am not going to be giving a 5-star to I will not write about.
BOB GARFIELD: Why?
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Because life is-- too difficult for too many people and I don't feel that I should ever contribute to anybody's burden.
BOB GARFIELD: I've also noticed another pattern that emerges when I read your reviews.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Mm-hm?
BOB GARFIELD: Many of them begin with an introductory clause, such as the review of Jihad vs. McWorld -- begins with: I'm a novelist with my debut work in initial release. Mistletoe Man begins: As a mystery writer with my debut novel in its initial release; in The Isle of Dogs: As a mystery author with my debut novel in its initial release. Kent is there a kind of marketing component to your reviews on Amazon.com?
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Initially there was-- not. Initially the comments were intended merely to indicate some familiarity with writing and books in general. And then I noticed that there was a slight jump, and I realized that it - it did have a marketing potential.
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah. One more question. When did Wonderland Murders come out?
KENT BRAITHWAITE: It was March of-- 2000 is the official publication date.
BOB GARFIELD:Cause on November 19th, 1999 there was a review on Amazon.com from an anonymous reader -- 5 stars out of 5 for Wonderland Murders. "Absolutely Wonder-ful," it says. "One of the greatest books I've read. I couldn't put it down. The action and suspense kept me reading it all night through the end. I can definitely see it as a movie." Kent?
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Yeah?
BOB GARFIELD: I kind of guessed it was you.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Not a chance.
BOB GARFIELD: Your agent.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: I have n-- I, I suspect it was a-- I suspect it was this, this woman who approached me - it was at Costa Mesa Barnes & Noble.
BOB GARFIELD: Well I wish you luck with The Wonderland Mysteries and your next effort and thank you very much for joining us.
KENT BRAITHWAITE: Okay! Okay. Thank you very much.
BOB GARFIELD:Kent Braithwaite is a novelist and prolific reviewer on the Amazon.com site. He joins us from his home in Palm Desert, California.