--an inscription at the base of the outcropping on which the mummified body of Tommy Campbell was standing. It read simply: FOR DR. HILDEBRANT."
The Sculptor - by Gregory Funaro (2009)
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I can't rave about this novel, nor can I thoroughly condemn it. I've read several polar opposite reviews on this work and I find my personal opinion of it mixed somewhere in the Vegemite that sits between two pieces of stale bread.
This novel starts out with Cathy Hildebrant's mentor, Janet Polk, telephoning her that a FBI agent from the Behavioral Analysis Unit is looking for her in relation to the disappearance of a well known football player because she is an expert in the field of Renaissance art. I found the premise interesting, although I found the prose difficult to read. There was a lot of unnecessary narrative and Cathy's character (part Asian/part German) did not come across as very real to me. I felt more like an outsider 'seeing' Cathy, than a reader 'being' Cathy on a protagonist journey.
The actions and the lifestyle of the Sculptor was what I found most interesting in the book. This was a man who was independently wealthy, a nurse who cared for his disabled father at home and who practiced his grisly art in a space near his home on a mortician's table. Chapter 7 was one of the most engaging chapters because the author really gives the reader a look inside the head of the killer. And that is what I think is the most interesting thing about serial killers and psychopaths. It's not the crimes they commit. It's how they think. It's examining the clockwork and wondering if, even in the darkest places of my own mind, if I could ever do something so sinister. So unfathomably vile.
There are things in this novel that every 'learned' writer (this decade) knows not to do. For example, the reader gets a picture of what Cathy looks like because she looks in her bathroom mirror. Any writer who has grown up in a solid MFA writing program knows that this is considered a "no-no." It announces to the writing community that this is the work of 'novice.' In addition, there are several passages littered with passive voice. The "had been's" become distracting to read over time. And there were liberal use of adverbs and some obvious tense problems on different pages. As a reader, I had problems with visualizing exactly how in the world a killer would be able to put a statue together ,such as Michelangelo's Bacchus, by himself, to include constructing a satyr with the top half of a human boy and the bottom half of a goat.
And then there were cliche's that writers know to steer clear of. Although cliche's are sometimes hard to avoid, one cliche' I never really understood is "being caught dead." How a person minds "being caught dead" anywhere, is beyond my comprehension. I mean, you're dead right? So why would you care? And if you are dead, then how are you really "caught?" It's not like you're running to get anywhere. To this day I have no idea how that phrase ever came into being, but I'm always surprised when someone uses it. I blame the content editor of a novel when a sentence like that is allowed to own a space on a published page.
(example: "Cathy could not deny that she had been a nerd all her life—never had a taste for sports; would much rather have listened to a lecture on Donatello than be caught dead at a football game in college."~ Funaro, G. (2009) The Sculptor (p. 10). Kensington Publishing Corp. Kindle Edition.
"Show, don't tell." It's a writer's mantra. Yet chapter three provided way too much information on "The Sculptor" from the antagonist's point of view. The details about him could have deliciously leaked out of each page bit by bit. And there's the overuse of The Sculptor's chosen name. Each paragraph used it over and over, and it was unnecessary. This trait continued throughout the novel, and much could have been cut from it (40 or 50 pages) to make a faster paced and more interesting read.
All in all, I find myself wondering who Funaro had as a content editor for this piece of work. Kensington Publishing is a mass market publisher and descriptions of it state that it publishes over 600 titles a year to include romance and women's fiction. That's enough information to make me think this novel may have been the victim of a publisher that agreed to print it while paying little attention to the work. And perhaps the writer really needed the sale and did what he had to do to get it on the shelves.
I do believe that this was Gregory Funaro's first published novel, and if so then I feel a greater understanding about this work. He now has a second novel available titled "The Impaler," and I wonder if his work has improved and/or if he had a better content editor on that piece. I'm not sure if I'll give "The Impaler" a chance, but I may.
After all of the varying reviews of "The Sculptor," I find myself wondering if fellow writers will be as considerate with me when my first novel hits the press. Will they look at the work I've put into it and realize that the market is literally flooded with other writers who accept next to nothing for their work? Will they value the fact that I worked hard to produce a story, or that I needed to sell it? These are questions which don't have answers. I'll only know once I read reviews of my work on peer blogs, or on Goodreads. One thing is for sure. I'll have several eyes on my work before it's published, and many critique partners and editors will provide feedback and necessary surgery to the pages before I let it loose on the world.
Chin up, Funaro. Keep on writing. And consider getting another editor and publisher. You deserve better.
Note: One last thing I found interesting in my background research was that there was a novel titled "The Sculptress" (1993) written by Minette Walters. It has a very similar approach to "The Sculptor." The prose of "The Sculptress" is decidedly more developed but I couldn't help but wonder if it was the inspiration for this novel. As an added mention, Minette Walters won an Edgar Award for her novel in 1994.
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