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Last week a number of bloggers were commiserating with George Pelecanos after a New York Times article revealed that despite critical acclaim, his recent books had only sold between 17,000 and 21,000 copies. Grumpy Old Bookman, Michael Allen, took a different view:

'Mr. Pelecanos, 49,' says the NYT (and doncha just love that 'Mr'? Respect, eh?), 'is part of a fraternity of writers, including Dennis Lehane and Richard Price, who push the boundaries of crime writing into literary territory, exploring character more deeply than many crime novelists dare, introducing challenging social themes and bucking expectations that everything will come out all right in the end.'

Which is a load of crap, for a start. Anyone who thinks that there is anything praiseworthy about a crime writer who pushes into literary territory has a few screws loose. Crime writing belongs out in the mean streets, and should be printed on pulp.

Furthermore, the NYT is puzzled that 'critical acclaim has failed to translate into the kind of sales that Mr. Pelecanos's publisher, Little, Brown, believes he deserves.' As if critical acclaim was ever worth a pitcher of warm spit. I don't think Mickey Spillane ever got any critical acclaim. 'If the public likes you,' said Spillane, 'you're good.'

Although I agree on general principles I admit to having never read Mr Pelecanos. His books don't sound like my cup of tea.

But I am rather disappointed that the GOB didn't address the one part of the story that leapt out at me. Mr Pelecanos has signed a $1.5 million dollar three book deal.

I'm not sure I can summon up much sympathy for an author who is being handed $1.5 million but has never sold more than 21,000 books. While I realize there are paperbacks and foreign rights and other considerations, those numbers still don't seem to add up.

Presumably the publisher intends to sell enough of the new books to justify the contract. I think Mr Pelecanos ought to be thanking his lucky stars rather than bemoaning his lack of recognition. Most of us -- authors and everyone else who works -- are only paid after we've earned it.

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