There won’t be many people who are unfamiliar with the incredible phenomenon that is the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy.
Fifty Shades (E.L.James) is a book that has sold by the million in both e-book and paper versions. E L James has over 818K followers on twitter. Despite the well-publicised criticism that has been levelled at both the content and the author, the books continue to sell well and have proved extremely popular.
So, why do I refer to this as a ‘Grey/Grey’ phenomenon? That is because of the success of a lesser known series of books that follow the adventures of a character called Tom Gray, an ex-soldier who is the central character in a fictional world created by author, Alan McDermott.
The first book penned by McDermott is called Gray Justice. As with Fifty Shades, this book has attracted large numbers of reviews with a very mixed reception from readers, some hating it but many, and the majority, loving it.
Critics of both series of books make similar comments. They do not like the standard of writing, they don’t like the style, they criticise the grammar and the punctuation, even if most enjoy the story.
The potential of McDermott’s writing was recognised by the Amazon publisher, Thomas and Mercer, and since then his books have sold in very large numbers, just as the Fifty Shades books do.
And yet, both series of books come in for the same kind of criticisms. The experienced readers may well ask, how can this happen? How can it be that books that do not mirror the accepted norms of writing are so popular?
I have a theory, not proven, and with little other than anecdotal evidence to support it.
My theory is this. E L James and Alan McDermott have both displayed the kind of original thinking and style that the reading public have been crying out for. In some ways, both writers have shown genius in their skill at creating work that appeals to people looking for books that are exciting, easy to read and give great value. Those readers are not interested in classical works or in writing that appeals to ‘literary experts’ or academics, what they want is entertainment.
Both E L James and Alan McDermott have identified a reader market and written to meet that market and, in many ways, they have done all authors and publishers a huge favour as they have encouraged a lot of people to read books who might otherwise have stuck to other forms of entertainment.
So, when I see a critical review appear for one of these books, I do think to myself that the reviewer is, possibly, not understanding the phenomenon that these works represent.
A new audience and a market trend for other authors to follow suit.
E L James and Alan McDermott, I salute you.
3 thoughts on “The Grey/Gray phenomenon”
Your thoughts have prompted me to download the first Tom Gray novel onto my Kindle. When read, my review will appear…….
Ok, I’ve read Tom Gray book 1. It is a pick up and read book with enough story and action to keep reading. Yes, the characters are shallow, yes the plot is simple. But as predicted, once you start, you have to keep going to find out where the justice will end. Not everyone will like it, but that applies to food and music. Try it and decide, don’t criticise.
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I agree with your post for the most part, and I must admit, the 50 Shades trilogy is my guilty pleasure, but this is because of the fantastic characterisation by James in Christian and Ana, even if her writing is repetitive and a little tacky in places. I wasn’t intrigued by the characters at all in Gray Justice because, while there was every opportunity for McDermott to make Tom Gray a fascinating character, he didn’t take the time to unpack his character; to explore his emotions or consider exactly how he finds himself going to such extremes. I found this incredibly frustrating and such a lost opportunity.
I do agree that there is a place for books that are good, plain easy reading though. For someone who reads a lot, sometimes it’s nice to read something like 50 Shades that entertains and doesn’t require a lot of thought to read. Also, if it encourages more people to read, that can only be good thing.