I was more than a little taken aback last week when no fewer than four readers – one of whom actually works here at the newspaper – accused me of making up “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks.
This what we in the news media refer to as “an alarming trend.” If we hear from four readers who have come to an erroneous conclusion, there are probably 11,000 other readers out there who may have come to the same conclusion but haven’t said anything yet.
To set the record straight, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” as reviewed here on Jan. 18, is a real book. It was really written by Max Brooks who, to the best of my knowledge, is a real person who writes books, although I suppose “Max Brooks” may be a pen name.
C’mon, people, I couldn’t make this stuff up.
There’s weird and then there’s weird. And Max is way out of my weirdness league, although I wholeheartedly agree with him that the venerable .30 M-1 carbine is a good choice for stopping zombies at close quarters as well as from a distance (if you’re an above-average marksman).
Besides, making up a book – about zombie eradication, no less – and then making up an author and then reviewing the whole imaginary mess is a lot more work than simply reviewing a zombie eradication manual that’s already been written by someone else who really exists.
Sad as it may seem, this isn’t the first time readers have questioned the existence of a book reviewed in this column.
Admittedly, the books usually reviewed here are not your average New York Times best sellers or selections from Oprah’s Book Club. Ninety-five percent of the books you read about here are supermarket paperbacks and what makes them great supermarket paperbacks is that they’re rarely, if ever, found on a national bestseller list. They will, however, be packed with vampire detectives, singing werewolves, undead space aliens and have really cool titles like “Coffin’s Got the Dead Guy Inside.”
(The latter title, I should point out, is based on the old underworld joke “What’s the difference between a coffin and a cello?” And, yes, it’s a real book by a real guy named Keith Snyder…).
Supermarket paperbacks and the like may be a little weird, but a tendency toward weirdness doesn’t mean I made them up here at my dimly lit, coffee-stained desk. Horned toads and Republicans are both demonstrably weird, but I deny having created either.
One irate reader once telephoned to accuse me of making up the Strait of Juan de Fuca to further “some kind of disgusting juvenile humor” in a book review about a sinister Seattle steakhouse murder mystery.
Sorry. I didn’t make up the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As much as I’d like to take credit for it, the aforementioned strait is named after a historical figure named, curiously enough, Juan de Fuca. It runs along the northern coast of Washington. Really.
Persons having difficulty discerning the veracity of this column should, perhaps, take the advice of former newspaperwoman extraordinaire Cynthia Roberts:
“The weirder it is, the more likely it’s true.” I rest my case, amigos…
Originally published January 15, 2004