Lately in online discussion groups I’ve been coming across the attitude that only the story counts, that a few errors more or less in a book make no difference. Perhaps. I’ve been told that there are three errors in Daughter Am I, three in More Deaths Than One, and one in A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Of those seven errors, two were the replacement of the letter el with the number one and one was the replacement of the number one with the letter el, so I don’t really count those, though apparently others do. Someday, perhaps, I will get them corrected. But that’s not the point of this little discussion. The point is that although errors are hard to eradicate completely, some errors do count.
I was reading a thriller the other day, one of those convoluted stories with a dozen endings as if the author couldn’t figure out which ending he wanted to use. There were three crimes, all dealing with the same group of people yet none of the crimes were related. One of the crimes was a kidnapping, and though I know who did the kidnapping, the story was so complicated I still don’t know who instigated it. Despite all the flaws of the book, the one thing that took me out of the story was a typo. The author tried to set the scene using smells — the aroma of an expensive cigar, the smell of leather chairs, the scent of Channel Number 5 lingering in the air.
Channel No. 5? Makes me wonder that smells like. The English Channel? Salty, perhaps a bit fishy, perhaps a tinge of pollution? Maybe it’s a clean scent — after all, what do I know about the English Channel. Or perhaps it’s the smell of a television channel, though I’m not sure what that would smell like. Or perhaps it’s the smell of a gutter or a conduit. Not quite the feeling he wanted to portray! And if I hadn’t been so taken with the idea of Channel Number 5, I might have learned who the kidnapper was.