Tuesday, January 15, 2013


AUTHOR: Marc Shapiro
Pages: 176
Date: 14/01/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: Non Fiction
              Received from Riverdale Avenue Books
              Through NetGalley

“You know erotica has truly arrived when you can buy Fifty Shades of grey and creamed corn in the same place.”

I am not entirely sure what to say about the content of this book, so I will start with a copy of the blurb:

“Discover the secrets behind the Red Room of Pain. The intricacies of making love in the backseat of an expensive sports car. The rough and tumble process of editing Fifty Shades of Grey. Find out where the name E.L. James really comes from. And finally the step by step process by which this middle-aged British mother of two came up with the international best-selling erotic romance series that has sold more copies than Harry Potter.
NY Times best-selling biographer Marc Shapiro uncovers the inspiration and secrets behind this writing sensation, explaining how she did it with exclusive interviews with her editors and early fans. Marc Shapiro is the NY Times best-selling author of J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter, Justin Bieber: The Fever! and many other best-selling celebrity biographies. He has been a free-lance entertainment journalist for more than twenty-five years, covering film, television, and music for a number of national and international newspapers and magazines.”

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Except that it wasn’t, not really. To be honest, I do understand that it can’t be easy to write an un-authorized biography these days. With all sorts of information about virtually everybody freely available on the internet and the books' subject not participating in the work, it must be all but impossible to come up with information that isn’t already widely available in the public arena. And writing a book about a phenomenon like E.L. James and her trilogy only makes that problem bigger. The lady and her books have been written and talked about by anybody and everybody; from professional reviewers and journalists to fellow authors and enthusiastic amateurs like me. So my first observation about this book is that it didn’t contain anything that was new or surprising to me and it would astonish me if anybody else interested in this author were to find anything they didn’t already know in this book.

My second observation is that the blurb makes this book sound a bit more exciting than it actually is. For example, if you’re hoping to discover something tittalating about that “red room of pain” you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Yes, the room gets mentioned, but not in the way you might imagine or hope.

And then there are the mistakes. I came across two bits of information that I know for sure were wrong. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books are a quartet and not a trilogy as stated in this work. And “Need” by Sherri Hayes is not her second book, although it is the second title in her wonderful “Finding Anna” series. The worry of course is that if I can pick up on two mistakes this easily, there could well be a lot more misinformation here that I haven’t picked up on. I don’t know and am willing to give Mr. Shapiro the benefit of the doubt but I would say: reader beware.

And finally I want to point out one inconsistency that annoyed me. In the first part of the book, when Marc Shapiro writes about the days when James first started writing her story, he states that she wrote for her personal pleasure with no thoughts of getting published, never mind fame and fortune. By the time he gets to the end of the book though, he is suddenly telling us what a clever business woman she is and that she had been planning her marketing strategy from a very early stage. Obviously it can only be one or the other, and this book doesn’t tell us which one it is.

So, after all those complaints, why did I still rate this book 3.5 stars? First and foremost because it was an easy and smooth read. I flew through the pages and enjoyed some of the quotes I ran across:

I liked the answer James’ husband gave when asked what it was like being married to an author of erotic fiction: “Mostly it’s just like being married

And the following two from James herself:

"There are a lot of ways to describe an orgasm. But at a certain point I ran out of ways."

"I think first person point of view is much easier to write than third person point of view. So naturally I took the easy way out."

I also think this might be a nice little book for anyone who wants to have all their information on E.L. James together in one place. Marc Shapiro has taken all the bits and pieces available in the media and arranged them in a very accessible way, saving fans the trouble of having to do the work themselves. And with James having many millions of enthusiastic fans I am sure there is a good market for this book.

I also liked the extra information available after the actual biography has concluded:  discographies, of the classical albums as well as the list as blogged by James, a history of erotic fiction and a piece on Cinema Erotic.

This is a nice little book about an interesting author provided you’re not hoping to discover anything you didn’t already know.


Anonymous said...

Nice review! Not for me, though, I think - I have enough to read. :-)

Marleen said...

Very sensible of you Judith. I wouldn't have missed anything if I hadn't read the book. Still, it was a quick read and I'm sure there's lots of people (women) out there who can't wait to read it. I guess I learn as I go along. They can't all be winners.