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Mar112018

Vale Bernadette Bean

Coming up for air again after the craziness of three back to back launches (Crossing the Lines, Rejacket of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, and A Dangerous Language in August, September and October respectively), then the Holidays and writing a new book.  Suddenly it's March... 2018!

I do have a lot with which I need to update you, but I'll do that in later posts.  In this post I'd like to talk about the prolific and dedicated Australian reviewer, Bernadette Bean, of Reactions to Reading and Fair Dinkum Crime, who passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago.

Bernadette was one of the first reviewers to ever pick up a Rowly book. Back in 2010 she reviewed my debut novel, A Few Right Thinking Men.  I remember well the excitement of being reviewed for the first time by Bernadette Bean.  She said at the end of that review: "I’m chuffed to have discovered this debut work (of adult fiction though Gentill has published YA fiction) by an author whose work I can now look out for with pleasure."  Bernadette did continue to look out for my work.  She read and reviewed every single one of my novels.  It became so that I did not feel that a book was truly out in the world until Bernadette had reviewed it.

Authors and reviewers have always had an interesting relationship - one in which fear and gratitude feature in equal measure (on the part of authors anyway).  We would not be published writers if we did not care, if we did not want readers to connect with our work.  Reviewers introduce out books to the world... without them our voices would be lost in the general din.  A bad review can be shattering but when a reviewer truly understands your book, it is encouraging, and gratifying, and just plain wonderful.   But more than that, a thoughful, insightful review can guide other readers on how to read your book - it can point out facets and ideas that they might otherwise have missed.  It can help your book find a readership in a world crowded with stories.  Bernadette wrote those kinds of reviews.

Of course Bernadette was also fearlessly honest when she came across books, subjects or characters she did not like.  But those reviews were reasoned and fair and often linked to reviews which expressed the opposite view.  Like everyone, she had her preferences but she was open to her mind being changed.  

From Bernadette's review of A Decline in Prophets : "I really ought not to have enjoyed this book. Its hero, Rowly Sinclair, is the kind of world-wandering dilettante living off inherited wealth instead of the product of his own toil that should offend my lefty sensibilities. But, in what might be evidence that my principles are only skin deep, I like Rowly very much and loved the book too."

Almost every Australian crime writer has been reviewed and championed by Bernardette at some point. Her reviews were eloquent and witty - the kind that inspire you to write harder still. She sought out new writers and supported us out of obscurity. 

Over the last seven years,  I have, with every release, waited anxiously for her review, her nod, which I never took for granted. In many ways Bernardette was my mythical ideal reader. She knew crime fiction, but she also truly "got" my work. Her published reviews of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries were beautifully stated and kind, but it is the personal messages she'd send me after reading my work that I treasure most as a writer. In her, Rowly had a friend, and though we never met, I'd like to think I did too. Vale Bernardette.

My fellow writer, Margot Kinberg, had posted a very moving tribute to Bernadette here.

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