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Errors in mainstream fiction

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Initial post: Jun 19, 2012 12:35:14 AM PDT
There have been numerous threads about typos, grammar, plot erros in Indie fiction. A common response from Indies is that there are just as many errors in mainstream fiction. So I thought maybe this could be a place for people to put their money where their mouths are and highlight those errors...

It's not something I've ever noticed that much - until now. Just reading The Bourne Identity (paperback version) and there have been a number of small typos, mainly punctuation, and an additional 'an' somewhere.

But best so far - p233, Bourne is at a fashion house and the bill comes to 'Vingt mille soixante francs - 20,060 francs. He pays with 6 five thousand franc notes! 30,000 francs! The book was first published in 1980 - has no one spotted this before?! Or maybe it's just to show that Jason is smart as a killer but rubbish at maths!

Anyhow, that's my two pen'uth... Any others?

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 3:19:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 5:02:49 AM PDT
Irish reader says:
I assume you want us to focus on conventionally published books. I looked up Amazon's 100 bestsellers and ignored the 'Fifty Shades' and focussed on the next four, sampling the 'look inside' option.

'A Song of Ice and Fire' and 'The Hunger Games' both got a clean bill of health, although this is coloured by how neither book is set in the real world, giving the author an out in terms of spelling and grammatical conventions generally. There were minor issues with the other two.

'Gone Girl: A Novel.' by Gillian Flynn. Quotation on the title page: magnifi cent (should be 'magnificent'). This peculiar error is repeated three times on the first page - 'fl ipped', 'fl utter' 'fi rst'. Two cases of a colon followed by uppercase, also on the same page (maybe this is an American convention?). Also, the indentation of the second paragraph is all over the place. I should add that it seemed to be very nicely written. The crucial problem was the formatting.

'The Amateur' by Edward Klein. Can't say I agree with the author's politics but his imaginative recreation of the dynamics of the Clinton marriage was pretty hilarious. There were a couple of minor issues. I reckon 'cut and thrust' should be hyphenated. And surely secretary of state should be in upper case?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 4:08:17 AM PDT
A Scott says:
I have written on this before. Mistakes do slip through even the most careful proof-editing process, though they are not always typos or spelling, they may be cultural One writer talks about the countless rugby pitches all over rural Ireland, not realising that most of these were Gaelic Football pitches. Larger than a rugby pitch, though the goalposts are similar.
Perhaps the worst traditionally published book for mistakes that I've encountered is Fugitive Nights by Joseph Wambaugh. Mistakes do not distract me from my enjoyment of a book, but the editor of this one seems to have no concept of the correct use of the possessive apostrophe. As an Indie and a traditionally published author, I have books with mistakes on my back list and it's not the end of the world.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 4:55:14 AM PDT
Minor typos or such are better than full blown print errors. I have two Stephen King novels at home that come to mind. One is flat out missing an entire chapter. The other has the chapter, just in the wrong place. Have no idea if these are one-off's or were major runs with errors, though.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 5:13:08 AM PDT
I just ran into a scanning error yesterday when I started reading: Graceling, which I read years ago in paper form. In the very first paragraph a character's name was spelled Oil instead of Oll. I was a bit surprised, you'd think a quick scan of the book would have picked this up... It looks like the first paragraph in paper form is in a different font than the rest of the text so perhaps this was an OCR error? I'm a few pages in and the name has been correct since then.
It baffles me how the publishers miss these errors when a very quick read of the digital text before it's sent in wouldn't take very long!
I find these kinds of errors distracting but I tend to forgive them a lot quicker than the they're/their/there, your/you're or its/it's mistakes.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 5:27:18 AM PDT
I have one of the Lindsey Davis 'Falco' mysteries in which the third quarter of the volume repeats the second quarter, and the entire last 25% is missing. Random House being random, I assume...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 5:46:26 AM PDT
Years ago, I had a complete chapter repeated - in 2001, I think. (The book, not the year!) But I always wonder with these kind of things, if it's just happened on one rogue copy or carried through the whole print ruin. (I know - it's a typo, but it seemed appropriate somehow!)

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 5:49:54 AM PDT
It must be the whole print run, I guess. Normally i expect the publisher calls them back and pulps them. This one I'll keep, just in case...

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 5:57:51 AM PDT
I just read Graham Masterton's Flesh and Blood. He is a mainstream horror writer, for those who don't know and is probably most famous for his (so-so) book The Manitou which was made into a movie.
This book was so full of errors! First off, and most irritating to me, there were no space breaks between changes of POV. So you're reading along from Emily's POV say, and then the very next paragraph is from Luke's POV. It was very jarring and knocked me right out of the book each and every time.
Then there was the annoying change of some words beginning with TH where the TH was replaced by an M. So the word 'that' becomes mat.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 5:58:09 AM PDT
Many of these mistakes both identify first printings and make them valuable. For example, the first edition of Larry Niven's "Ringworld," in which the lead character circles the globe to make his 200th birthday last 48 hours (by following the international date line as it travels), unfortunately has the Earth rotating the wrong direction. The chapter repeat in 2001 is a known error as well. Ben Bova's novelization of George Lucas' film THX 1138 was published with the last page missing, creating one of the more enigmatic endings in the history of fiction, as the lead character is pushing his shoulders against what appears to be a manhole cover from below, trying to break through to freedom. My brother said you had to use your imagination about what he was about to discover, but in fact it was a publisher's error. At least in "Cell," Stephen King did the same thing on purpose.

Posted on Jun 19, 2012 6:36:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 6:43:37 AM PDT
Oh no! Please don't tell me that edition of 2001 was valuable - I just threw mine out last year!

I hate open endings too. Comes from watching the old B&W TV series of (I think) Rin-Tin-Tin. It had a dog in it anyway, and it wasn't Lassie. The last episode transmitted here in the UK had Sgt O'Hara pegged out in the desert and left to die. So presumably he's still there.

Then there was a home-produced TV series, about the same time, set on Venus (I think - although it looked like a studio in West London to be honest), where the young daughter rushed back into a cave to get something, saw something and let out a terrible scream, and there the episode ended. And the series.

Kid's TV has changed a bit over the years hasn't it?!

And then the ending of The Italian Job, with the coach hanging over the edge of the cliff - how unsatisfactory is that?! One story I heard was that the movie ran out of money so they just had to end it with where they'd got to. I'd love to believe it, but I doubt if they shot it sequentially...


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 7:05:03 AM PDT
James, I LOVED the ending to The Italian Job...

Eve though it was a cliffhangar. (Sorry, couldn't stop myself.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 7:04:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2012 7:07:45 AM PDT
"First off, and most irritating to me, there were no space breaks between changes of POV. So you're reading along from Emily's POV say, and then the very next paragraph is from Luke's POV. It was very jarring and knocked me right out of the book each and every time."

I REALLY hate that in books as well. But you have to compare to the printed version to see if it's a mistake in formatting or if it was intentionally written that way. Using a blank line between paragraphs to indicate shifts in time/place/POV is a stylistic choice on the part of the writer. I just wish ALL writers would choose to employ it!!

One of the worst books I've read in terms of errors* was Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. I read it in mass market paperback format, so I don't know if the current ebook edition still contains all the errors. But there were typos on almost every page. Drove me nuts!! There's just no excuse for that when the book has been reprinted many times and the publisher has had multiple opportunities to make the needed corrections. (I got the ebook edition for 99 cents a while back, but haven't been in the mood to re-read it yet. I sure hope the publisher fixed it!)

* That wasn't the result of scanning and OCR.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 21, 2012 2:10:32 PM PDT
seaayre says:
Does "cut and thrust" modify a noun? If it does, I would hyphenate it. U.S. style for "secretary of state" is lower case unless the secretary's proper name is referenced. "Secretary of State Clinton", for example.

Posted on Jun 21, 2012 3:00:37 PM PDT
Irish reader says:
Thanks for pointing this out seaayre (ie, 'secretary of state') I can't remember the context for cut and thrust, but will check.

I did discover (in relation to 'Girl Gone') that using uppercase after a colon is an acceptable American convention.
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Discussion in:  Kindle Book forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  15
Initial post:  Jun 19, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 21, 2012

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