Monday, January 4, 2016

How HarperCollins Cheated Wiley Cash

The first story Wiley Cash remembers telling was told to his neighbor when they were six years old. His family had just returned from Myrtle Beach. Cash told the boy that his dad had buried him neck-deep in the sand, so deep that a crab latched on to his big toe. His sister overheard the story and asked, “Why’d you lie? That didn’t happen.” Cash didn’t have an answer for her. The truth was they’d played in the sand, and swam in the ocean, which seemed boring. But to have your big toe almost torn off by a crab? Now that’s a good story.

Later in life Cash thought about his lie but knows that as a six-year-old, you’re called a liar when you tell a story that you know isn’t true. But if you can keep telling stories and writing them down, people will eventually call you a writer.

Tiffany B. Davis

Cash, Wiley (2012-04-17). A Land More Kind Than Home . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 
This Dark Road to Mercy is a novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, set in western North Carolina, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.

After their mother's unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn't the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

(FYI: I cut and pasted this HarperCollins synopsis from Amazon. I’m glad that I didn’t read it before I read the novel. For me, it tells too much of the story and leaves little, except the ending, to be discovered.)

Now for the difficult part—a review:

The premise of “This Dark Road” is pretty solid but the conflicts were so coincidental and serendipitous that it read more like a Nancy Drew mystery than the Southern Gothic novel some tout it to be.

I enjoyed that the story is set in the summer that both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were trying to break Roger Maris's home run record. I’m not a fan of baseball but Cash added just enough information about the rivalry to knit the story together and not bore me with a sport I don’t appreciate.

The Southern (North Carolina) dialect didn’t seem quite authentic and the three voices—Easter, Weller, and Pruitt all sound the same—the same as Cash’s.

It seems that Cash wrote this book with the notion that someone would turn it into a screenplay and then a movie. With a little help I believe it could be. It certainly has sufficient plot and charm but I’m afraid, if the movie is done right, people will never say, I liked the book better.

The book has flaws…flaws that a good editor could have easily corrected, like what Tay Hohoff did for Harper Lee. Hohoff realized that Lee’s Go Set A Watchman was a rough draft. She encouraged Lee to turn that rough draft into the beloved masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird.

An astute editor at HarperCollins could and should have recognized that Cash’s manuscript was not ready for publication. HarperCollins cheated Wally Cash and HarperCollins cheated me as a reader. This Dark Road To Mercy stopped being literary fiction with the title. HarperCollins could and should have encouraged and assisted Wally Cash to turn this rough draft of a novel into a triumphant Southern Gothic novel, maybe to become one of the best books of the century.

Had this book been self-published I’d give it 5 stars because of its charm and the last line that lingers. But because the publisher is prestigious, respected, and a royalty publishing company This Dark Road To Mercy will have to settle for 2 stars.


  1. I was hoping for a discussion. Or at least a few comments from my "regulars". Where is everybody today?

  2. I'm here! It was decluttering time for Christmas decorations - I decided to get rid of broken, tattered, unused, and dead Christmas tree lights. It felt good! Not sure what's going on with the big publishers and their editors! I expect more from them! Lately, I read a couple of big name author books and couldn't believe the mistakes made in them. Simple little grammar mistake that should have been corrected before publishing! If the editors had been doing their jobs, there's no way they couldn't have seen them. I'm not an editor, so when something stands out...well, that's not a good thing!

  3. You try feeding 30 every night for week for the holidays and see if you don't get behind a bit. :-)

    While I share the frustration of working hard to ensure a self-published book doesn't contain errors and I expect a "Big-5" publisher to pay attention to the small details that a single service shop might miss, the range of 5 to 2 seems somewhat extreme (and arbitrary) to me based solely on self-pub vs. "Big-5" as the publisher for the same number of errors. It certainly doesn't seem that you got the bang out of the "story" for the book, so I don't see how it should be awarded a "5." This, without having read it, and only briefly skimming the other reviews seems like a text book case of: nice story lacking oomph and some serious editorial punch, a "3" (or if the story eclipses the editorial shoddiness, a low-hung "4").

    1. Thanks! I would award the book a 5 because I see where the author was going and I liked it. Maybe 2 is too low for a story I enjoyed or maybe a 5 is too high, even for a self-published novel. But you're correct: it's a nice story lacking oomph and some serious editorial punch. I appreciate your response.

  4. Hmmmm..... I don't know the whole story. Did he not take advice from editor or was it rushed by the editor? So hard to blame the publisher or author. The reviews are mixed but I see lots of reviews that were not a verified purchase. Moreover, most of the reviews seem to be done by the "follow the mass" book reviewers. Hard to tell if they even read the book. Moreover, so much is said in the description that it seem blah or common. Nothing unique or grabbing to hook me. So as a reader, I would pass on this book.

  5. Thank you, Ginger, for your comment. The book was recommended to me by a fellow NC author. (Wiley Cash is also from NC). So, I read the book on "good faith". Like I said in the blog I liked the contex of the story and actually got hooked for a while but then I noticed "I said", "he said", "she said" about every time someone spoke, especially when there were only two people speaking.... "Said" is supposed to be invisible but it wasn't. Then things started to fall apart and pretty soon I figured the whole story out. I wanted it to be deeper and grab me, but it left me cold.

    1. Oh that happened to me in a book I just finished! Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand.... Good lord there was so much he said, she said, that as a reading group many began making a joke of it, I said....