Squeal of brakes, screech of tyres, blast of angry car horns and a life-saving skip-and-jump from a startled bus queue.
“How on earth did they pass their driving test?” asks the wife. Actually she said, “Wo hat der seinen Führerschein gewonnen?” She's from Frankfurt.
Good question, since the motorist in front was blissfully driving a metaphorical horse and cart through the Highway Code. Their spaced-out behaviour suggested that even operating an electric toothbrush might result in a gappy smile. The crumpled car bodywork was also evidence that hit rather than miss was the driver's forte.
“Some people need to pass a test before they're allowed out in public,” the missus added five minutes later. A woman's umbrella almost had her eye out, then flipped a quire of newspapers off the revolving stand, before shoving two skateboarder into the busy road while her extending dog's lead snared two toddlers and a pushchair.
That's exactly what Amazon needs, I thought when we finally arrived back home in one piece. Any potential reviewer should have to pass a test and obtain a licence before submitting a book review.
Something on the lines of:
Are you now or have you ever been a friend or relation of the author?
Do you continually use the expressions: 'Awesome', 'Epic', 'Check out' or 'Amazing'.
Have you read at least ten books this year (this decade, this century, Ever?)
Do you know the difference between a comma and a coma?
Do you think 'grammar' is your mum's mum?
If the story has no zombies, vampires, dragons, witches, elves or magic is it automatically rubbish?
No doubt you can think of a load more.
Depending upon the answers, a potential reviewer may be given a Kiddies' Books Only, a Provisional, or a Full Reviewing Licence.
People who regard Dan Brown, Stephenie Myer or E.L. James as literary giants would never qualify for any licence. We're all perfectly entitled to enjoy junk food so long as we don't confuse it with haute cuisine.
Advanced reviewers must be able to identify a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and other parts of speech. They should at least have heard of: plot devices, story arcs, characterization and conflict. And be able to spell them.
On the other hand it is a massive plus that so many read, or attempt to read, a few of the host of books on offer, and upload comments. Years ago, you went into a book shop (there were lots around in the olden days), and made your choice as best you could (paying mightily for a new novel that initially only came out in hardback). If you were lucky you were helped in your choice because a few dozen books were reviewed in the press although there was o guarantee that the comments were unbiased or valid.
The Amazon review system is horribly flawed but can guide you as to where you might risk your hard-earned cash. The quality of a review alone is often a pointer.
Ignore the first ten 5* reviews made within the first weeks of publication – fifteen, if you know the author has a big family. Always read the 'Look Inside' sample. At least it should tell you if English is the author's first language. Always read the 1* reviews.
Incidentally, if you pick up one of my novels, I'd love a review; licence or no licence.