Book review – Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

I had to share this stunning *****5 Star review of Twerk. The reviewer has summed up the essence of this novel much better than I could.

Stripper club

“With “Twerk”, Isobel Blackthorn has written a suspense novel set in the milieu of strip dancers with a superior mélange of brazenness and subtlety that, in my eyes, would be unattainable for a male author writing about the same theme. I’ll be short about the suspense aspect of the novel: Mrs. Blackthorn knows how to captivate a reader with a tale that is getting eerier with every page. The lust-driven killer in Twerk is a deeply sinister character. Mrs. Blackthorn describes his sadistic nature in scenes that definitely will chill your bones. Near the end of her story, she unveils the reason why this man is so ruthless and scary, and then you realize that the seeds of enjoying the fear, humiliation, and pain of others lie in all of us. Isobel Blackthorn has the gift of weaving tension in a spiral through her novel: she lets it smolder for a while, and then suddenly jumps to hair-raising levels. Afterward, she cuts back a little, only to go full throttle again when you don’t expect it.

But the high-grade suspense in Twerk isn’t the most important ingredient that makes this novel special. It’s the candidness with which Mrs. Blackthorn writes about the way the sex workers of the bar “Hot Foxies” think and feel when they’re dancing seductively around their poles, or about their relationship with their own bodies, and the differences in using sexual power between men and women. In showing the small intrigues, backbiting, and slander behind the podium, where the dancers behave like an extended family, she proves her understanding of the dancer’s lives. I wondered how she had done such thorough research until I read Blackthorn’s daughter Vicky’s Foreword: Vicky is a dancer in a club, and her stories have inspired her mother to write this unusual thriller. I was intrigued by this openness and visited Mrs. Blackthorn’s website where I read under the title “Society, Strippers and Shame” a beautiful and heart-captivating text about how she handled the fact that her daughter chose to be an exotic dancer. I tip my hat for the courage and strength of both mother and daughter, and in my eyes, the authenticity that is tangible in Twerk, making the novel extraordinary, is a result of that courage.

But “Twerk” gives more than a detailed insight in a strip dancer’s life: for a male author like me, it was equally fascinating to read how Isobel Blackthorn dissects the distorted male sexuality in the killer’s character. Blackthorn knows that underneath the virility and macho veneer of the male, lurks manhood’s eternal proof pressure to squash insecurity. I like well-written books that present a reader with more than suspense alone: “Twerk” is definitely such a novel.” – Bob Van Laerhoven, Belgian novelist

Read more about Twerk here.

Read more reviews on Amazon

Should authors Americanize their fiction?

I am a British-Australian author with nine novels under my belt to date. All of my fiction has been set in either the Canary Islands, Britain, Australia, or with multiple settings around the world, save for one book: Twerk.

Twerk

Twerk is set in a Las Vegas strip club. The characters are American. Therefore, it stands to reason that the writing should also be American, or should it? Having just been criticised by two book reviewers for using the words ‘fortnight’ and ‘car park’ instead of ‘two weeks’ and ‘parking lot’ respectively, my own perspective on how far authors should go in changing their language to satisfy readers from one particular country is shifting.

In my defence (or is it defense), I did my best to compose Twerk using American English. I switched to the American English dictionary in my Word doc. I paid close attention to the language. Most of my oversights were picked up by my publisher and corrected. For example, car ‘boot’ became ‘trunk’. Except for these two glaring examples of ‘fortnight’ and ‘car park’. Two tiny slips in an otherwise Americanized (or Americanised) novel, standing out all the more because no other slips have been found, and they have stuck fast in the minds of reviewers enough for them to make an issue of it.

I am very grateful to both reviewers for their lovely reviews, for taking the trouble to read my book, and to read it thoroughly enough to notice these words. I am not criticising these reviewers. I am not hurt or upset by what they have said. I am using their remarks to raise an issue and I am endeavouring to do so in a respectful manner.

What interests me is that this has never been an issue for me in the past. I know that my Australian vocabulary creeps into my novels set elsewhere and I have to do my best to weed it out. And vice versa, my British vocabulary creeps into my Australian writing. But British and Australian readers and reviewers have never once made an issue of this or even remarked on it. Readers seem prepared to let it go. The general attitude seems to be more accommodating and forgiving. No one has ever said I absolutely have to write in English English if I am to set a novel in England, or Scottish English in Scotland. With so many regional dialects as well – how far do we take this!

Why are Americans (from the United States) touchy about their language? How far should non-USA authors go to accommodate the assumption that all fiction set in the USA must use American (US) English and never once use a word from another English-speaking country for fear of being dragged over the coals? (an expression that may or may not be understood by those born and bred in the USA and means speaking to someone severely about something foolish or wrong that they have done)

I have not studied American English at school. Is there such a course? What about Australian English? You could fill a term’s worth of curriculum studying that. What about the various forms of English around the world, in Africa, in India and so on? What, too, of authors who set their books in countries where English is not spoken at all?

What do I, as a British-Australian writer, do from now on? I raise the matter here because Twerk is a novel containing about 85,000 words which altogether comprise a story with characters, a plot and themes. Should Twerk be viewed as a lesser book in the USA because it contains the word ‘fortnight’? By the same token, should all novels written in American English and set in other countries be viewed as lesser works for using the word ‘parking lot’ instead of ‘car park’?

You can find the Twerk reviews in question on Amazon by clicking this link