If there’s one thing that Amazon has helped to do, it’s to lower the bar for any and every aspiring author to reach their dreams. No longer do you have to be among the one in a thousand authors whose manuscripts a tradition publisher selects to print and publish and make money on and share a royalty with you. The self-publishing e-book revolution has not only changed the way in which readers can read and obtain books — electronically with a few clicks — but it’s also changed the way writers can write and reach people.
Perhaps it’s not exactly a new thing to say anybody can write a book, but it’s definitely a more recent statement to say now anybody can publish a book. And I mean anybody.
Including serial killers from their prison cell, for better or for worse.
Just this past week it came out and is making the rounds that Paul Bernardo, serial rapist, torturer and killer — one of the most reviled serial killers in Canadian history — not only has written and self-published a fiction book on Amazon.ca, but for a brief period it was a best seller on Amazon Canada. By the time I finished writing this blog post and publishing it, it appears that Amazon has already removed the book.
I don’t know whether something like this has already happened or not with self-publishing, but if it hasn’t I’d be a little surprised.
For those of you outside of Canada, or who may simply not remember the serial killings that made news on both sides of the border in the early 90s, Bernardo was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years in 1995 for the rape and murder of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. He was incarcerated in the Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ont. until 2013, when he was transferred to the Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont. He was also given dangerous offender status for admitting to raping 14 other women.
He has been imprisoned ever since. It appears he has 23 hours a day to himself in tiny quarters. I mean, he’s kept in solitary confinement so none of the other inmates kill him, that’s how bad it is. As one disgusted columnist from the Toronto Star pointed out,
“In other words, he has had what so many aspirational novelists dream of — time to write. And what use he has made of his time. The book is called A MAD World Order. It had to be called something, and why not that.”
This article from CBC.ca originally said about the whole thing:
Amazon has remained silent about the book’s publication, but it’s currently considered a “#1 Best Seller” on the site’s war fiction section.
The online reviews disagree. Hundreds of people have filed one-star reviews lashing out at the online retailer for allowing Bernardo to sell his book there.
“We’re certainly pleased the public is expressing some outrage against Amazon for participating in this,” Danson said.
While Amazon has the right to sell the book, Danson said, “I think there are some moral and ethical imperatives here.”
“I want Amazon to take it off their platform,” he added.
Danson also said the e-book’s publication raises questions for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) about how much access Bernardo should have to the online world.
When I first took a look on my phone at the book’s listing when it was still online, I saw that it had at least over 600 reviews, and they were overwhelmingly 1 star. I didn’t see any that were giving it any favour. Mostly people threatening to cancel their Amazon accounts and never do service with them ever again until they removed Barnardo’s book.
And for those who have read the book themselves, it’s not necessarily going to win any awards, in her article Bernardo’s e-book proves he can’t spell, write, think, Heather Mallick goes on to say:
I hoped to find evidence of regret or even awareness, but was hardly expecting to declare Bernardo the Alice Munro of the Ontario prison system, a mine of subtlety and vision. My expectations were low, if not subterranean.
Good thing too. Have you ever cleaned out your dryer vent? After careful stroking with a hand rake, one claws out a huge thicket of dry matted strands, a sort of felted matter. This is Bernardo’s brain, handy for oil spills or lining a bird’s nest but nothing more.
And other incredibly entertaining remarks from (author) include:
He describes people the way a towel would, if towels could talk: “The five foot ten inch Abdel looked over at his one month older, but two inches shorter best friend Jared. Abdel said, ‘We are two poor, uneducated Yemenites, yet we have a boatload of cargo destined to change the course of world history.’ The dialogue really sings.
Bernardo’s prose is like Morse Code, dots and dashes from an illiterate and literal mind. The man is thick, stupid, a clot. He has a brake pad for a brain.
There are a lot of thoughts about this whole matter and whether it’s a good thing that anybody and everybody can publish a book if they felt like it. It also raises questions about whether companies like Amazon should serve as gate-keepers and prevent books like this, though fiction and not autobiography, from even being published in the first place.
Do you think that Amazon did right by removing it or should they have done something to keep it from even being published in the first place?