Author: James J. Murphy III

Publisher: Shrub Oak, NY: I&J Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9842731-0-2


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On the website John Hewitt lists a number of guidelines on how to write a novel badly that James J. Murphy III appears to have taken to heart in his novel The Nursing Home. First of these is “Make sure that the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys are overwhelming evil. Don’t confuse your readers by having all the characters have good qualities and bad ones.” Bill, the arch villain nurse aide of the piece, is so bad that, starting with the emotional abuse of the patients at the nursing home, he ultimately gets fired from the staff for slapping the protagonist, Morris, through the face, leaving the latter physically battered, but with a resolutely defiant spirit.


Hewitt also recommends explaining everything. “When your character is angry, just say that she’s angry. There’s no point in trying to show that through her actions when you can just tell that to your reader.” Of the countless examples provided in this text, the following should suffice: “Although Morris was p***ed off at his family because they were leaving him in such a horrible place, he knew he would miss them and understood it was for the best.”


“Nothing beats a catch phrase!” according to Hewitt. In this case, it’s the number of times that Morris asserts that his name is truly not Mori, or any other derivative. Naturally, when the other characters wish to take the Mickey out of Morris, what do they call him but one of the appellations that he just can’t stand…


Hewitt advises against making secondary characters interesting: “It will just detract from the main characters. Lesser characters don’t need reasons for their actions. They are just there to keep the plot moving.” Murphy abides by this instruction so well that one can truly say that none of his characters is well-rounded.


“Character conversations,” according to Hewitt “should always be used to explain what is happening and how people are thinking. It is perfectly natural to have a character explain to his office mate (whose brother is a bank president) that he used to be a safe cracker, but now he just wants to go straight.” A key example of Murphy’s following this point to the T is in his description of the two cops, Officers Conway and O’Conner. As Officer O’Conner explains to his comrade in arms: “Conway, I’ve been on the police force since about the time you were born and I’ve never seen anything as strange as this case. Hell, I was probably a rookie when you were popping out of your momma’s belly and sucking her t****y.”


Enough said. Now that Murphy has succeeded in writing a novel badly (and, what’s more, in having it published, which, as we all know, is not a mean feat), perhaps he should try to write one well.  


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