B.J. Scott ’68
The issue of whether to review self-published books resurfaces here at WSM periodically, as it does in many other review venues. The argument against reviewing such books assumes that publication by a commercial publisher promises some standard of quality, whereas self-publication is relegated to the “vanity” press. However, a half hour of browsing in any bookstore should at least shed doubt on that assumption.
Of course there are many presses from which one can expect consistently excellent work. But there is also plenty of dreck produced by both commercial and “literary” presses. In the end, the reader and, by extension, the critic, is still the final arbiter of taste and quality. Add to this scenario the fact that many well-known authors (Blake, Anais Nin, Proust) self-published at some point. Granted, acceptance by a publisher generally indicates the publisher is willing to bet a great deal of money on the book’s success. But that success can depend as much on literary or political whims as enduring quality.
Regardless, I still approached B.J. Scott’s Legacy of Angels with some hesitation. The final novel of a self-published trilogy of historical fiction, Legacy is a blend of classic family saga, Western romanticism, a little metaphysical fantasy. Its characters are overblown at times, some of the plot twists require a little willing suspension of disbelief, and the book would benefit from fewer adjectives describing both the beauty and strength of the “Connelly women.”
But B.J. Scott also tells a great story, which starts in book one in Ireland with Kathleen Connelly and traces the trials and fortunes of her remarkable daughters through the Gold Rush, concluding with Bridgette, the granddaughter, overcoming extraordinary odds and assuming leadership of her family’s vast holdings. “Never, ever, cross a Connelly woman,” she warns.
By the way, Scott has also created possibly the most evil villain ever. Goldfinger, The Joker, Lex Luther? Mere patsies compared to Mei Li Kang.