Forrest Gump vs Lieutenant Dan

The other day I received an e-mail from an author friend. The e-mail included a link to an article about an indie author who had written a book so bad that it had displaced all other claimants to the crown. The article cited some excerpts from the book, and I must agree the writing, grammar, spelling, and punctuation were all equally execrable. The author of the article was having a great deal of Simon Cowell – type fun with this. He righteously dripped with sarcasm and condescension. This book is a prime example of the kind of writing that causes such sturm und drang in the indie author community. None of us wish to be even loosely associated with this type of “author.” The thought that some might paint all indies in the same light as this fellow induces a collective cringe throughout the indie community. The writer of the article then went on to quote some of the reviews of the book.


Yes. People bought and read and liked and reviewed this horrible embarrassment of a book. The reviews were written by people evidently as illiterate as the author of the book itself. His sales are evidently quite good—I daresay they are likely better than mine. Perhaps his sales are better than yours as well.

His target audience is evidently the people who write as he does. Here are excerpts from some of the reviews:

“This is a book. And Also its a Good book, one to read. The auther who goes by the Name of [AUTHOR”S NAME REDACTED] really has a nack for Good science Fiction telling. Also the Story.”

“Heres the problem with all these supposebly great authors — none of them writes the way Regular People talk and write on the Internet. But! now along comes a book that not only does that but also solves the other big problems with literater.”

“From the riveting opening paragraph, to the riveting dialog, to the riveting final events in the master peace: [TITLE REDACTED] will keep you on the edge of you’re seat.”

“I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Of all the books I’ve read, this is certainly one of them. Some books are really great and some are not. This book falls into that category. If you read it, I’m sure that you will feel the same way as I do about it.”

It goes on like this. How many 5-star reviews does your book have on Amazon? Mine has eight. His has seventy-nine 5-star reviews out of 103 reviews on Amazon. His book also costs more than mine.What’s the deal? Is my book not riveting enough? Is it because I use words like “execrable?”

This guy is the Forrest Gump to our Lieutenant Dan. He prospers while we flounder. We take great pains to produce quality writing that captivates readers and enchants reviewers and critics while he vomits some words out on a page. What happens? We get the Purple Heart and Forrest here gets the freaking Congressional Medal of Honor.

It is hard not to resent the successes of people who seem to bumble and stumble into glory and fortune. Lt. Dan certainly resented Forrest. That’s not the end of the story though. Lt. Dan worked through all that and learned something from Forrest. It changed him. It made him happier. It made him better.

We may not like it, but this guy has something going. He has accomplished something I have not. He has found his target demographic, and people are actually buying his books. I don’t know the reason people buy his book. Perhaps they are buying it as a lark. Perhaps some of the reviews are jokes. It may be that both the author and his fans are a damning indictment of the state of education. None of that matters. What matters is that he has succeeded where so many of us have failed. It is no good to shake our fists at the heavens and proclaim life unfair. There is something to be learned here if we are not too proud to ask the question. I am not suggesting for a moment that we emulate his style and try to penetrate the same demographic. Yet, as he did indeed find an audience, so must each of us.

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Stephen Hise is an author and the Founder and Co-Administrator of Indies Unlimited. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his website:


Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

38 thoughts on “Forrest Gump vs Lieutenant Dan”

  1. now I want to read the book….I'd wager the author is secretly brilliant and made this as a point and has been laughing all the way to the bank….

  2. me too I am all it is like comparing the Sun to the telegraph and then complaining beause 3 million people prefer the Sun. Too bad deal with it because it isnt going away just like reality TV. good article.

  3. Of course I had to look it up, call me curious.

    "I first found this book in a used book store near the collage in my town. Once I started reading; I couldn't put it down!"

    What type of collage was that? 😉

    Seriously though, if you look at the Best Sellers Rank, it will give you an indication of how well the book is doing. Compare the number of reviews of this book to others with similar review numbers, and then look at their ranking. It should start to make sense at this point.

    Whether we compare him to Forrest Gump or Victor Lustig makes little difference. Reading should be fun. I can honestly say that I had a great time just reading the horrendous reviews. Whenever I can start my day off with a laugh is a good day. So kudos to him.

  4. They do say that it takes a great musician to play something truly badly. Maybe it is a gag. I'm off to find him and try to make my mind up. 🙂

    1. Having raised some kids who all took up various musical instruments at some point during elementary school, I can assure you that people can play badly even having no talent for it at all. I suspect writing must be the same. Still, one does wonder…

  5. Great article, thanks for writing it. Recently I had a similar experience and was stunned that one particularly badly written book I had the misfortune to buy keeps on getting 5* reviews on Amazon. It seemed to me that these people must have read a completely different book. But thanks for this – I'm so glad I'm not the only one and I suppose we do have to take it on the chin.

    Also, just saw your video today – thanks for the chuckle!

  6. Oh Stephen, this is totally unfair. You have given us your side of this popular 'badly written book' yet you won't tell us what book it is? Could we form our own opinions about it or see what the attraction is to his large following? I get the point of the article and agree with it, but still want to look at this low quality/high sales novel. This is America and you can write any review you want, no one is going to sue you. So how about sharing the title?

    1. Karleen,
      I replied privately. The object of my article was not to add to the scorn or derision already heaped on the author cited. Nor to single him out in any way except to show that there is more than one pathway to success.

  7. I read the same article, Stephen. The writing style was the same in the book excerpts and reviews and thought it was from the same person. From reading your article,I see that was a wrong assumption.

    I knew America's education system was not the best, but never thought it was that bad.

  8. Fat chance I'd pay $15.99 for this book but I did read the free excerpt. I had to sit down and laugh. Truly. I do think the author must have had tongue in cheek when he snickered his way through writing it. And Amazon gave it 5 Stars? Amazon had to have tongue in cheek, too. I'd lay odds that it was written by some highly acclaimed best selling author (who laughed all the way to the bank.)

    1. That is the most optimistic possibility, I guess. Although if the author was really a good writer disguising himself as a bad writer, how does that explain the book's popularity? Or is it all a joke?

  9. I suspect most of it is a big in-joke. Check out some of the reviewers' other reviews – they read like a comedian's script in most cases. Definitely not 'normal' book buyers. Seems to be an effective strategy though, blast them all! Oh dear, please don't let it become cool to sound illiterate!

    1. Either that or it has just developed a cult following for being such a bad book. It has a kind of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" vibe to it, don't you think?

  10. I did like one of the 1-star reviewers who said, and I quote, "The grammar in this book is so terrible that Microsoft Word's grammar editor became self aware and committed suicide." Having only read the brief 'See Inside' intro, I don't doubt that sentiment.

    On the flip side, I completely agree with Stephen that obviously this person has found a niche in the market (although I have my doubts as to the authenticity of some of the 5-star reviews).

  11. Just read the opening. Worst thing is, the guy might have a half-way decent stroy in there… No, wait, the really worst thing is that if that's what's going to happen to the English language, then we're all doomed.

  12. Holy S#%t! That author can charge that much for so few pages?! Wow. And I forked out over $450 to my editor to have a 190K word mss edited and I haven't even gotten close to getting any part of that investment back. This guy has a racket! And after reading the bio and such, he seems to have a problems with which words to capitalize. OK, I did my 20 in the military, and they taught us some writing skills while I was in. Did this guy miss those classes?

    I admit not all my books and shorts are professionally edited, but I do my best to make sure it's a good looking piece of work. Do I have errors? Yes, and a reader recently pointed them out to my horror. I quickly fixed them and uploaded new versions to all the sites I have it on. To err is human, but to realize and fix it…

    Great article!

  13. Great article, Stephen. I think, by reading some of the reviews, that it is all a joke and he has found a way to capitalize on all the hype about bad indie writers. I honestly believe one person is writing all those 5star reviews to keep the joke going. But I also believe we need to put our best foot forward and continue to strive to put our best stuff out there by hiring (or trade for services) editors, etc. to make our work the best it can be.

    1. Thanks Jacqueline. As you point out, it may all very well be a joke, but he has certainly found a way to capitalize on it, and that is the challenge each of us faces.

  14. Cool article!! Forrest Gump? Grins!!!

    I reckon he's selling a lot more books than me too!!!

    The excerpts from the guy's book really brightened up one awful afternoon! It made me grin from ear to ear, and I guess you can't say that about everything! :))

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