Saints Prius-erve Us!

September 23, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, after the better part of a day’s worth of errands, I plopped down in my well-used (and well-loved) leather recliner to finish book number two (of four) for my November BookPage Whodunit column. I was a hundred-odd pages into the book when I noticed what appeared to be a glaring inaccuracy. So I emailed Abby, my editor, to see if there was somebody I could talk to at the publishing house, with the idea of their making a couple of quick changes before the book went to press. She suggested talking to the publicist, so I did that; he wasn’t sure if there would still be time to make changes, but said that he would forward them on to the printer, and see what could be done. We both had a bit of a chuckle about it before hanging up and returning to our respective duties.

You are probably wondering what the inaccuracy might be; well, here it is, quoted directly from the ARC (Advance Reader Copy of the book): “All he’d need now was for the car not to start…but that didn’t happen, the engine caught on the first turn of the key.” So what’s the problem? Well, the car in question, a Toyota Prius, starts not with a turn of a key, but with a press of a button (I cannot swear that that is the case with all Priuses, but it certainly is true with later model ones). The author followed up a few paragraphs later with: “The Prius’s rear tires couldn’t gain traction, spun futilely…” The problem there? Well, a Prius is a front-wheel-drive car, so any tire spinning antics would happen with the front wheels, not the rears. Are you thinking, as I was, that the author had likely never driven a Prius? (In the interest of fairness, I am not going to mention the author’s name, until or unless the book makes it into print unchanged, at which point I suspect I will have a bit of fun at his or her expense.)

The writer in question would by no means be the first to have an issue with fact-checking, particularly where cars are concerned. Irish author John Connolly once had a villain escape from a remote Maine forest by means of a Nissan Terrano. What is a Nissan Terrano, you ask? Well, it is a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle well suited to the wilds of Maine—if only it were imported to America. For the Terrano is a European-market vehicle, one we don’t get here.

The aforementioned Abby emailed me back to say: “Those are some hawk eyes. I would have totally missed that. Then again, I drive a gas-guzzling ’96 Explorer…” To which I replied: “As to the eagle eyes, it’s just what you’re used to. If it had been, say, a chain saw, a stove, or a sewing machine, he could have said it was nuclear powered and I would have believed it implicitly. It just happens that I am an insufferable car guy, plagued with snippets of knowledge that I can’t seem to shake loose.” Abby’s final rejoinder: “Thanks for the update. I’m glad the publicist got a laugh out of it—you have to! And you’re right. If a galley had some misinformation about celebrities, or my favorite fall TV shows—I would catch it.”

So, when November rolls around, have a look at the print edition of BookPage, or check it out online at, and see if there is any mention of an errant Prius; if not, the errors were caught in time, and didn’t make it into the book; otherwise, expect a bit of playful ribbing!