First a general disclosure – I have read each book that I’ve reviewed on this website. From Acknowledgements to Intro to Prologue to Chapter One to Last Chapter to Epilogue. Without exception. Well, maybe except for this one.

I am a reader.  I’ve read, for example, every book of the Tarzan of the Apes series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’ve read the entire works of Edgar Allan Poe and Albert Payson Terhune (Lad, A Dog among others). I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare – although admittedly only in school because I had to – and am enamored of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Walker, Grisham, London, and more. While I usually read nonfiction, especially anything having to do with wine and the professional kitchen, I do enjoy – as you can see – an occasional foray into the fantasy world of well-written fiction.

Enter Sideways

Just like many people, I discovered Sideways in the movie. Unlike many people, I saw it as a character study with the wine as an understudy rather than as the focus of the movie. Don’t get me wrong; the wine part was wonderful, but I was into the people.

There’s a saying that when you ask a question, you should already know the answer. That’s true in a courtroom, I know, but it’s a nice little tidbit that the folks who asked me to read and review Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail should have known before they asked.  Anyone who’s read this blog for any amount of time knows that I don’t pull punches when something displeases me.  I have a bully pulpit (more or less), and I don’t mind using it when I feel that I have been bamboozled by someone.

Vertical “New” Edition

Siduri Wine Muse

Siduri Wine Muse

I read the intro which was different from the original, but that was to be expected. It is, after all, a new edition.

And then I began actually reading the book.  Four pages in, there was an abrupt disconnect.

I have Sideways, Vertical, and Sideways 3: Chile in physical, Kindle, and Audible formats. That means that I not only love the books, but I pretty much know them inside out. So when I got to the first bump – which was major – I quickly grabbed my iPad and began reading the first chapter of the original on Kindle.

Oh my. What a difference.

You know how when you’re reading a book and you accidentally turn two pages instead of one?  That’s kind of what happened here. On page four, no less, there were several missing paragraphs. I know the initial interaction between Miles and his agent Marcie almost by heart, so when it suddenly fell off, I shook my head in disbelief. How could that be? I ultimately counted at the minimum seven missing paragraphs in the first chapter alone. I was a little stunned, to say the least.

I quickly started thumbing through the rest of the book because this had rattled me. I found that the chapters had been renumbered, additions and changes to the text were not in Rex Pickett’s “voice,” and that the last chapter was totally different. And embarrassingly silly. Ultimately, the whole book felt like that scene in Amadeus when Mozart was told that his opera was great but had too many notes. I felt as if they – whoever “they” are – were trying to get rid of stuff that they didn’t like. To hell with the plot. Rex obviously doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. We can make it better.

Do I feel scammed? You bet. I can’t get back the time that I wasted on this wreckage of a “new edition.”

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Rex Pickett’s writing. I love his use of words and the language, and his almost otherworldly talent at weaving complex character development and plot seamlessly. The inner unrequited fiction writer/author within me is totally envious.

I’d like to make one thing clear. If you had not already read the original Vertical, chances are you would find the new version kind of acceptable.  However, if you’ve read and loved the (award-winning) original, you will snarl and cuss. Trust me.  Between the total cutting of whole paragraphs, making S*** (insert your favorite S word here) up, adding rather crude, cloddish, and silly “illustrations,” reworking the chapters, and completely changing the last chapter, you will be annoyed. Or worse. I, for one, went from “annoyed” to pissed.  I don’t know who did the editing/abridging, but I’d bet my firstborn that it wasn’t Rex Pickett.  Sorry Zach! That was figurative.

My ultimate assessment is simple. Don’t waste your time or money on this version. Get the original Vertical and be prepared to be entertained by Miles, Jack, and the people who inhabit Miles’ world. You will get the full monty and won’t be robbed of an exceptional experience.

My “free” copy is going into the trash. Oops. I mean recycling. I’m pretty sure it can serve another purpose other than masquerading as a Rex Pickett creation.

Rant over. Too bad I can’t wash my eyes.