Perhaps rather an odd and “fussy” thing to be for one, the “kiss of death” as regards a prose work -- but for me, it comes about when I perceive a characteristic of the author’s writing being: cutesy / cloying, cheap-tabloid-journalistic style and attitudes, and putting same across in a manner of sort-of “written-ly” digging the reader in the ribs – “oh, look at me, aren’t I quirky and winsome and just the slightest bit naughtily daring.”. Any more than a tiny bit of of indulgence in this on the author’s part, has me metaphorically shutting the book and throwing it across the room – and probably swearing off ever in future reading anything else by that author.
I don’t know how much sense the above makes – if I try and illustrate it with an example – the illustration also involves another pet peeve of mine. While recognising that a free press is necessary for a free society, and that those who gather news often display much courage in doing so: I personally find nauseating, the boot-licking veneration and worship which many people appear to bestow on journalists and journalism, indiscriminately across the board. For heaven’s sake, journalists are fallible, often annoying, humans, just like the rest of us: and a good many of them seem to have a bent for becoming highly conceited, all by themselves – the last thing they need, is assistance from the public to become yet more so.
Gregory McDonald’s thrillers / mysteries have numerous devotees, especially those books featuring his journalist / sleuth “Fletch”. I’ve read a few, finding them on the whole too “cloyingly twee” as above, to be very enjoyable – though they had for me, their occasional moments. Cloying-and-twee breaking-point came for me, when quite early on in one of the “Fletch” novels, said hero is on the receiving end of a tirade from an associate (a basically harmless bod IIRC) which ends with the words, “...you bug, you [rather rude word equivalent to 'one who bugs'], you journalist !” I all but threw-up on the spot; and closed the book there and then; and that's it for me lifelong, so far as Mr. McDonald is concerned. Perhaps I’m too easily irritated by too little; but I’ve done likewise, for similar reasons, re quite a number of authors.