Archive for 'Harlan Coben'
Monday, January 17th, 2011
No sooner had supermodel Laura Ayers and Celtics star David Baskin said “I do” than tragedy struck. While honeymooning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reed, David went out for a swim-and never returned. Now widowed and grieving, Laura’s search for the truth will draw her into a web of lies and deception that stretches back thirty years.
Though I haven’t read any of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar books, I’ve read all of his standalone thrillers, and loved them. He writes some of the best twists ever. When I went looking for the first Bolitar title to catch up, I found that Coben’s very first thriller had been rereleased, with an interesting (at least to me) author note up front:
Okay, if this is the first book of mine you’re going to try, stop now. Return it. Try another. I’ll wait.
If you’re still here, please know that I haven’t read PLAY DEAD in at least twenty years. I didn’t want to rewrite it and pass it off as a new book. I hate when authors do that. So this is, for better or worse, the exact book I wrote and published when I was in my twenties, just a naive lad working in the travel industry and wondering if I should follow my father and brother and (shudder) go to law school.
I’m hard on it, but aren’t we all hard on our early stuff? Remember that essay you wrote when you were in school, the one that got you an A-plus on, the one your teacher called “inspired”–and one day you’re going through your drawer and find it and you read it and your heart sinks and you say, “Man, what was I thinking?”
That’s how it is with early novels sometimes.
I chose this book for my reading challenge because it was originally published in 1990 and was already on my iPod, and because I needed a male author since I’d just finished a book by a female author. I bought it and read it on my Kindle app.
Having recently digitized two of my early books, I can identify with Coben’s forward. PLAY DEAD is twenty years old. LOVE IN BLOOM and LOVE ME TENDER are around twelve. I have another early book, PLAYING LOVE’S ODDS, written in 1992, that I haven’t released digitally. If I do, I won’t rework it or update it as I did with the others.
As with PLAY DEAD, PLAYING LOVE’S ODDS relies on the year it was set in to work. Cell phones would null every bit of the suspense. It was easy to change pagers to phones and VHS to DVD in the two I revised. Not so with this last one. Coben’s book also works in the year it was written and set, but would not work today without major revisions. And those revisions would change everything about the plot, ergo, some of our earlier works have to stand on their own merit and remain in the past.
Older works aren’t hindered only by technology, or cultural influences of the time. They also showcase a beginning author’s weaknesses and creative immaturity. Conversely, they aren’t burdened by rules an author learns along the way, or by feedback that finds its way into an author’s toolbox as s/he discovers what does or doesn’t work for reader fans. When reading through my two earlier books, I could clearly see signs of the times, the lusher storytelling that is harped on today by those wanting stripped to the bone prose. There was more drama, more angst, true scenes and sequels that left no doubt in the reader’s mind what the characters were thinking or feeling because it was poured like thick paint onto the page. As Coben says in his note:
Finally, flawed and all, I love this book. There are an energy and risk taking in Play Dead that I wonder if I still have. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young. I’m not this guy anymore, and that’s okay. None of us is stagnant with our passions and our work. That’s a good thing.
PLAY DEAD was unmistakably a Harlan Coben thriller. His love of basketball, his plot twists and turns. While he now writes more about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, his main protagonists in PLAY DEAD are not ordinary. Laura was a household name as a model, and David as a player for the Boston Celtics. That said, they are written as two people caught in circumstances out of their league, and are therefore identifiable as real people struggling to make sense of things gone wrong.
The pace is fast, moving between multiple viewpoints as the various players in the plot are introduced and their roles established and deepened. There is a lot, a LOT, of uber dramatic backstory: addiction, gambling, adultery, murder, rape . . . basically, a kitchen sink of Bad Things, as if the more dysfunctional the characters, the more sympathy their plight invoked. There is also a lot of mental anguish: Could this have happened? Could this really be true? How can I ever go on? Please, please let this be a bad dream.
I liked the characters. I liked that Laura was smart, surrounded herself with other smart people, sussed out any BS, dealt with it, and wasn’t easily duped. David? Well, what he did was rather dramatic, and if he and Laura had discussed the truth after he learned it, the WHOLE truth would most likely have come out in the end anyway as I believe Laura’s Aunt Judy would’ve seen to it. But talking doesn’t make for suspense, and even though I knew early what he’d done, it took a longer time to figure out why.
Once I had, guessing most of what had driven David to “play dead” before it was revealed, Coben tossed in another twist that turned the end around completely. I knew he would do it because that’s what he does so well (and why his thrillers are autobuys). And I waffled between three villains, so he also kept me guessing on that.
The paperback release is 560 pages, so this is not a short book. Some of the bloat could’ve been edited down to shorten it, but I didn’t care. I raced through it, flipping page after page until my thumb seized up, heh. Thrillers are my escapism, and this one, though not as polished or as tightly written as Coben’s newer works, kept me engaged from beginning to end. I enjoyed it a lot, early faults and all!
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
What are you reading?
I finished Tami Hoag’s SECRETS TO THE GRAVE last night, so have pulled up Harlan Coben’s PLAY DEAD to dive into later today. I had planned for my challenge to read his first Myron Bolitar book, DEAL BREAKER, but only had a sample on my Kindle app, and per my challenge rules I’ve got nine books to read before I can buy anything new!
I’ve read all of Coben’s standalone books, but never any from his Bolitar series. DEAL BREAKER is the first, so being the OCD person that I am, I need to read them in order. And, yes, I love planning out what I’m going to read. I know it takes away the spontaneity, but it pleases my little list making heart like you can’t believe!
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Look at my Books Read in 2010 sidebar section. Now look at me. Now back to my Books Read in 2010 sidebar section. Now back to me. Sadly, my Books Read in 2010 sidebar section does not reflect the writing me. Why is this, I wonder?
On Saturday, I attended Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer workshop. Good motivational stuff about BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) and other industry tricks and tips. As many before him have said, Bob made mention of many of us writing what we love to read. And I think we do start out that way. At least I know I did.
I swallowed Silhouette romances whole. Linda Howard, Diana Palmer, Elizabeth Lowell, Sandra Brown. Those were my original four go to authors for everything I wanted in a romance novel. I was at my local indie bookstore each month waiting for the new shipments to see which of my faves had new books, and what new authors I wanted to try. I found Theresa Weir, Nikki Benjamin, Mary Kirk and so many more.
The romance genre wasn’t the behemoth then that it is now. Classic historicals from Kathleen Woodiwiss and Bertrice Small ruled. I read those, too, and continued to read romances up until the day I picked up my first Andrew Vachss, Flood. And even then I still read romances. But more and more I found myself looking for thrillers. Many of the first romances I loved, those published by Silhouette Intimate Moments, had suspense elements, so latching onto the early days of romantic suspense was a natural progression. I followed Lisa Gardner (who wrote for SIM as Alicia Scott) and Tess Gerritsen and Tami Hoag out into the big bad single title world and was in heaven.
Honestly, I’ve never gone back. It’s sad that I’ve only read 22 books this year, but interesting that only four of those fit under the romance umbrella. I wondered if other authors wrote what they liked to read, so did an informal poll on Twitter.
- nope. Love to read historicals, but write contemporary. ;-)
- How does one write what one hates to read?
- No. I can’t write romance. I don’t have the ‘voice’ for it.
- Yes, yes, and yes.
- yes. But I read more more out of my genre than in. Nonfic humor. I am a book slut.
- of course. why write anything else? Or, why would you want to?
- I write what I love to read, but I also read other stuff that I don’t write, like historical romance. Too much research. ;-)
- yes. Historicals with interesting characters. Love to read em & write em.
- I write about food and football. I cannot be happier. :)
- Yes. Is there another way to write?
- Yes.I like 2 read & write hot historicals w/ mature characters.My reading focus has narrowed, w/occasional paranormals.
- I read a lot of things, but yes, still most enjoy what I write. And read to “keep up” with what’s happening in my market.
- I love writing historicals…but I will read lots of things. Historical, contemporary, mainstream and books for research!!
- I write w/ a co-author & so we write something that is combination of what we both like to read. Mysteries w/humor & a whodunit.
The responses on Facebook were primarily YES on this thread and this thread. Now the question I need to answer is why I don’t write thrillers. Ha! Beyond the fact that I’m a linear writer and manage very few twists and surprises . . . I really don’t know. I wrote two suspense stories for Blaze, ONE GOOD MAN and GOES DOWN EASY. And my Smithson Group series is definitely action adventure with a touch of whodunnit.
I think I lack the plotting gene to pull off the sort of suspense that would satisfy me. It takes a lot to surprise me and those surprises are what I read for. The Greg Rucka I just read did that for me. Jo Nesbø does that for me. Harlan Coben is THE MAN at unexpected twists. Lee Child, Michael Connelly. My latest discovery, Jack Kerley.
I hate being sexist, but it’s usually the male authors who do that for me, heh. And there’s probably a whole lot to analyze right there! But then there’s Chelsea Cain who I can’t live without. Almost all of these stories still have romantic or at least sexual relationships, and I could never write a book that didn’t include the same.
But these days, so wrapped up in my own amazing happily ever after, my reading tastes have changed. I love writing romance. I love exploring that wonderful male / female tension. Getting those scenes to come alive just makes my creative day. It’s just when reading, or even in television and movie watching, that I gravitate toward the more deeply disturbing parts of the human psyche that make people tick.
Do I have any twisted sisters? ;)
Sunday, June 27th, 2010
17 year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.
Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.
In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this case—or the motives of the people around her.
I read this one following SWAN SONG. I’ve read everything of Coben’s except his Myron Bolitar series, but I’m a total fan of his standalone thrillers. What I love about Coben is that he never fails to deliver an ending twist. My favorite of his books is JUST ONE LOOK, because I never saw the twist coming (and I’m hoping I’m thinking of the right one; I’m terrible at remember plots). CAUGHT was typical Coben – ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, many many cultural references to ground the reader in the here and now, and a plot, if not ripped from the headlines, that is totally contemporary.
I have to say I knew the twist to this one early, just not how it was going to play out. And since I really HATE the Dateline To Catch a Predator shows, I went into this story with a bit of trepidation, and that same Dateline hatred is probably why this wasn’t a favorite for me. I will say Coben pulls no punches and happy outcomes to criminal investigations are not guaranteed. His endings, though, are some of the best ever. I’ve always wanted to know if he plots backwards to get to that perfect resolution. Good stuff, and definitely recommended; not everyone shares my To Catch a Predator loathing. *g*
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
After Christmas, I always go into Amazon and suss out the next year’s books by my auto-buy authors. Sometimes I’ve got Amazon gift cards to spend, and I love later in the year to have the books show up when I’m not expecting them!
Here are the ones I’ve already bought.
1) From Robyn Carr: Angel’s Peak, Feb
2) From Robyn Carr: Moonlight Road, Mar
3) From Harlan Coben: Caught, Mar
4) From Lisa Gardner: Live To Tell, Jul
5) From Tess Gerritsen: Ice Cold, Jul
6) From Kristan Higgins: The Next Best Thing, Jan
7) From Laura Kinsale: Lessons In French, Jan
8) From Pamela Clare: Naked Edge, Mar
9) From Nora Roberts: The Search, Jul
10) From Sandra Brown: Tough Customer, Aug
11) From Connie Willis: Blackout, Feb
12) From Joshilyn Jackson: Backseat Saints, Jun
13) From Jodi Picoult: House Rules, Mar
Anyone else pre-order months in advance? I couldn’t find a new Michael Connelly for 2010, which leaves poor Harlan Coben as the only male author in the list. I’m too far behind in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series to justify bying more of those until I catch up. Dennis Lehane doesn’t write fast enough, and what he’s writing these days isn’t the same as the brilliant Mystic River or Shutter Island (can’t wait for the movie), though I did buy The Given Day. I tend to read more thrillers than anything (though that’s not obvious from the list above), but not all male authors work for me. Hoag, Gardner, and Gerritsen are my faves, and I truly believe it’s because they started in romance and know how to add emotional depth in a way that’s intrinsic to the story. Plus, they just rock. So glad to have a new Hoag! Will also be waiting for the next Chelsea Cain!