Good Reading : November 2004
30 goodreading crime ﬁction word of mouth Coming soon to a cinema near you... Bestselling crime author Harlan Coben chatted to me recently, and I consider myself lucky that he found time to talk. He has just finished the American leg of the book tour for his latest thriller Just One Look, he is hard at work on the next, he is a father of four young children and his wife is a paediatrician in charge of an emergency centre. Is it any wonder that he finds it easier not to write at home? Coben was the first author to win all three of the major American crime awards, the Edgar, the Shamus and the Anthony, all for his Myron Bolitar books. This very funny series stars a sports agent who ends up solving all manner of crimes to protect his wealthy customers. The series was a critical favourite but the books weren’t hitting the bestseller lists.Then came a stand-alone thriller, Tell No One, which went straight to the top of the charts. ‘I never realised the Myron books weren’t doing so well until I wrote Tell No One and I saw such a dramatic increase in readership,’ says Coben. ‘I think the Myron books were a tougher sell. No matter how often we would tell the female readership “You are really going to like this”, they would see something relating to sports and think, “This is not for me”.’ After seven novels in the series Coben decided it was time to give his character a break. ‘When I write, the first thing I start with is an idea, not a char- acter, and I had what I felt was a great idea about a man whose wife is mur- dered and then eight years later he sees her on a computer screen.That wouldn’t have worked for Myron.We are not in the days of Hercules Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, someone who doesn’t age, never changes and never develops.The Myron in book seven is not the Myron in book one. I always want to raise the stakes, but how many catharses can a man go through before he goes insane? Myron looked at me and I looked at him, and he said “Can I have a little breathing room now?” ‘Another reason was ego. I wanted to prove that I could do something somewhat successful that did not include Myron. My publisher was also welcome to the idea, and when they read a sample of what I thought Tell No One was going to be they became even more excited. I didn’t think I would be leav - ing Myron this long though.’ Fans of the character still have more of a wait before he returns. ‘I’m currently 230 pages or so into the next book and he hasn’t made an appearance yet. My guess is that he will be back in the book after that, but that is strictly a guess because it has to come from the idea, it has to work and it has to come naturally.’ The publishers weren’t the only ones excited by the early talk of Tell No One. There was a bidding war between four major studios for the movie rights – but that was several years ago now and the film hasn’t even been cast yet. ‘Hollywood is a weird and bizar re creature, one that a novelist is best keeping at a good ar m’s distance. It will probably get made within the next year but it’s been bounced around a million times over. Much happier is that in the next couple of weeks we will probably be selling Myron to be a feature film, with much Hollywood excitement and money behind it.’ One of the reasons Coben will probably accept the latest Hollywood offer is because he will be consulted about who is cast in the major roles, but even then he is philosophical about the whole process. ‘You have to understand that a book is one thing, a movie is another. James Cain has the best quote. When asked “Don’t you hate what Hollywood has done to your books?” he said, “What do you mean? They haven’t done anything to my books, they are right there on the shelf.”’ Coben has become famous for what he calls ‘that Carrie hand-out-of-the- grave moment’ and I finished our chat by asking him if he ever gets surprised by some of the plot twists of his books. ‘I know the beginning and I know the end; I know very little else between the two. I know that last twist and who did it and why. I compare it to driving across my country from New Jersey to California. I may go on Route 80 which is the direct route, but chances are I’ll stop over via the Suez Canal and then Tokyo. But I always end up in LA.’ Harlan Coben’s Just One Look & Tell No One are published by Orion, rrp $29.95 & $17.95 respectively Fans of HARLAN COBEN’s Myron Bolitar books will be disappointed to hear that Myron is still ‘resting’. The good news is that he’ll definitely be back in print – eventually – and that he could appear on the big screen soon, as PHILLIP KNOWLES discovered when he talked to the author.
December January 2005