Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006, Hello 2007

To all readers of this website, and to all non-readers as well (who unfortunately won't get to see this message), I hope you all had a terrific 2006, filled with good times, good books, friendship, love, hope, a dash of whimsy, a hint of mischief, and great success.

2006 was a wonderful year for me personally and professionally. In 2007 there are lots of exciting books I edited scheduled to be published, not to mention my first novel THE MARK coming in July. So stay tuned.

Have a very happy New Year, and tonight be sure to raise a glass to the next 12 months.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Last 10 Books I Bought (and why)

I'm taking a cute from Joe Konrath's blog and offering a list of the last ten books I purchased and why I bought them. Thought it might be an interesting look at why books get purchased. Or not.

THE CLEANUP by Sean Doolittle
Reason bought:

I've heard Doolittle's name several times as a writer to watch, and after this book got a good review in the New York Times I figured it was time to give Sean a shot.

OFFICER DOWN by Theresa Schwegel

Reason bought:

The book won the freaking Edgar. Plus I'm a huge fan of "The Shield," so the back cover copy sucked me in. I'm a sucker for cops toeing the line between good and evil, so this sounded like a winner on all fronts.

SUNSTROKE by Jesse Kellerman

Reason bought:

The last few years have been good for literary celebrity offspring (Owen King, Joe Hill), and while I was skeptical when this novel came out, the author's terrific pedigree (he's an award-winning playwright) and good reviews convinced me otherwise. I stopped in the Black Orchid the other day, where Jesse himself apparently told the owners, "If you read this expecting my parents, you'll be disappointed." So I had to check it out.

A PHOTOGRAPHER'S LIFE by Annie Leibovitz

Reason bought:

A gift for my Dad who's a huge photography buff. I had the chance to give it a read when I visited, and the pictures within are both stunning and heartbreaking, most notably in Annie's relationship with her parents as they age.


Reason bought:

Another gift for my Dad. Plus it sounded like one hell of a cool book and package, with reproductions of tickets and flyers from Springsteen's early days.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult

Reason bought:

It's no secret that Picoult seems poised to cement her place atop the literary establishment, and few authors can match her combined commercial success and critical acclaim. Yet I'd never read a Picoult book, and after reading a piece in USA Today about her publishing celebrating the 1,000,000th copy sold, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Reason bought:
During another trip to the Black Orchid, this time for Duane Swiercyznski's signing, I asked Sarah and Dave to recommend a good crime novel. This was what they handed me. Bonnie and Joe approved.

ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz

Reason bought:

The ODD THOMAS series intrigued me, and after reading many positive reviews for the latest installment BROTHER ODD I decided to start at the beginning. Sometimes when browsing, I'll pick up a book and read a page or two to see if the prose elicits a reaction. ODD THOMAS has this doozy right in the third paragraph:

"In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my non-celebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion."

If you can put the book back on the shelf after reading that paragraph, you are a stronger man than I.

THE WHEELMAN and THE BLONDE by Duane Swierczynski
Reason bought:
I went to Mr. Duane's signing at the Black Orchid, where he proceeded to beat me into submission lest I buy a copy of each of his books in hardcover.
Ok that's not entirely true. Though Duane did remark that I could have passed for his cousin, considering we're both pretty big guys and that day both happened to have enough beard growth to hide a small elk.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


So here it is, barring any last-minute changes, behold the final cover for THE MARK. The bullet hole will be a die-cut which goes through to a quote page, and the black portion will be some sort of crinkly paper (I've heard crinkly paper is big). Also, the font for the Patterson quote will be different as I received a mock up sans quote and inserted it myself to see what it would look like.

I am very happy with it, should be seeing galleys within the month, and will be counting the minutes until I hold finished copies in my grubby little hands.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Favorite Books of the (Reading) Year

I'm going to take a page from Stephen King (not too often I get to do that, other than for the title of this website) and offer my top six books of the year that were not necesarily published in 2006. Because I only get to read for pleasure about 5% of the time I'd actually like to be reading for pleasure, I'm sure I missed many terrific books that will make up my 2007 and 2008 lists. I am omitting books I edited/acquired. And of course, I'm curious to hear what others feel were the best of their reading year.

COMPANY by Max Barry

A stingingly funny, yet oddly sympathetic satire about corporate life. Set in a modern day conglomerate in which employees aren't exactly sure what the company does, COMPANY follows the path of a young hire and his struggle to uncover the nefarious (and bizarre) plan at the heart of Zephyr Holdings. And though its donut-dominated cover has received mixed reviews, after reading the book you'll see why this mangled sugary concoction is so apt.

ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith

A hilarious and touching look at the inhabitants of Wellington, a fictional New England liberal arts university, and the ways in which race, sex, and education create hope for them as well as provide misery. No character is left with merely two dimensions, and no page contains an iota of laziness or carelessness. Misguided ambition runs rampant, and it contains one of the most thought-provoking characters I've recently read in that of a young black poet/rapper whose talents outshine those who seek to both hold him down and/or exploit him.

THE BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy

Don't bother seeing the convoluted and stripped-down film version of this brilliant book. Instead savor the gritty and propulsive plot, the pitch-perfect rendering of police and government politics, one of the greatest boxing matches ever to hit the printed page, and the harrowing tale of two men and their descent into madness over the murder of a woman whose only true love was found in death.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly

Connelly takes another departure from his Harry Bosch series and offers up what might be his best book yet. We watch defense attorney (to the scumbags) Mickey Haller as he:
1) Takes on his biggest case to date
2) Plays the legal institution like a fiddle
3) Realizes that what appears to be an open-and-shut case is something far more sinister
4) Finds the soul he thought was lost long ago.

A DANGEROUS MAN by Charlie Huston

Do yourself a favor and read Huston's CAUGHT STEALING and SIX BAD THINGS before you read the brilliant, violent, and ultimately heartbreaking final volume of his Hank Thompson trilogy. As our (anti) hero struggles with his descent into hell to keep his family alive, Huston offers a harrowing and heartfelt story of a good man gone bad. If not for circumstance, Henry Thompson could be the guy at the bar chatting about the baseball game, yet instead he's an assassin for a vicious (and hilariously depicted) Russian mob boss. Yet as Thompson struggles to retain his humanity, he realizes that his last chance for heaven might come in the guise of someone closer to his heart than he ever thought possible. Not to mention an ending that feels like an emotional punch to the gut.
HARD NEWS by Seth Mnookin
For my second novel I've been doing a lot of research on the newspaper industry, and I stumbled upon this treasure almost by accident. HARD NEWS is Mnookin's account of the rise and fall of Howell Raines and the scandals at the New York Times under his watch. It has the pacing of a finely-honed thriller with the bones and giddy excitement of terrific journalism. Though Mnookin's allegiances are easy to decipher, you can sense the passion he has for his industry and his disgust at a hallowed institution plagued by avoidable scandal.

Proud to be a New York Sports Fan

The New York Knicks, already an embarassment of monumental proportions, reach a new low with the brawl and subsequent suspensions amid allegations that Isiah "Hindenburg" Thomas orchestrated the foul that started the whole thing.

Giants lose, squander more opportunities to score than the 40-Year Old Virgin.

Going into 2007, the average age of the Mets starting pitchers is 87.4.

Yankees "big offseason acquisition" so far is bringing back a 34-year old starting pitcher whose ERA was 4.20 last year despite pitching in the NL, and will be making more money than the entire cast of "Ocean's 13."

Hockey still sucks.

On a side note, the two Wesleyan alums/current NFL head coaches have an 18-10 record this season, despite slightly less overall talent than most Wesleyan teams. How many colleges have more current pro coaches (2) than they've had pro players in their history (1)? And not just that, but one of the best coaches of all time (Bill Belichick) and one of the best young coaches the game has seen in years (Eric Mangini)?


Friday, December 15, 2006

Hannibal Agonistes

Last week marked the arrival of Thomas Harris's fifth novel, HANNIBAL RISING, the fourth to feature world-renowned psychiatrist/gourmand/cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Since the publication of RED DRAGON in 1981, Hannibal Lecter has become arguably the most famous literary character of the last thirty years (thanks in no small part to Anthony Hopkins's chilling performance in the film adaptation of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS). Every novel Harris writes is a fairly major media event due to Lecter's popularity, and Harris's notorious reclusivity and infrequent publication schedule.

Between RED DRAGON, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL and now HANNIBAL RISING, the Lecter books have sold millions of copies around the world, inspired five movies (yes, more movies than there are books, as RED DRAGON was filmed twice), and elevated Harris to J.D. Salinger-esque levels of fandom and curiosity.

But when the announcement of HANNIBAL RISING came a few months ago, rather than the usual hurrahs associated with beloved returning characters, this book was met with a mix of apathy and vitriol.

Why do we need another Hannibal book?
Harris wrote this just because there was a movie in the pipeline.
Money is clearly the only motivation.

I do not recall one person welcoming the cannibal back with fully open arms. It was a fascinating response, for sure. For a character as ingrained in pop culture consciousness as Lecter, the gold standard to which every written and/or filmed villain aspires to, the public (at least the outspoken critical public) seemed less than embracing.

This does not pertain to the actual critical reception to the book HANNIBAL RISING, which was released last week and debuted at #6 on the New York Times bestseller list. I have not yet read the book, but I'm fascinated by the critical backlash which accumulated before the book was even published. Many fans and critics questioned the author and publisher's motives. Many readers felt betrayed by Hannibal in the previous book, 1999's HANNIBAL, in which many of the villain's motivations were laid bare and also ended with the rather unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) coupling of Lecter and his nemesis FBI agent Clarice Starling.

Perhaps the reception was due to the public's love for Hannibal, as there's nothing worse than feeling a beloved character has betrayed your trust or gone astray. And like any relationship, the more intense the emotions are the more extreme the reactions will be. You're more likely to have a knock down, drag out fight with someone you love dearly than a passing fling. So readers, who loved Hannibal intensely, felt betrayed, felt that their lover/partner had done something so out of character as to render their former experiences moot. Hence the reaction to HANNIBAL RISING, which played those criticisms to an even higher degree (we didn't want to know his motivations in the first place, now they're publishing an entire book about them??).

On the other hand, Harris has only written four books featuring Hannibal, and in two of those he was a secondary character. There are dozens of authors who have created franchise characters whose literary tenure has surpassed four books, many of them several times over. In every longstanding series there have been books that have ranged in quality or didn't meet fans' expectations. Yet never was the return of a famous character met with such ire. You never hear Michael Connelly's fans claiming he wrote the 14th Harry Bosch book just for the money. Or Laura Lippman's fans claiming the next Tess Monaghan book only came out because Hollywood already had a script in place. Those authors have rabid fans just as Mr. Harris does, yet their characters are never treated in such a critical manner simply for daring to occupy shelf space.

I thought HANNIBAL was a better book than most give it credit for, and you cannot take away the fact that between RED DRAGON and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Thomas Harris wrote two of the greatest suspense novels of the modern era. So is Hannibal Lecter's chilly reception due to fans' perceived betrayal? Did they feel HANNIBAL was such an inferior work to the previous two, and further stories were henceforth unwelcome? I think there's a bit of both, but I also think there's an inherent cynicism people have these days towards hugely hyped books, even before criticism of the books themselves can be rendered (see John Twelve Hawks, Jed Rubenfeld, and to some extent even Charles Frazier). Then there tends to be tremendous schadenfreude if the books don't live up to the hype, either critically or commercially.

So what is it, do you think, about HANNIBAL RISING that caused this reaction? And if you've read it, I'm very curious to hear readers' takes...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reading Update

I'm currently reading HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. I'm about 4 years behind on the Harry juggernaut, sue me. (I was going to include a link to the book, but come on, if you don't own one by now you're not going to buy it because of a stupid blog link). And anyone who thinks they're too old to read a Harry Potter book, watch out before I smack you with my hardcover copy of
LITTLE TOOT. Going good so far, my only complaint is that at 870 pages the book is so darn thick I can't read it during my morning commute on the sardine can that is the 4 train.

One of the best things about this series is Rowling's ability to give every single chapter its own story arc. Not many books have you ending a chapter with both catharsis and anticipation.

Recently finished George Pelecanos's
THE NIGHT GARDENER (because I'm a fan of being the 18,815th person to comment on a book). A simply heartbreaking ending, and some of the most emotional and wrenching scenes between a father and son I've ever read. Oh yeah, it's a crime novel. So is LITTLE TOOT if you think about it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Case of the Mondays
(and are winter bestseller lists dominated by men,
summer lists dominated by women?)

Posting might be sporadic over the next few weeks, as I'm going full bore on book #2 with my publisher's deadline looming ever closer. I am quite happy with how THE REGULATOR is coming along, and since the publishing season is slowing down I have more time to focus. There's a lot more research to be done for THE REGULATOR than THE MARK, which is both invigorating and frustrating. Frustrating since I tend to write in long, uninterrupted bursts, and it's hard to stop mid-paragraph to Google and Wiki the hell out of things.

Anyway, a few things to catch up on:

I haven't seen it yet, but I was interviewed by Sarah Weinman in her article for the new issue of "Writers Digest." Pick it up and let me know what you think. I was also interviewed for a recent article for Crains Business Daily, though of course my fifteen minute conversation got clipped to one soundbite. What can ya do.

The last two weeks have been some of the biggest as far as new fiction releases, with Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Harris all releasing (not to mention Philippa Gregory). In any given week, each of those authors has the potential to dominate bestseller lists, but with this incredibly crowded fiction season it'll be very interesting to see who comes out on top.

Just looking at this week's (December 17th) New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list, you'll find the following names:

James Patterson
Michael Crichton
Mitch Albom
Nicholas Sparks
Clive Cussler
Dean Koontz
Nelson DeMille
Carl Hiaasen
Tony Hillerman
Stephen King
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
David Baldacci
Danielle Steel
Nora Roberts
Charles Frazier

That's a veritable murderer's row right there. Out of curiosity, I looked at the same bestseller list from this time last year (December 18th). And we have:

James Patterson
Nicholas Sparks
Jan Karon
Dean Koontz
Dan Brown
Patricia Cornwell
P.D. James
David Baldacci
Anne Rice
George R. R. Martin
James Luceno
Gregory MaGuire
Tim LaHaye
Robert Jordan
Scott Turow

So right off the bat, there are at least four books that could be classified at Sci-Fi or Fantasy on last year's list (Martin, Luceno, MaGuire, Jordan) and two more with religious themes (Rice, LaHaye). Three if you count Dan Brown.

The 2006 list is much more thriller-oriented, no major Sci-Fi/Fantasy titles with the exception of possibly Stephen King (and LISEY'S STORY is a stretch for either genre).

What I also found interesting is that of those 30 books, only seven were written by women. On a whim, I decided to take a look at the New York Times bestseller list from July 30th, 2006, just to see if the summer (bullish for fiction) list looked any different. The list reads as follows:

Nora Roberts
Janet Evanovich
Danielle Steel
Fannie Flagg
Kathy Reichs
James Patterson
Laurell K. Hamilton
Dean Koontz
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
James Rollins
Sara Gruen
Linda Howard
Patricia Cornwell
Luanne Rice
Johanna Lindsay
Anne McCaffrey

Wow. Not only were twelve of the sixteen books on the list written by women, but women occupied the first five spots as well. A very different picture from this winter, when only three of the fifteen books were written by women, and the top ten spots are held by men.
So of course, let's check out the bestseller list from the same time last summer (July 31st, 2005). We have:

James Patterson
Elizabeth Kostova
John Irving
Janet Evanovich
J.D. Robb
Dan Brown
Danielle Steel
Sue Monk Kidd
Nicholas Sparks
James Lee Burke
Suzanne Brockman
James Patterson (again)
Mitch Albom
Nick Hornby
Kathy Reichs

Seven out of fifteen.

So women compose 7 out of 30 books on the winter lists (23.3%) and 19 out of 31 on the summer lists (61.2%).

I have no idea what to make of this or whether it's an aberration (my sample size certainly wasn't large). Regardless, it's quite interesting. I might have to do some more digging...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Just Thinking...

I've been reading a graphic novel called THE SURROGATES that an agent recommended to me, and it's just terrific. Makes me want to publish more (good) graphic novels (I edited one that's coming out next July). Makes me want to write one at some point. There's just something about a good graphic novel that makes you feel like you're reading a true work of art. Plus one of the guys who wrote THE SURROGATES started out in the industry working in the mail room at his eventual publisher. Gotta respek that.

In case you haven't noticed, graphic novels are the new "it" trend in publishing. Thanks to tremendous mainstream attention due to some high profile film adaptations ("V For Vendetta," "Sin City"), and major profiles of the bigger names (Alan Moore, Frank Miller), the graphic novel market is booming. Means more mainstream publishers who previously shunned graphic novels as "geeky" now realize that there are a whole lot of geeks out there. Not to mention the entire notion of a geek is hideously outdated, considering that most things considered geeky (graphic novels, comic books, video games, blogs) are actually more popular than things considered "hip."

In fact, I'd like to be the first person to say that "geeky" is the new "hip." And "hip" is the new "lad lit."

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Case of the Mondays

I have a new post up at the
Killer Year blog, my first in quite some time.

Spent the weekend going through page proofs for THE MARK. Went to Duane Swierczynski's signing at the Black Orchid, hung out for a bit with
Duane, Gerald So, Sarah Dubya, and DAVE. Got my copies of THE WHEELMAN and THE BLONDE signed. Also bought a copy of Simon Kernick's THE BUSINESS OF DYING. Looking forward to reading all.

After having witnessed the Giants collapse, the Mets miss out on the World Series, and the travesty that has become the Knicks (plus not caring one bit about hockey), let's just say that right now is not a good time to be a New York sports fan. Maybe I will move to New Jersey.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Smatterings

First off, some ITW news, as the deadline for award submissions has been extended to December 15th. Authors are permitted to submit their own work without going through their agent or publisher, so it is every author's responsibility to make sure his or her work is considered. If you have any questions about the judges, addresses, or submission rules, contact Alex Kava at And then go read a bunch of her books to pay it forward for all of her hard work.

I have an article in the new issue of CrimeSpree (the one with James Crumley on the cover). Check it out.

Taxi rates in New York jumped 27% yesterday. It's only a matter of time before New Yorkers can delegate a percentage of their paycheck directly to the Taxi and Limousine commission.

Gawker calls shenanigans on the Post for claiming the photograph in the article was a candid taken yesterday, even though the photo was actually of a professional model using a phone that looks like it escaped from 1996.

I can't say much about the New York Times "10 Best Books of 2006" that hasn't already been said, though I loved the fact that four authors under 35 (Marisha Pessl, 29, Rory Stewart, 33, Danielle Trussoni, 33, and Gary Shteyngart, 34) made the cut. Not that it signifies anything in particular, but it's great to see meaningful contributions to literature by Gen X being recognized in such a public fashion. Plus, after all the hoopla surrounding Marisha Pessl and her "hotness," it's great to see her recognized for merit. Plus my father was a big fan of SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS, so needless to say the book is now on my TBR list.

Apparently there are a dozen people who would rather be holding a Playstation 3 controller than their children...

I'm currently going over page proofs for THE MARK, and just submitted the excerpt to be included for book #2, currently titled THE REGULATOR. I guess this means I can't scrap the whole thing and start over...

If you haven't seen it, watch Danny DeVito's drunken ramblings on "The View." Pay special attention at the 4:18 mark, when DeVito burps and covers his mouth, much to the amusement of the audience.

My thoughts? Who cares if he was drunk. I say more actors and performers should be drunk while interviewed. Yeah yeah yeah, we all know DeVito was supposed to be promoting his new movie "Deck the Halls," but does anyone really care about what he has to say about it? Does anyone really want to watch him discuss his character's "motivations"?

Danny: You see, I play this guy, and all he wants to do is put up Christmas lights. He loves Christmas, and will do anything to show his holiday spirit. And along comes his neighbor, played by Matthew Broderick, and he turns my character's world upside down...
Rosie O'Donnell: You were paid millions of dollars to fall around in the snow and make fart jokes.
Danny: Yes, but why does my character feel the need to make fart jokes?

I wish actors and actresses would forgo the stupid "Here's what my character feels" crap and show up drunk. 99% of movie characters don't have motivations. They act to further the script, not to do anything that would make sense within the boundaries of rational thought. From now on, I say "The Today Show," "Regis and Kelly," and "Oprah" all supply a stocked liquor cabinet before showtime. Then I would be inclined to watch.

Of course leave it to Elizabeth Hasselbeck of all people to stay cool about the whole thing, saying of DeVito, "But he was a fun drunk."