Tag Archives: harlan coben

The Art of Writing Bios & Acknowledgments

I don’t know if you’re like me but before I start reading a book, I love reading the author’s bio and acknowledgments. I think you can tell a lot about writers by what they include in their bios, who they thank and how they do it. Sometimes, I know right away if I’m going to like an author just from these things alone. It’s part of the reason I first became a fan of Harlan Coben and David Rosenfelt—they write hilarious acknowledgments.

But some authors barely include any details in their bios and their acknowledgments are nothing but a laundry list of names, resembling an acceptance speech an Oscar winner is reading from without any passion or enthusiasm. I think, Come on, these people contributed something so significant that you needed to mention them but couldn’t drum up the energy to say why? Would you send a thank-you note without mentioning what it’s for? And while you’re at it, isn’t there something interesting you’d like to say about yourself besides where you live?

To be fair, privacy could be a factor. Perhaps someone gave the author insight on living with venereal disease and would prefer that fact not be broadcast. Or maybe the writer would like to thank someone for bailing him out of jail but doesn’t want to include too many details about that rough time before he became a published author. Or it could be the reason he’s grateful to someone is so precious he doesn’t want to share it with the world (and shouldn’t have to).

Too much information is a turn-off, too. I once picked up a book with four pages of breathless acknowledgments of everyone the author had ever met since exiting the womb. By the time I got to top of page three and the mention of third cousin Jody’s brother-in-law’s unbelievable generosity in once giving the author a glass of water, I was considering seppuku. I never made it to the rest of the book.

I say all this knowing that being on the flip side isn’t easy. I’ve had to write bios and struggled with how to strike the right tone and how much detail to include without sounding like a pompous windbag or hermit with no life. I usually ended up with something random like, “Elyse likes soup and the Bee Gees, not necessarily in that order. Due to a childhood incident, she’s scared of walking over manholes, even when covered, and was once propositioned by a prostitute in Berlin.” (All true.) I hoped these personal details were more interesting than a dry list of accomplishments but it’s possible people just thought I’m a moron.

So I pose the following questions to you: As a reader, how much do you like to know? If you’re on the fence about trying a new author, is there something that person can reveal in a bio or acknowledgment that would push you over the edge? That s/he loves dogs? Knitting? Is an Ultimate Fighting champion? Knows Oprah? Conversely, could they turn you off by telling too much?

Am I the only nerd sitting around thinking about this stuff?


Bouchercon Daydreams

All week, I’ve been reading reports about Bouchercon 2009, which took place last week in Indianapolis. (To my international readers: It’s an annual mystery convention held in a different U.S. city every year where fans can hobnob with writers.) The festivities sound like a blast (check out blogger Jen Forbus‘s recap), making me really eager for next year’s B’con in San Francisco, which I plan on attending.

I was so excited, I even came up with some panels and authors I’d love to see at the 2010 convention:

  • Lee Child discussing “Maximizing the Hurt in Your Fight Sequences”
  • Sophie Littlefield on “How to Write 50,000 Words a Day and Get Buff Arms While Doing It”
  • Charlie Huston on “Who Needs Quotation Marks?”
  • Harlan Coben on “Deadly Sidekicks Can Wear Pink”
  • Sue Grafton speaking about her next challenge, “Tackling the Chinese Alphabet”
  • Gregg Hurwitz on “Writing Your First Novel at Age 12, Getting Published at 12.5”
  • James Patterson on “Whittling Down Your Chapters to Just One Comma”
  • Robert Crais and Michael Connelly demonstrating “Effective Greco-Roman Wrestling Moves to Subdue Bad Guys” (This panel will cost extra)

If you’re planning on going, which authors and panels would you like to see?

Miramax, Focus and Kathleen Kennedy Will TELL NO ONE

tellnooneposterVariety reports that Miramax and Focus have acquired rights to remake the French thriller Tell No One, with prolific producer Kathleen Kennedy producing. This is exciting news for me because I’ve read the book and recently caught the movie on DVD. I enjoyed the book by Harlan Coben quite a bit, as I do all his novels, but I thought the movie was even better. How often does that happen?

The story is way too twisty for me to adequately synopsize but here’s the basic premise:¬† A pediatrician who believes his wife had been abducted and murdered suddenly gets mysterious e-mails from someone eight years later who knows things only his wife would know. The sender wants to set up a meeting but urges him to, you guessed it, tell no one. The doctor gets thrown into a combination of turmoil and hope as he re-investigates the evidence in his wife’s case and probes the possibility that she might be alive. He ignites a chain of events that leads to another death, him being framed for it, his running from police, trying to stay alive long enough to make it to the rendezvous and hopefully see his wife again.

tell_071108090824672_wideweb__300x375I read the book a long time ago but remember there were some loose ends that weren’t tied up by the end. The movie, which won four Cesar Awards, explained everything clearly and made it all believable. The acting is solid all around, from Francois Cluzet as the grieving doctor and Marie-Josee Croze (The Diving Bell and Butterfly) as the possibly dead wife to Kristin Scott Thomas—speaking perfect French—as the lover of the doctor’s sister.

Since I was disappointed by the recent American adaptation of the BBC’s superb State of Play, there’s trepidation mixed in with my excitement about this remake. It’s ironic since this is an American story and the book is set in the U.S. so it’s actually being brought back to its roots. I do have hope in Kathleen Kennedy producing—she produces most of Steven Spielberg’s films—so I thought I’d start casting the American version just for fun.

jon-hamm1For the pediatrician, Jon Hamm or George Clooney would be ideal. The actor has to convey intelligence but can’t look like an action hero because the doctor is just an ordinary guy caught up in extreme circumstances. The wife’s part is much smaller so Cate Blanchett probably wouldn’t do it but Michelle Monaghan or Jennifer Connelly would be great. The pivotal role of the wife’s father, who happens to be a retired police captain, is something Robert De Niro or Anthony Hopkins could knock out of the park. As for the lesbian lover part, why not let Kristin Scott Thomas reprise it?

Anybody else read the book and/or seen the French film? How do you feel about an American adaptation finally being made? How would you cast it?

LONG LOST Myron and Win Are Back!

coben-cover1I hate Harlan Coben. Every time I pick up one of his books, I think, Oh, I’ll just read one chapter and then I’ll get on with my work/grocery shopping/showering, whatever. But it never works out that way. I’ll read one chapter, then the next, then the next, then it’s 12 hours later and I’m unwashed and starving but there’s no food in the house and I missed my dental appointment because I haven’t moved from my spot on the couch.¬†

And so it wasn’t any different with Coben’s latest, Long Lost (out March 31), especially because sports agent Myron Bolitar, his sociopathic friend Win, his partner Esperanza and their receptionist Big Cyndi are all back in style for their ninth adventure. Myron gets a call from an old lover, Terese Collins (last seen in Darkest Fear), who entices him to meet her in Paris without telling him why. He runs into trouble as soon as he sets foot on French soil and the action doesn’t stop after he returns to this side of the Atlantic. I don’t like giving a lot away so I’ll just vaguely say the plot involves murder, a possible kidnapping and cover-up involving a long-ago car accident, questions about nature vs. nurture, stem cell science, and terrorism.

coben-back-coverOf all Coben’s books, I think this has the grandest scope. I’m not just talking about the locations, though the descriptions of Paris are delicious (there’s a sly reference to the French movie Tell No One, which is based on one of Coben’s stand-alones). What I mean is, the stories are usually personal—Myron (or whoever’s the protagonist in the stand-alones) gets sucked into a mystery because he’s trying to find resolution for a personal matter or help out a friend. But Long Lost¬†involves political conspiracies and Myron’s actions have international consequences. The final reveal is disturbing and you won’t see it coming.

If you’re reading this and thinking, What the hell? I just want my wisecracking Myron and his goofy friends! Don’t worry—Myron is still funny, still drinking his beloved Yoo-Hoos but he’s more mature, as he should be since he’s now in his forties. His relationships have more weight and poignancy, especially when he describes what it’s like to watch his parents get older and more fragile. Myron’s quips just can’t cover up the heart that sits on his sleeve.

So, Myron fans, you can rejoice that he’s back, but when you sit down to read this book, make sure you send your kids to a relative, cancel your appointments and wear a carpel-tunnel-syndrome brace so you won’t hurt your hand flipping those pages.

Nerd Verdict: Nothing Lost in translation in this international thriller