67-year-old James Patterson is undoubtedly the English language world’s most prolific, and successful novelist. He has sold over 300 million books and is a perennial feature in the New York Times top-ten book list.
Primarily a writer of crime thriller fiction, his romance novels also fly off the shelves and he has received a prestigious award for his children’s books.
Patterson is very open about his collaboration with real and ghost writers, many of whom are featured as co-authors on his book covers, and says that he is ‘more proficient at dreaming up plots than crafting sentence after sentence.’ In 2014 Patterson plans to have 16 books into bookshops or onto kindles. These include seven children’s and young adult titles, two romance and seven crime thrillers all, except one, written collaboratively.
Many of Patterson’s fans cut their teeth on the thrillers that feature psychologist Alex Cross and which are all written by the maestro himself. The 22nd in the series, Hope to Die, is due out in November
Patterson has become a Bookworm favourite because he recently spent a few of his millions supporting independent bookshops and public libraries, which he believes are a threatened species due to the unstoppable invasion of digital.
“If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature?” he explains. “Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books?”
His recent gift of US$250,000 (VND5.25 billion) to independent bookstores in Britain was to highlight the fact that less than 1,000 of these now remain, and that without them children have a dwindling resource of suitable books available. He believes that if children don’t read books then we are going to end up with a world of knuckleheads.
The latest Patterson thriller is Invisible. Its hero, FBI researcher, Emma Dockery, discovers a connection between hundreds of unsolved rapes, kidnappings and murders. And as the PR asks: will she become the next victim? Its co-author is David Ellis.
Another prolific crime thriller author is 54-year-old Harlan Coben, whose latest book, Missing You, also has a female protagonist, New York detective Kat Donovan. It’s often a downer for thriller readers to have plots revealed, so its enough to say that it includes Coben’s distinctive multiple twists. Just as it seems that an explanation is within reach you are hit on the head with another shocking surprise. More and more scary consequences occur than make you ensure all doors are securely locked if you are racing to its conclusion late at night.
Like most crime thriller writers Coben collects fans by writing series about the same characters, but Missing You is a stand-alone hair-raiser. Coben is one of those crime thriller writers who is cited as being an influence by other successful authors of the genre. Much of his writing slips him into the literary category.
Perhaps the most literary crime thriller writer of all is 35-year-old Tom Rob Smith whose three-part series set in Russia began with multiple award winner, Child 44 — a contender for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. The book features disgraced Soviet MBG agent Leo Demidov on the trail of a serial child killer in the months preceding and following Stalin’s death in 1953. It was inspired by the true story of Andrei Chikatlio, the Rostov Ripper, who killed 52 youngsters before being captured.
Once you’ve become enmeshed with the main characters you immediately want to rush out and buy the sequels — The Secret Speech and Agent Six. The former is set in Russia just as Khrushchev denounces Stalin’s legacy in 1956. The latter in the 1960s and involves Russian incursions into Afghanistan.
Crime… in Sweden
This year Rob Smith had another novel published, The Farm. It encompasses his own family experiences of growing up in London and parts of Sweden with a Swedish mother and English father.
Because it’s set in Sweden you could accuse the author of jumping onto the phenomenally successful Scandinavian crime band wagon that was set in motion by Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum. With his family connection, who could blame him?
The novel’s protagonist, Daniel, travels to Sweden where his parents have retired to a small farm after he receives a phone call from his mother accusing his father of being a wicked liar, and one from his father who has labeled his wife psychotic and had her committed to an asylum. Daniel listens to his mother’s fantastic story about the father’s involvement in a ritualistic cabal led by a troll-carving neighbour and which involves the murder of a young girl. The dilemna about which parent to believe and the need to know the truth sets Daniel on a twisting, gritty path abounding in murder and weirdly absorbing experiences that keep you riveted.
For more information on Bookworm go to bookwormhanoi.com. Besides their original store on Chau Long, Bookworm have a second, smaller shop in Nghi Tam Village in the West Lake area. Located behind the Sheraton and in the same alley as VilaTom Coffee, it can be found at Lane 1/28 Au Co, Lang Nghi Tam, Tay Ho