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‘Peak Season’ launches this summer

'Peak Season' launches this summer

The big day awaits. After years of writing nonfiction, and what seems like years of pitching to agents, I’m publishing my first novel this summer. Peak Season is the first in what I hope will become a series about CW McCoy, a police officer turned real estate agent who’s blackmailed into helping a killer clear …

Pulp Fiction: On the Bayfront

Pulp Fiction: On the Bayfront

They skulked into my office like Dodger fans the day Bobby Thomson hit the shot heard ’round the world. Guy and his frail, both pulling faces. The mug must have lifted weights in his sleep. The dame had killer legs and a top that couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. Neither could I. “You Doyle?” muscles said, …

The infectious prediction of thrillers

The infectious prediction of thrillers

Some writers land in the right place at the right time. Others anticipate, showing us what life might look like in a few years if things go horribly wrong. Many of the near-futurists build their plots on epidemics. Bob Reiss (Black Monday) did it with oil. Patricia Gussin (Weapon of Choice) does it with biologics. …

The secret life of writers

The secret life of writers

For many authors, the secret to the thriller is a secret. In Karin Slaughter’s novel Fractured, Will Trent tells no one except two confidants about his dyslexia. The special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation strives to prevent people from using his disability to compromise his career. He suffers. The writing doesn’t. In Harlen …

Keeping the novel above stall speed

Keeping the novel above stall speed

A novel is a little like a small prop plane. Fly too fast and the scenery blurs. Fly too slow and the plane stalls. Take the pop fiction of the ‘70s and ‘80s by authors like Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele. Some of those books streaked through plot as if it were aerial combat. Then …

Scene of the crime: the character of place

Scene of the crime: the character of place

Location, location, location. The mantra isn’t just for real estate agents. Writers have long known that a place works better as character than background. NPR does, too, which makes the radio program “Crime in the City” a delight for tourists of murder and mayhem. The long-running summer series features well-known authors and their beats—George Pelecanos’ …

Chris Grabenstein, a sure voice at the shore

Chris Grabenstein, a sure voice at the shore

What makes Chris Grabenstein’s Down the Shore novels so entertaining? I think it’s the voice he chooses to tell the stories. Iraq war veteran John Ceepak is a police officer in the town of Sea Haven, New Jersey. With a code of ethics as strong as a gun barrel, he’s clearly the hero. But Grabenstein …

For Margaret Coel, the perfect view

For Margaret Coel, the perfect view

I don’t usually appreciate head-hopping in novels. The author gains a global perspective but sometimes sacrifices intimacy and suspense—when we see everything in real time, the heroine’s discoveries don’t always land with the same impact. Unless the author is Margaret Coel. In The Perfect Suspect, the author makes a good case for the technique, employing …

V is for verb

V is for verb

The leader declared war on passive verbs. Noreen Wald, aka Nora Charles, author of the Ghostwriter and Kate Kennedy series, vowed to stamp out all forms of the verb to be. Her fervor had inspired the Wednesday Critique Group, an offshoot of Noreen’s class in writing fiction, to the point that its members adopted a …

Survey gets a read on e-readers

Survey gets a read on e-readers

A fifth of American adults say they have read an e-book in the past year. They read more frequently than their print-loving counterparts and they’re more likely than others to have bought rather than borrowed their most recent book. Those are some of the findings of the Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Reading …

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