I’ve interviewed many authors over the past few years, but it wasn’t until recently that I got to interview my all-time favorite: Harlan Coben. With over 60 million books in print and his last seven consecutive novels debuting at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, you could say Harlan is a favorite among many readers, and with good reason. His thrillers are unpredictable and compelling, and they feature fully-realized characters that stay with you after the final page has been turned.
Harlan’s newest novel, The Stranger, is being released in the U.S. on March 24. Stay tuned for my review of the book, which I’m sure is fantastic. Until then, check out my interview with Harlan below, where we discuss everything from Governor Chris Christie to driving in the fog with your headlights on. Enjoy!
Stuart Woods is one of my favorite authors for a variety of reasons. He comes up with terrific characters names. For example, Felicity Devonshire, Arrington Calder, and, of course, the best belongs to the star of his ever-popular book series: Stone Barrington. Woods is also a gifted writer; his sentence structure is varied and infused with inspired word usage, and Woods’ ability to vividly describe a romantic scene is unrivaled.
Like many writers who’ve achieved great success, Woods has been accused of becoming lazy, churning out book after book, focusing on quantity instead of quality. While I’ve noticed a distinct dip in his ability to create a novel that keeps me guessing from start to finish, I still find myself enamored by his characters and impressed with the fluidity of his prose. Yes, he may not be writing at the level of Harlan Coben anymore, but spending time with Stone Barrington, Dino Bacchetti and Holly Barker feels like coming home and catching up with old friends. Which brings us to my thoughts on Woods’ latest novel, Unintended Consequences.
Unintended Consequences kept me entertained from cover to cover. Speaking of which, this book’s cover is beautiful – easily the best I’ve seen this year. A good portion of the novel is set in one of my favorite cities, Paris, where Stone Barrington finds himself ensnared by mysterious circumstances. Unlike Dan Brown’s Inferno, where the lead character also had amnesia, Woods deftly handled Barrington’s challenging situation without leaving the reader feeling betrayed. Unintended Consequences moved along at an incredibly brisk pace without resorting to the pedestrian vernacular that is commonly found in similar books. As a writer, I appreciated this, as well as the palpable new characters – my favorite being the sophisticated Marcel duBois.
I blew through Unintended Consequences in less than a week because it was an easy, captivating read. While it wasn’t a convoluted mystery, it didn’t need to be. It told an easy-to-follow story from start to finish and whet my appetite for the next Stone Barrington adventure. Not only did I get to spend time with some of my favorite characters in fiction, I learned a few new words along the way. What more could I ask for? It didn’t blow me away, but after reading the last page, I felt satisfied. And, for me, that’s what’s most important – feeling that my time was well spent. If you like thrillers, give this one a shot. It may not be Stuart Woods’ greatest novel, but it’s a worthy addition to a formidable series.
Stone Barrington is no stranger to schemes and deceptions of all stripes—as an attorney for the premier white-shoe law firm Woodman & Weld, he’s seen more than his share. But when he travels to Europe under highly unusual circumstances, Stone finds himself at the center of a mystery that is, even by his standards, most peculiar. Two unexpected invitations may be the first clues in an intricate puzzle Stone must unravel to learn the truth . . . a puzzle that will lead him deep into the rarefied world of European ultrawealth and privilege, where billionaires rub elbows with spooks, insider knowledge is traded at a high premium, and murder is never too high a price to pay for a desired end. It soon becomes clear that beneath the bright lights of Europe lurks a shadowy underworld . . . and its only rule is deadly ambition.
To paraphrase Dante Alighieri: abandon all hope, ye who read this novel. While Dan Brown is capable of writing a strong book, this isn’t one of them. I thought The Da Vinci Code was terrific, but Brown’s latest novel is marred by garrulous writing and repetitive dialogue. It’s also overflowing with unnecessary historical facts that do nothing but distract the reader from the sloppy narrative. The worst offense is the author’s explanation for Robert Landon’s amnesia. It’s so laughably bad that it makes the first two thirds of the book seem superfluous. Inferno’s only redeeming quality is the villain’s fascination with overpopulation and transhumanism; these topics are discussed at length and are fascinating. Unfortunately, you have to trudge through a swamp of mediocrity to get to them. While I enjoy Dan Brown’s work, Inferno was largely disappointing and I can’t recommend it. I only hope that Robert Langdon’s next adventure is one worth taking.
Last night my girlfriend and I went to New York City to see best-selling author Dan Brown speak at the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall about his illustrious career and new novel, Inferno.
The evening’s festivities started with an introduction by TODAY Show anchor Matt Lauer. He was his usual charming self and showed a clip of a recent interview he did with Brown at his home in New Hampshire. Speaking of which, Brown’s opulent abode features multiple secret passages and a “fortress of gratitude,” which contains the myriad versions of his books that have been published around the world.
After the clip ended Lauer introduced Brown, who was met with a warm round of applause. Brown’s hour-long presentation covered a variety of topics, including his childhood, feedback from fans and critics on his work, and a humorous story about what it was like to have Tom Hanks fasten Brown’s kilt prior to a social gathering for the film version of The Da Vinci Code.
The underlying theme that’s weaved through many of Brown’s most popular novels are whether humans should turn to faith or science for answers to challenging questions. He explained that being the son of a “church lady” and mathematician had something to do with his fascination with this eternal struggle. It was also interesting to learn that Brown grew up in a household with no TV or junk food, but plenty of books.
His new novel, Inferno, takes place in Florence and it focuses on the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy. “With the exception of the Bible, no book in history has influenced more art, music or literature than the Divine Comedy,” said Brown.
The most interesting part of the evening came at the end, when Brown said the following:
“There is nothing in our DNA that predetermines our beliefs. We’re not born into this world believing that a particular god is the true god; we’re born into a culture. We worship the gods of our parents. If all of us in this room had been born in the mountains of Tibet, most of us would be Buddhists. And we would hold onto that Buddhist philosophy with the same passion that we have for our current beliefs. We worship the gods of our parents. It’s truly that simple.
The world is getting smaller every day. And now, more than ever, there is enormous danger in believing we are infallible, that our version of the truth is absolute, and that everyone who does not think like we do is wrong and are therefore enemies. For our own survival, it is critical that we live with open minds, that we educate ourselves, that we ask difficult questions, and above all, that we engage in dialogue, especially with those whose ideas are not our own.
So in the name of the dialogue we share and ideas, I just wanted to acknowledge that tonight, what has brought us together in this space is quite simply, books. Those magical artifacts that share ideas across borders, across cultures, across languages, and most importantly, across time. So for all of you in the audience that write books, publish books, sell books, and above all, read books, thank you.”
Overall, it was an enjoyable event that provided a rare glimpse into the mind of one of the most talented modern-day authors. As a parting gift, everyone in attendance received a free copy of Inferno. Since most people read books based on recommendations they receive either in-person or online, this was a smart idea.
Look out for my review of Inferno within the next several weeks. From what I’ve heard thus far, it’s an epic yarn.
10 years ago Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, took the world by storm. When it came out, I remember passing by numerous book stores and seeing it prominently displayed as a bestseller for months. Then people I knew started reading it, including my Dad. Once he was done, I read it and thought it was pretty good, but not mind blowing. When the film came out, I went with my Dad and his friends and felt the same way: It was good, but not great.
Now that 10 years have passed, I decided to revisit Dan Brown’s most popular book, which went on to sell more than 80 million copies. During these past 10 years, I’ve read hundreds of books, so I was afraid I would think even less of The Da Vinci Code. To my surprise, I enjoyed the book even more than I did the first time. To be fair, I listened to the audiobook version instead of reading the free e-book I downloaded. I opted for the audiobook for two reasons: I love audiobooks and it’s a much faster way to consume books – especially when you work two jobs and go to school, like I do. As an added bonus, the audiobook featured an interview with the screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, who was tasked with adapting the novel to film, as well as a 2005 Dan Brown speech at the University of New Hampshire. Both special features were interesting and insightful.
All in all, it was an excellent book that magnificently blended fact and fiction. If you’re not one of the millions who has already read it, I highly recommend you check it out right away. It’ll keep you turning pages late into the night wondering what’s going to happen next.
I also decided to revisit the film, which came out in 2006, and I’m glad I did. I watched the extended version and it was beautifully done. While it wasn’t a line-for-line or scene-for-scene reenactment of the book, Ron Howard did a wonderful job of bringing the novel to life through film. The cast was excellent across the board, especially Sir Ian McKellan as Leigh Teabing. The score by Hanz Zimmer was well done and suited the movie perfectly. Overall, it was a thrilling experience that kept my attention from start to finish.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice that certain changes were made in the film, but, in my opinion, some of them helped move the plot along at a faster pace while staying true to the story in the novel. But don’t take my word for it, check out the film, for free, below.
On my lunch break, especially when the weather is nice, I like to take a walk and listen to a chapter or two from an audiobook. This allows me to decompress and exercise at the same time. My usual destination is Rittenhouse Square, the epicenter of social activity in center city Philadelphia. Little did I know that I’d run into one of the most bizarre individuals in the City of Brotherly Love during one of my daily treks last week.
Last Friday I stared at my computer screen, realized it was lunch time and headed for the door. With my earbuds popped in and my iPhone at the ready, I picked up where I left off in the audiobook version of The Da Vinci Code as I took the elevator to the ground floor of the building. I’m revisiting the book in anticipation of Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, and it’s just as good now as it was 10 years ago.
The steel doors opened, I passed the security guard and burst through the front doors onto Broad Street. Passing by a motley crew of University of the Arts students, I approached the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets and gazed up at City Hall – the world’s tallest masonry building. To this day, it still impresses me every time I see it.
Weaving in and out of human traffic, I made my way to Rittenhouse Square in record time. Upon my arrival I turned left and searched for a bench where I could unwind and focus on the story being piped into my ears. As I traversed the curved path I noticed to the right a crazy-looking woman with frizzy hair. I walked forward several benches and found an empty one, seemingly waiting for my behind to rest on it.
I sat down and within two minutes the aforementioned crazy woman left her bench to join me. I ignored her but she started to speak, so I took out my headphones and said, “What?” As I turned toward her I noticed that her skin was weathered and laden with deep-set wrinkles. Her unwieldy mane of hair blew in the air as she said to me with a two-toothed grin, “Can you light this for me? They don’t let me light them.” Bemused and wondering who “they” were, I looked down and saw in her outstretched hands a cigarette and a lighter. Hoping this would convince her to leave me alone, I said, “Sure.”
Assuming everything was done and over with, I put my headphones back in and continued to play my audiobook. Then I realized Frizzy Frannie was still talking to me. I took out my earbuds again and she said, “You’ve got the power! Come on baby, light my fire. Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.” While I’m a fan of classic rock, having a gravely-voiced senior citizen who looks like she could give Lindsay Lohan a run for her money isn’t my idea of a good time. Thinking quickly, I acted like I received a phone call I had to take and said, “Excuse me.” To make it convincing, I stood several feet from the bench and said to no one on the other line, “Where are you? I’m in Rittenhouse Square. Yeah, I know where that is. I’ll be there in five minutes.” Then I swiftly walked away, leaving Frizzy Frannie by her lonesome.
Rittenhouse Square is a beautiful park that’s regularly inhabited by street musicians, people having picnics and doormen walking dogs. It’s a great place to unwind and soak in a beautiful day in the city. But like any urban oasis, you never know who you’re going to find on the other side of the bench…so have an exit strategy in mind.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Dan Brown’s most famous novel, The Da Vinci Code. To celebrate, the book’s publisher is allowing anyone to download the entire e-book for free between March 17-24. This free e-book also contains an excerpt from Brown’s upcoming Robert Langdon novel, Inferno. This is a brilliant way to promote a new book and a golden opportunity to snap up an engaging thriller for free. Take advantage while you can.