Michael Cavacini

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Archive for the tag “James Patterson”

James Patterson Starts A Reading Revolution

IMG_7188Today, James Patterson started a reading revolution. Its name is BookShots, a new imprint under Little, Brown and Company. What makes these books so special? Each title will be under 150 pages, competitively priced at less than $5, and will be available in a new compact paperback format (and as ebooks and audiobooks). Patterson will be writing, collaborating on, or personally curating every title. Oh, and there’s already 117 of them ready to go.

Read more…

James Patterson Honored At National Book Awards

IMG_7083Last night I attended the National Book Awards in New York City, an annual event hosted by the National Book Foundation. My reason for going was to see James Patterson receive the 2015 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Past recipients of this award include Maya Angelou and Dave Eggers.  Read more…

Book Review: Everything To Lose by Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross - Everything to Lose

Late last night I finished Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross. Prior to this, I had read most of the novels Gross co-wrote with James Patterson, my two favorite being Lifeguard and Judge & Jury, as well as three books he wrote on his own. Having completed Everything to Lose, I can say with confidence that it ranks right up there with his work with James Patterson and that it’s superior to his 2013 thriller, No Way Back, which I also enjoyed. The premise of the novel, a woman finding a bag full of money on the side of the road and having to deal with the internal ethical turmoil that ensues, resonated with me. As I read it, I thought to myself, what would I do if I were in her shoes? This is a clear sign of effective writing and Gross had me hooked from the start. While there weren’t any mind-blowing surprises along the way, I found the story compelling from start to finish.

However, like any book, it’s not perfect. I don’t care for stories where the point of view changes so much that it makes me stop reading so I can reorient myself, and the same goes for jumping back and forth through time; I think it’s OK to start off in the past and then let the rest of the story happen in present day. But to jump back and then jump forward is distracting to me. These minor quibbles aside, Everything to Lose is a riveting tale that kept me up way past my bed time, and I highly recommend you pick it up.

Synopsis 

A determined, (down on her luck,) mother caring for her handicapped son becomes entangled in a murderous conspiracy to keep a twenty year old secret buried in this blistering thriller, set during the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, from Andrew Gross, the New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds and No Way Back.

While driving along a suburban back road, Hilary Blum, who’s just lost her job and whose deadbeat husband has left her alone to care for her son with Asperger’s, witnesses a freakish accident. A car ahead of her careens down a hill and slams into a tree. Stopping to help, she discovers the driver dead—and a satchel stuffed with a half a million dollars.

That money could prevent her family’s ruin and keep her special needs son in school. In an instant, this honest, achieving woman who has always done the responsible thing makes a decision that puts her in the center of maelstrom of dark consequences and life-threatening recriminations—a terrifying scheme involving a twenty-year-old murder, an old woman who’s life has been washed out to sea, and a powerful figure bent to keep the secret that can destroy him hidden.

With everything to lose, everything she loves, Hilary connects to a determined cop from Staten Island, reeling from the disaster of Sandy, to bring down an enemy who will stop at nothing to keep what that money was meant to silence, still buried.

Author Interview: Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods Photo Credit Harry BensonStuart Woods is one of the first thriller writers whose work I fell in love with. His characters have fantastic names like Felicity Devonshire, Vance Calder and, my all-time favorite, Stone Barrington. I’m constantly impressed by the fluidity of his prose, as well as his wonderfully descriptive romantic scenes. There have been countless occasions when I stopped reading one of his books to recite a passage to a friend because I was so impressed by the use of adjectives, verbs and metaphors. Simply stated, he’s a terrific writer everyone should read. Speaking of which, Stuart Woods has a new Stone Barrington novel available: Standup Guy. Make sure to pick up a copy after reading my interview with the author below.

After graduating college, you started out working at several advertising agencies. What made you realize advertising wasn’t for you, and how did your time in the industry influence your future writing?

I found the advertising business to be a wonderful preparation for writing professionally. I always advise young people who want to write for a living to find a job in advertising, journalism, PR – any profession that requires you to sit down and write a thousand words a day, whether you feel like it or not. Advertising did that for me, and in addition, I had to satisfy some very demanding bosses – some of the best writers in the business – who wanted persuasive writing and every word to count. I left because I felt I had gone as far as I was going to go in that business, and because I had wanted to write fiction since I was a child, and leaving advertising forced me to finally write the novel I had been thinking about since I was ten.

Chiefs - Stuart Woods

Your first novel, Chiefs, earned you an Edgar Award. How did it feel to be honored by your peers for your first novel?

I didn’t know the Mystery Writers of America were my peers, since I had never heard of the award, though I was very happy to receive it. I thought I had written a novel about how small towns worked, but I was delighted that they found it to be mysterious.

Chiefs was turned into a TV miniseries with a stellar cast of actors, including Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams, and John Goodman. Did you have an active role in the creation of the miniseries, and did it live up to your expectations?

I didn’t write the screenplay, but the producers were kind enough (and smart enough) to send me every draft of the screenplay and solicit my comments and suggestions. I made a lot of those, and they even accepted some of them, particularly in casting. Heston’s character, Hugh Holmes was based on James S. Peters, a father of my home town, and I interviewed him at length about the town’s history. I loaned the tapes of that interview to Heston, and he used them to create his character and his accent. I was delighted with the miniseries; I thought it true to both the plot of the novel and its intent. I played a small part in the mini-series, and they made me travel to New York to read for it. I had a two-minute scene with Billy Dee Williams, a fine actor who, for some reason, could not remember his lines. We rehearsed at length, shot it, then rehearsed some more and shot it a couple of more times. He finally got his lines right, whereas I was perfect throughout. I thought, “This acting thing isn’t so tough; after all I knew my lines.” Then I saw the series at a screening: Billy Dee was wonderful, and I came off as a blithering idiot. I thought, “Maybe there’s something to this acting thing, after all.”

Under The Lake - Stuart WoodsI thought your standalone thriller, Under the Lake, was one of your best. It’s very different from your other work but just as captivating. It even attracted the attention of Stephen King, who lauded the book by saying, “it scared the living hell” out of him. More than 25 years later, what’s your opinion on the novel?

I reread it when someone was writing a screenplay (ultimately unproduced) from it, and I liked it a lot. I tried to get Simon & Schuster to use King’s comment, which was one line in a fulsome letter he wrote about the book, and they wouldn’t. They wanted to say, “It scared the living heck out of me.” (!)

For the past several years you’ve been providing fans with a steady flow of Stone Barrington novels. Do you plan on revisiting any of your other series or writing any new standalone thrillers?

My publisher persuaded me to write only Stone novels in a new contract (he offered me money, and I can be bought). I think he meant that he wanted the words, “A Stone Barrington Novel” on every cover. I tricked him by including all the other series characters in the various novels. Anyway, my readers who write to me like Stone best.

Having written 28 Stone Barrington novels, how do you keep your books fresh?

I have a fevered imagination and a rich fantasy life, which helps with the sex scenes.

Blue Water, Green Skipper - Stuart Woods

Your memoir about sailing, Blue Water, Green Skipper, was re-released in 2012. How did the fans of your thrillers respond to Blue Water, Green Skipper when it was, once again, made available to the public?

I’ve had a great deal of mail about the book from readers – most of them, yachtsmen, and they were all warm in their praise. Reading it allowed me to revisit a happy time in my life. One day, I’ll write a full-blown autobiography, and I’ve reserved the right to plug the old book into the new one. I don’t think I can write about that time of my life any better.

Many popular writers, including James Patterson, have increased their productivity by collaborating with other authors on novels. Some readers don’t care for this practice because they feel having a co-author dilutes the end product, while others are perfectly fine with it. What’s your opinion on the matter, and would you ever collaborate with another author on a book?

I’ve never done that, though my publisher says he would like it. I’ve instructed my widow-to-be to call my agent as soon as I’m dead and hire a few writers, and I’ve explained to her that Jim Patterson makes more money than God.

Standup Guy jacket

Since you’re working on and releasing multiple books a year, how do you go about keeping track of all the characters and details from novel to novel?

My characters exist for me in an alternate universe; I know exactly what’s happened to them, though they know nothing about me. Apparently, they don’t read. I seem to have a gift for keeping their stories in memory.

What are you working on now and what’s next for Stone Barrington?
There are two Stone novels completed and awaiting publication, and I’ll finish another this week. Standup Guy is coming out on January 7th. 

Review: I, Michael Bennett by James Patterson

I, Michael BennettLike James Patterson’s books, I’m going to keep this short. I, Michael Bennett isn’t worth your time or money. It’s a shallow, soulless story that fails to captivate on any level. I didn’t care about the plight of the protagonist and the antagonist was a two-dimensional stereotype. The best parts of the book were the family scenes but those alone don’t make for a good thriller. Also worth noting is the cliff-hanger ending that requires you to buy the next novel to find out what happens. Last chapters are supposed to tie up loose ends and satisfy the reader – this failed on both counts. Skip this one and spend your money on an author who still writes his own books, like Harlan Coben.

 

Author Interview: Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston (left) and Lincoln Child.

Douglas Preston (left) and Lincoln Child.

Douglas Preston is the best-selling author of 30 books, including the upcoming novel, White Fire, with his longtime collaborator Lincoln Child. I met Preston and Child at ThrillerFest VIII and learned a great deal from both of them. Below is my interview with Preston; I hope you enjoy it. Make sure to pick up a copy of White Fire, coming out November 12.

Many bestselling authors – Lee Child, James Patterson and Steve Berry, just to name a few – weren’t always writers; it was something they pursued later in life. In what field were you working prior to your first book being published, and what inspired you to take a chance at being an author?

My first job out of college was editing the throwaway newsletter published by the American Museum of Natural History. I found that editing other people’s work was not all that much fun. I wanted to write my own stuff. So I started writing for the newsletter, and then I was given a column in Natural History magazine to write about the Museum. Finally, I got a call from an editor at St. Martin’s Press named Lincoln Child, who suggested I write a book about the Museum. That was my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. Linc suggested we collaborate on a thriller set in the Museum, which became Relic, and the rest is history…

Many of us have fond memories of books that changed us in some way. Are there any books or authors that have greatly influenced you over the years?

Very much so. The books that profoundly affected me are, in no particular order, The Sirens of Titan, War and Peace, The Woman in White, Asimov’s Foundation series, Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, the “Yes I will yes” chapter of Ulysses, The Andromeda Strain, and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of novels.

Relic

In your free time, what kinds of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors?

These days, I like to read nonfiction, mostly in the areas of science and biography. Right now I’m reading The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. I recently read a fascinating biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, called American Prometheus. One of the greatest nonfiction books ever written, in my view, is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. And on the same subject, another superb book on the Manhattan project is 109 East Palace by Jennet Conant.

In addition to novels, you’ve written non-fiction work as well. Do you prefer one over the other and how does the writing experience for each differ?

They’re so very different. When I’m writing a novel I curse the fact that there’s no structure and I have to pull it all out of thin air and wish I were writing nonfiction. When I’m writing nonfiction, I feel imprisoned by the facts and wish I could just make it all up or bring in a serial killer to spice things up.

Your first book with Lincoln Child, Relic, was critically acclaimed and a New York Times Bestseller. How was it writing the first novel with Lincoln, and how has your collaborative writing process evolved over the years?

A writing partnership is like a marriage, except with Linc the sex is nonexistent… It can be difficult, but Linc and I over the years have learned how to disagree. The important thing is we trust each other implicitly. If Linc says to me, “This thing you wrote stinks,” I may get upset, but I have to believe him. That’s why we have a partnership—to tell each other the hard truths.

White Fire

Your popular protagonist, Aloysius Xingu L. Pendergast, debuted in Relic and he’s going to be in your new novel, White Fire, coming out in November. What’s the premise of the new book, and what do you have in store for your readers?

White Fire opens with an historical event: a real (and fateful) dinner at the Langham hotel in London during which Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle met each other for the first and last time. What they discussed has been lost to history, but it seems Wilde made crucial suggestions to Doyle about his newly invented character of Sherlock Holmes, and Doyle for his part told Wilde all about police procedure, which inspired Wilde to write The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Then our novel moves to the present-day. Pendergast has to rescue Corrie Swanson from jail in an upscale Colorado ski resort, but just after he arrives, a serial arsonist strikes the town, burning down multimillion dollar mansions with the people still inside…

You’ve written trilogies and stand-alone thrillers. Do you find one more satisfying than the other? And when writing a trilogy, how do you keep track of all the details?

They both satisfy in different ways. With a trilogy we can go deep and spin out a vast, complex story with many subplots. It is a daunting task to keep track of everything. A solo novel is shorter and sweeter, and perhaps punchier in some ways. The middle novel in a trilogy is always difficult…

Meeting Douglas Preston at ThrillerFest VIII.

Meeting Douglas Preston at ThrillerFest VIII.

One of the hot topics at ThrillerFest this year was whether or not to outline a book. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you simply have an idea and start writing?

Linc and I outline. We first create a general, narrative of the novel: how it opens, what happens, where it ends up. Then we outline maybe ten to fifteen chapters ahead, lengthening the outline as we write. I don’t know how writers can just start writing without knowing where they’re going, but some outstanding novelists do work that way. Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite mystery writers, never knew the ending of his books when he started, and yet he pulled off one great novel after another. I think every writer needs to find their own way of doing things. 

According to Goodreads, there’ve been nearly 125 books set in Maine – everything from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules to It by Stephen King. Being a resident of the Pine Tree State, why do you think this is the case?

Maine is dark and cold and beautiful and mysterious, with resolutely independent people. It has everything a writer might ask for in a vivid setting and compelling characters.

If you could offer aspiring writers once piece of advice, what would it be?

Write every day, seven days a week, if only for an hour at a time. And keep that hour sacred. Warn your friends and family to stay away. A writer must write, just as violinists must practice and Olympic athletes must train. That sounds obvious but you would be surprised at how many people want to be writers but don’t write very much.

Book Review – The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross

The Blue ZoneToday, I finished listening to the audiobook version of Andrew Gross’ first solo novel, The Blue Zone. I’m a big fan of the books he co-wrote with James Patterson, especially Lifeguard and Judge and Jury, and I really enjoyed Gross’ latest book, No Way Back. Now I’m working my way through his solo work and decided to start with his bestselling debut thriller, The Blue Zone. I’m happy to report that it’s a gripping tale that surprised me with its biggest twist and kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how the story would play out.

My only gripe is that in the first few chapters Benjamin Raab is referred to as “Mr. Raab” for what seemed like 100 times. Every time someone addressed this character, especially law enforcement, Gross felt the need to end each sentence of dialogue with the character saying “Mr. Raab.” For example, here are some sentences I made up to illustrate how “Mr. Raab” was used to death in the opening chapters’ dialogue:

“Where were you last night, Mr. Raab?”

“Oh, how interesting, Mr. Raab”

“Why don’t you just tell us the truth, Mr. Raab?”

“How many times do you think I can say ‘Mr. Raab,’ Mr. Raab?”

It drove me out of mind because it was obscenely redundant. When there are two people talking in a scene, it’s OK to mention each character’s name once, but that’s it. Anything more makes for an irritating read. Why not have the characters refer to him as “Ben” once in a while, or, better yet, not address him at all? What made it worse was the audiobook narrator, who was atrocious. Her shrill voice saying “Mr. Raab” made me want to throw my iPhone out the window. Needless to say, don’t listen to the audiobook version of The Blue Zone – go for the print or e-book version instead.

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s get to the good stuff. After getting past the redundant and sometimes superficial dialogue in the beginning of the book, Gross did a terrific job of developing the lead character, Kate. I liked the periodic breaks in the action where she went swimming and reflected on the chaos around her; these scenes, as well as the ones at her job and with her boyfriend, gave the character emotional depth and maturity.

The big twist that took place toward the end of the book was satisfying because I didn’t see it coming and it was believable. It also tested the characters’ limits and, in some cases, revealed true motives. I don’t want to go into further detail because it would spoil it for you.

Take my advice: Despite its initial flaws, The Blue Zone is a taut thriller by a talented author that’s worth the price of admission.

One of the nice features of the audiobook is it included an interview with the author at the end. Below are some highlights from the interview, as well as a synopsis of the book and a couple videos.

Andrew Gross on The Blue Zone

  • “At some point, I was waiting for another project from Jim [Patterson]. All of the books originated with his outline. And while I was waiting for maybe a week or two longer than I was comfortable with, I starting noodling an idea out that became the foundation of The Blue Zone. And it was also a very fast process where I worked a fairly extensive outline to it, submitted it to my agent and within, literally, four or five days we had a series of publishers looking at it and bidding on it. So, it was very difficult to turn that down.”
  • “It actually had its origins with a dinner party I went to up in West Chester where I met someone who, like the main character, Benjamin Raab, was a jewelry dealer, he was a gold dealer, and absolutely one of the more obnoxious people I ever met. Highly successful. Houses everywhere. His and her Ferraris. Ya know, over the top. And, I guess, about a month later I found out that it had all been a sham and that he was arrested for money laundering, which, at the time, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable with hearing. But what it struck in me was the chord of how fragile our lives are and how easily not only is it brought down for an individual but for an entire family as well. So, it wasn’t a stretch after that to sort of think of what it would be like if that situation happened in our lives, and, so, that’s basically how The Blue Zone started.”
  • “The Witness Protection Program is interesting, but what I found more interesting was the terror of someone who is left behind, in this case, Kate, our protagonist. And, two, I guess the sense of betrayal one feels when you discover that your family, or your father in particular, isn’t the man you’ve always idolized and trusted your whole life, and I think that that is a terror that almost everyone can identify with. And when you have that stripped away, you strip away your entire emotional protection as well, and this is how Kate has to approach things in the book.”

Synopsis

Everything in Kate Raab’s life seems perfect. She has an amazing family, an invigorating job straight out of college, and a boyfriend she adores. Then a phone call changes everything. Her father, a successful businessman, a man she has always trusted and admired, is in trouble with the law. He’s innocent, he insists to his family, but the only way out, is this: his testimony against his accomplices and the immediate placement of his family deep inside the Witness Protection Program. He accepts, and everyone prepares to go into hiding—until one of them suddenly gets cold feet. In a flash, Kate’s perfect life is gone.

Now, a year later, her worst fears have happened. Kate’s father suddenly disappears—into what the WITSEC agency calls the Blue Zone—and someone very important to him is found brutally murdered. As Kate digs into her father’s life, the shocking truth she finds sets in motion a decades-old vendetta. With her family under watch, with the FBI untrustworthy, and her father’s menacing “friends” circling her with increasing intensity, Kate alone must set off on the life and death journey to find her father, and uncover the secrets someone will kill to keep buried.

Book Review – Second Honeymoon by James Patterson

Second Honeymoon

For those of you that read my review of Honeymoon, you may be surprised. I thought Second Honeymoon, the sequel to the aforementioned book, was excellent. Both of the story’s plotlines were engaging, filled with interesting twists, and unlike a multitude of thrillers, believable. The character development was handled well, and I felt as if I was in John O’Hara’s shoes a few times in the novel. My only complaint is the way point-of-view was handled. As I learned at ThrillerFest, novels where the point-of-view of the narrator changes a lot can be jarring to the reader. From time to time, I found myself wondering who was narrating the beginning of a chapter. A few sentences in I figured it out, but this could have been avoided with less jumping around. Nevertheless, Second Honeymoon is a tightly-woven tale that will keep your attention from cover to cover and leave you satisfied. I highly recommend you give it a go.

Synopsis

A walk down the aisle, a resort hotel, a drink on the beach…for these unlucky couples, the honeymoon’s over.

A newlywed couple steps into the sauna in their deluxe honeymoon suite—and never steps out again. When another couple is killed while boarding their honeymoon flight to Rome, it becomes clear that someone is targeting honeymooners, and it’s anyone’s guess which happy couple is next on the list.

FBI Agent John O’Hara is deep into solving the case, while Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting another ingenious serial killer, whose victims all have one chilling thing in common.

As wedding hysteria rises to a frightening new level, John and Sarah work ever more closely together in a frantic attempt to decipher the logic behind two rampages.

Book Review: Honeymoon

James Patterson - HoneymoonI just finished reading Honeymoon by James Patterson and it was disappointing. The book started off promising, dragged in the middle, picked up towards the end, and dragged yet again. The worst part about the novel was the cliched, superficial dialogue – it was truly dreadful. And while the premise was a good one, it was poorly handled. Many of the “twists” were revealed prematurely with no style or grace, and the ending was boring. To think this book won an award is shocking. Needless to say, I don’t recommend you read it. I have a copy of James Patterson’s Second Honeymoon, due out this June; and I’m hoping the second honeymoon is better than the first.

10 Questions for James Patterson

James PattersonHere’s a great interview TIME did with bestselling author James Patterson featuring 10 questions from fans:

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