Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “Lee Child”

CraftFest: Where Writers Learn From The Best

ThrillerFestLast week I attended ThrillerFest IX in New York City. This annual event is held by the terrific organization International Thriller Writers, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While at ThrillerFest IX, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best in the business. Two days were dedicated to CraftFest, which was comprised of seminars dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Below are photos and highlights from some of the sessions.

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On My Way To ThrillerFest IX

ThrillerFest

Last week I saw and met Night Ranger. I also saw and met Foreigner and Don Felder, in addition to seeing Styx perform. How could I possibly top this? Well, this week I’m going to New York City to spend time with and learn from some of the greatest writers in the world at ThrillerFest IX.

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Summer Thriller List

IMG_4625Summer is almost upon us and it’s one of my favorite seasons. What’s not to love? If you’re a music fan, there are a million concerts to go to. If you’re a foodie, you can eat outdoors at a myriad of restaurants. And, of course, if you’re a book lover there are numerous titles you can read in bed, on the beach or at the airport. To help you decide which books are worth reading, I’m going to share with you a few titles that I’m either currently reading or will be reading very soon.

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Audiobook Review: Three Jack Reacher Novellas

Three Jack Reacher Novellas by Lee Child_cover

Those who know me well are aware of my love for audiobooks. Like a lot of people, I lead a busy life and being able to listen to a book, as opposed to having to sit down and read it, means I can read a whole lot more. And it means that I can make mundane activities – brushing my teeth, walking to work, getting dressed – more enjoyable and productive. Therefore, the majority of the books I’m going to read this year will be audiobooks.

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Second Son, Deep Down and High Heat by Lee Child

Lee Child - High HeatAs any longtime reader of my blog knows, I’m a big fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I just started Bad Luck and Trouble, the 11th novel in the series, and I recently finished three Jack Reacher short stories: Second SonDeep Down and High Heat.

Lee Child has admitted at book signings that he only started writing Jack Reacher short stories because his publisher asked him to, thinking it would drum up excitement for a new novel. I guess it’s working because now Child has written three. But are they any good? Below are my thoughts on each one.

Second Son

  • Second Son was an entertaining read because it provided me with a glimpse into Reacher’s adolescence, as well as what his parents were like. His brother, Joe, also plays a prominent role in the short story, so it’s nice to see how they interacted in their younger days.

Deep Down

  • This short story is the weakest of the three. There isn’t much action, just a lot of talking. There’s nothing wrong with dialogue, but it felt as if this story didn’t have that signature momentum that Child is known for. It’s not a bad story, it’s just not a very interesting one.

High Heat

  • This is my favorite of the three and it’s the most recent. Perhaps the third time really is the charm. This novella takes place in July 1977, with the Son of Sam killings and a massive New York City blackout and heatwave as a backdrop. Not only did this make for a cool cultural reference, but Child did such a good job describing the extreme heat that I felt as if I was in Reacher’s shoes.

If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, I recommend reading all three of these short stories. Collectively, they provide a greater understanding of a fascinating character we’ve come to know and love.

I listened to all three stories in audiobook form. As always, the excellent Dick Hill did a superb job with the narration. If you haven’t heard him, you owe it to yourself to check him out. He’s the perfect voice for Reacher.

Below is a video clip of Lee Child talking about High Heat:

Tom Cruise Returns As Jack Reacher

20120722-205502.jpgI woke up to great news this morning – the 2012 film, Jack Reacher, which was based on Lee Child’s bestselling novel, One Shot, and starred Tom Cruise in the title role, is getting a sequel. It was just announced that Child’s newest international bestseller, Never Go Back, will be adapted for the film and Tom Cruise is returning as Jack Reacher. As of right now, Cruise and company are trying to get the original film’s Director, Christopher McQuarrie, back at the helm for the sequel, but he has yet to confirm whether or not he’ll be part of the project.

To me, this is excellent news. I know many obstinate fans of the novels will continue to lambaste Cruise for being Jack Reacher because he physically doesn’t “measure up.” But people need to get over this fact because Tom Cruise was excellent in the first film and, whether they like it or not, a sequel is being made. If it’s anything like its predecessor, we’re in for a real treat.

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: One Shot by Lee Child

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One Shot by Lee Child is the ninth Jack Reacher novel and the inspiration for the 2012 film, Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise. Like the movie, One Shot focuses on a violent crime and whether or not the man being accused of it is actually the perpetrator. As with the previous books in the series, Child does a fantastic job with developing the protagonist and having him intelligently overcome the odds. And, as always, I opted for the audiobook version of the book because of Dick Hill’s spectacular narration – he is the voice of Reacher. If you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer, this is a great thriller and, quite possibly, the best Jack Reacher novel up to this point. I highly recommend it.

Synopsis

Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me.

And sure enough, ex–military investigator Jack Reacher is coming. He knows this shooter—a trained military sniper who never should have missed a shot. Reacher is certain something is not right—and soon the slam-dunk case explodes.

Now Reacher is teamed with a beautiful young defense lawyer, moving closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. Reacher knows that no two opponents are created equal. This one has come to the heartland from his own kind of hell. And Reacher knows that the only way to take him down is to match his ruthlessness and cunning—and then beat him shot for shot.

Jack Reacher Returns In Never Go Back

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child and I at ThrillerFest VIII.

Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, is coming out next week in the U.S. For those interested in learning more about the book, below is the trailer and background on the novel from the man himself, Lee Child.

 

Book Review – The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

The InformationistI recently finished Taylor Stevens’ 2011 debut novel, The Informationist. It’s the first in a series of books featuring Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, an expert in uncovering information for her clients. She’s best described as a detective without a badge that’s not afraid to rough somebody up. Similar to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, this book was about the main character and what she did to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. It started off slow, and trudging my way through words that most people outside of Africa wouldn’t know how to pronounce wasn’t fun. But once I cut past this and reached the half-way point, the story found its groove. As I neared the end I was eager to see how things would wrap up. It was filled with action, believable dialogue and a lead character I look forward to following on future adventures. If you’re seeking an enjoyable thriller, The Informationist is worth a read.

Below is the official synopsis and book trailer. And stay tuned for my interview with Taylor Stevens later this summer; it should be a good one.

Synopsis 

Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information—expensive information—working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner and his mercenary crew when she was just fourteen. As his protégé, she earned the respect of the jungle’s most dangerous men, cultivating her own reputation for years until something sent her running. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career from her home base in Dallas, she’s never looked back.

Until now.

A Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. It’s not her usual line of work, but she can’t resist the challenge. Pulled deep into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that she’s tried for so long to forget.

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