The plot’s the thing
Harlan Coben finds success again in Long Lost
By Shana McNally
IN A SENSE, Harlan Coben’s books follow a pattern. Most crime fiction, mystery novels and thrillers feature a regular-guy protagonist who is close
to his family and friends but finds himself in a spot
How he gets out of it is where Coben differentiates himself and excels.
“I love to write books that you
would take on vacation but make
you want to stay in your room and
read instead of going out,” the
Costco member told The
Connection in a recent phone
interview from his Newark, New
“I write novels of immersion,
page-turners that send a chill up
your spine in the middle, fool you
at the end and make you want to
stay up too late,” he says.
The first writer to have won an
Edgar Award, a Shamus Award
and an Anthony Award—all honor
excellence in mystery and detective
that as he visits old friend Myron Bolitar for the first
time in three years in his latest, Long Lost.
The series, which debuted in 1995, features
Bolitar, a former basketball player turned sports agent
who finds himself investigating murders involving
his clients. Supporting characters include Esperanza,
Big Cindi and Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood III.
“No matter how great the plot is, the reader
needs to care about the characters,” says Coben,
who also is sold on plotting twists and turns.
Coben says the idea for this book came
about because he knew he wanted to revisit
another character, TV anchorwoman Terese
Collins, and had thought of a good ending.
“Then it kept nagging me, marinating in the
brain fridge,” says Coben, w
the Bolitar series because it ho likes
“same muscle, but a slightly different tune. In my other books I use
more regular guys with no knowledge of how to handle the situations
BÉATRICE LE GRAND
Because Coben often sets his
stories in his native New York–New
Jersey area, he says, “I also wanted to
expand from something small to
international implications, which is
Despite 18 bestselling novels
published in more than 38 languages,
including nine featuring Bolitar,
Coben still has the occasional worry
about his future as a writer.
Maybe that’s because of his rocky start. An
Amherst College political science graduate, he originally worked in his family’s travel business and felt
the “calling” after a trip to Spain’s Costa del Sol
in the early 1980s that inspired him to write about
His first two books were not bestsellers, and
between working full time and writing while starting
a family, he had his moments of doubt.
“I have no other marketable skills, but I do have
the big three—inspiration (I’m often inspired), perspiration (I work hard) and desperation (I’m not
meant to do anything else),” the 47-year-old author
He also has a system that works for him. He
starts with an idea taken from real life and then takes
it to the next level by asking himself, “What if?”
This system has led to a routine that revolves
around writing in the morning, taking a break at
lunch and then working for a few hours in the afternoon, ultimately producing up to 50 pages a day and
one book per year.
The little spare time he has is spent with his four
children, ages 7 to 14, and his pediatrician wife, Anne;
answering reader e-mails; and trying to play golf.
“I want each book to be better than the one
before and to blow you away,” Coben concludes,
noting that he puts a lot of pressure on himself,
but that his goal is to always write better and
Mission accomplished. C
Costco Book Buyer
Signed book giveaway
COSTCO HAS 50 copies of Harlan Coben’s
Long Lost with signed bookplates to give
away. To enter, print your name, membership number, address and daytime phone
number on a postcard or letter and send it
to: Harlan Coben, The Costco Connection,
P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088. Or
send an e-mail to
with “Harlan Coben” in the subject line.
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Open to legal residents of
the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry and who are current Costco members. One entry per household.
Entries must be received or postmarked by May 1, 2009. Winners will
be randomly selected and notified by mail on or before June 1, 2009.
The value of the prize is $26.95. Void where prohibited. Winners are
responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes. Odds of
winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Employees
of Costco or Penguin Group and their families are not eligible.
OF THE MANY things I could
say about Harlan Coben and
his string of bestsellers, what I
most want to say is: He’s an
awfully nice guy. Maybe I
shouldn’t be surprised that an
author who makes a living
writing mysteries and detective fiction is that nice. But he
is, and I am secretly, pleasantly surprised. To top if off,
he’s also a great writer. His
newest novel, and this
month’s Book Buyer’s Pick,
Long Lost, is no exception.
Recurring character Myron
Bolitar travels to France to
help an old lover. An unexpected piece of evidence turns
the case upside down, and
soon the two are racing to stay
ahead of Homeland Security,
Interpol and the Mossad.
Long Lost is available at
most Costco warehouses and
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For more picks this month,
see page 31.