HARLAN COBEN.

There are a hundred reasons why I like the writing of Harlan Coben. One, he is a consistent writer. Some authors have a great book and then it’s all downhill. Not Harlan. If anything, each novel seems better than the one before it. He also writes about people we can relate to in a variety of ways. Several of his books have been about Sports Attorney Myron Bolitar. Myron is a straight shooter who cares about his family, first and foremost, and others whose paths cross his. But why I particularly like Coben is because his characters get under your skin. When something bad happens to them we cringe, and when something good happens to them we’re delighted. He also manages to bring together his characters’ emotions from the past, present and future. I really liked his novel HOME where Myron is trying to solve a mystery involving a heinous crime , the abduction of two children, and still provides this story with one of the best endings he has ever conceived. Check it out.

MARTINA COLE

Not much more I can say only that for me she is the doyenne of crime capers set in London’s gangland. Her books follow the trials and tribulations of individuals and families dying to live the high life, the good life, the live-fast-and-die-tragically-young kind of life. Did you know that her books are the most popular requested reads in some of Britain’s prisons? Now there’s an endorsement. Her novels are unflinching and pull no punches with their expletives and cold violence. I’m hard pushed to name a favourite although ‘The Take’ was brilliant and its small screen adaptation did it more than enough justice.

LEE CHILD

The Jack Reacher series is just fantastic, and any budding thriller writer should read something by this superb author, but what I really like about Child is that just like his famous protagonist, he’s a rogue badass, especially when it comes to his thoughts on writing, and his debunking popular writing rules. I’m so glad that I read his  ThrillerFest session “Tell, Don’t Show: Why Writing Rules are Mostly Wrong,”  where he battled a few of the biggest writing myths out there, and explained what really keeps a reader reading until The End.   Child believes the average reader doesn’t care at all about telling, showing and all that stuff. He or she just wants something to latch onto, something to carry them through the book. By following too many “rules,” you can lose your readers. His been breaking them all, the literary ones that is, ever since.

KIMBERLEY CHAMBERS

Apparently it was a fortune-teller who told Chambers that she was destined to write a book. I’ve been to five and had no such luck!!! He writing is what you might call earthy and her style is colourful, spiky and high-octane, with plenty of thrills and spills. Her book ‘Billie Jo’ has been described as a wicked cocktail of “the Royle Family meets EastEnders, with a touch of Footballers’ Wives.” Yeah … I get that all right.

JESSIE KEANE

Keane knows all about swings and roundabouts in fortune, having been born rich but left poor when her family’s business went into liquidation. Her books are inspired by her own toxic upbringing.  If you want to know what persistence looks like then look no further. She went through 20 years of her manuscripts being rejected before striking lucky which just goes to show: all that plucky determination can pay off.  Her stories are fast-paced, and packed to the hilt with the dynamite concoction of the murder, infighting and treachery that will eventually blow up in their faces. I really enjoyed ‘Dirty Game’ that provided the first taste of the guts, glory and power-plays that have become her hallmark.

JOSEPH KANON

Kanon quit his career to go hiking in the deserts of the American south-west. While there, he became fascinated by the Manhattan Project, the creation of the atom bomb, which took place at the desert base of Los Alamos, New Mexico, a place so secret that it did not officially exist. The result was his award-winning debut novel of the same name. It’s so good I’ve read it three times … so far! Lee Child rates him as the contemporary thriller writer he most admires! Nuff said.

ROBERTA KRAY

Yes I know what you’re thinking and yes there’s a connection. That surname is no coincidence. Roberta Kray met Reggie Kray behind bars while working on the publicity for his film; a year later, they were wed. Her writing is edgy and uncomfortable to read, but with a knack for showing how the butterfly effects of petty crimes lead to a hurricane of devastation. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of London’s underworld in ‘The Debt’ and I reckon you will too.

MANDASUE HELLER.

Writes in much the same vein as Martina Cole.  Her gritty books are set in and around the infamously shoddy housing development Hulme Crescent, which is where Heller herself lived for a decade. She writes graphic snapshots of abuse, prostitution and drugs. The central female characters are beset by dangers in this dog-eat-dog world. What it all really comes down to is the survival of the fittest. Her novel ‘The Club’ contains some scenes which are deeply unnerving. A book to be read through-your-fingers.

JAMES TWINING

If you want a damned good, traditional, commercial thriller in which a handsome, cleft-chinned hero with unusual gifts solves problems with the aid of an effortlessly beautiful FBI babe, then Twining is your man. In The Double Eagle, his hero Tom Kirk teamed up with an FBI agent Jennifer Browne to track down golden coins, stolen from Fort Knox. Brilliant!

JUNE HAMPSON

June Hampson’s books look as though they’re cut from the same cloth as all the rest. Their covers feature gimlet-eyed women entering fierce staring competitions with the reader. The author’s series are set in the not-so-sleepy ganglands of 1960’s Gosport and London. There is a heart of darkness at the core of these places, and in the people bring brutalized by their circumstances and choices. Hampson’s fiction atmospheric and evocative. It deserves an adult rating for the language, sex and violence within. ‘Trust Nobody’ waves a brilliant, deadly and territorial game of one-upmanship. It’s a really great book.

36 Comments

  1. I like your list Derek. Harlan Coben is great. There is no-one more likely to write a book which will make me put everything else aside and keep turning the pages.

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  2. I think Derek has touched a nerve in the common man — and I do mean common. And Anna Quindlen for a reader? That is just a guarantee of no taste as opposed to bad taste. On the other hand, Mary Higgins Clark is in bad taste. The profile is littered with pop culture references o the most ordinary sort. Wish I had something nice to say about Coben but if there were anything not nice about him he might be interesting. This is literally strip mall literature.

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  3. I always thought Coben was like Robert Be Parker but not as good.

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  4. interesting thoughts of excellent Authors. I’ve been working as a Professor and a Freelance writer but sometimes, thought of stopping it. As a human, we feel tired and unsatisfied to what we are doing or what path we’ve had chosen. It realizes me that it is not for me but for my readers to get caught on my writings and appreciate it.. Thanks!

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  5. I agree Derek. I have read all of Coben’s books (favourite being Tell No One) but have felt that the last two or three have fallen away from the brilliance of his earlier work. The earlier books, not the Myron Bolitar books, had a feeling of ‘shit, that could be me!’ about them but this has tailed off slightly and the Kafkaesque threat and dread is diminishing
    Coben doesn’t need to worry, I’ll still buy his books whenever they are available, along with the other genius, Linwood Barclay, and I’m sure I will enjoy each
    ps the French film version of Tell No One is brilliant

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  6. Coben sticks to a punishing schedule that typically has him beginning a book in January and finishing it in November or December’
    Hmmm. Assuming it takes him eleven months and he has the weekends off, he only needs to write about 420 words a day.
    I don’t blame him though, and if you’re that successful, why not, but I think the author of the article is a touch over zealous in his use of the word ‘punishing’

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  7. This is an excellent list. I’m an avid book reader. I particularly love Crime/Thriller Books. Lee Child is great and I love the way he does more telling than showing!!

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  8. I love Tess Gerristen, Mandusue Heller, Peter Robinson, Simon Kernick, Jillian Hoffman….. just to name a few. I find they all write quite similarly and I can really get into them.

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  9. I haven’t read any of the ones listed, but have some of Mandasue Hellers which I have not had the chance yet to look at – these are supposed to be similar to Martina Cole who I am an avid fan of. Looks a good list derek

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  10. Patricia Cornwell I really like , the main character is a pathologist, they are a bit heavy and deep but good reading I find. Kathy Reichs is also good, another one who is based on a pathologist – the series Bones on Sky 1 is based on these books

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  11. I love Cornwall and Reichs, i also read Ian Rankins books about a scottish inspector, like Cornwall and Reich these can be a bit heavy reading but non the less a really good read. Lee Child is good but for me Jack Reacher isn’t believable

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  12. Apparently Coben only writes one draft but is that really the case? I also write. But the second and third draft never take as long as the first. Not even close. Stephen King usually gets three full novels done a year (sometimes four.)
    Again, I’m not saying Coben should, I’m just saying it’s not so punishing. It’s a fairly relaxed schedule for a writer of fiction, all things considered.

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  13. I’ve not actually read for ages, never seem to have the time now I’ve got LO but I did love Patricia Cornwell books and also the Sue Grafton Alphabet books too. Might have a look at the others mentioned, been looking for something new for a while. Sue Grafton has a really good sense of humour throughout her books that I like too, kind of dry and sarcastic at times.

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    • I Might give the Sue Grafton books a try, is there a particular one you’d recommend to get started on?

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  14. Probably best to start at the beginning, she does A for Alibi, B for somthing else (can’t quite remember!) etc.. The main character is a private investigator, and her own life story unravels over the books so best to start at the beginning for that alone. Enjoy!

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  15. I love Harlan Coben’s writing style … I have searched for another author similiar to his style but haven’t been able to find one.Do you know anyone who writes like he does … in other words if I read the book I’d think it was him writing it but it’s another author ?

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  16. Joseph Kanon is simply Brilliant. His book Leaving Berlin is a must read. Tense. Densely plotted and rewarding until the end. Highly recommended for any fans of noir and post war historical fiction

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  17. I love crime /thriller. If you like Peter Robinson you may also like ;-
    John Harvey — set in Nottingham with detective Charlie Resnick, these are my favourite. Graham Hurley — Joe Faraday based in Portsmouth
    Ian Rankin –Edinburgh/ Rebus. Also Linda La Plant as well as t. v. stuff writes quite good thriller/ crime stuff.

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  18. Wow, your list looks really good Derek.I love crime/thriller books.Karin Slaughter is my favourite author.

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  19. I like crime/ thriller novels and have enjoyed some of the authors mentioned here and will be investigating some of the other suggestions. I like Jeffrey Deaver, as there are always several unexpected twists but as with any author, I find I get stuck in a rut and want to find something a bit different.

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  20. hi i love crime and thriller books aswell my favorite authors are
    peter james
    craig russell
    tami hoag
    nicci french
    pj tracy
    mo hayder
    jillian hoffman
    all great authors ther books are great cant put them down.

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  21. Minette Walters is also very good, I also really like Ian Rankins Rebus , was not at all keen on the TV adaption. I am reading Trace at the moment by Patricia Cornwell which has been a bit slow but now picking up and getting really interesting

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  22. Harlan Coben is a great author I agree Mr Ross !!”The Innocent” was amazing.
    I like Dean Koontz & James Patterson as well.

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  23. Sorry Derek but I’ve never heard of Coben but if we’re on the subject of thrillers, very few do it better than Nelson DeMille.Oh, and the whole Pendergast series by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston. Wonderful.

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  24. I Love Karin Slaughter, Nicci French, Karen Rose And I Quite Liked One Of Beverley Bartons(i Haven’t Read Any Others Of Hers Yet!!) – Just To Name A Few!!!

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  25. Mandasue Heller and Martina Cole are peas in a pod. Great storytellers especially if you love seedy towns. seedy people and tons and tons of bad language!!!lol

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  26. You want to read, must read Robert Crais, Robert B. Parker.
    Exciting page turning stuff! Start in the beginning as characters develop,things in the past matter somewhat.
    With Parker start with “The Spenser” series-great character,dialog,”cast”. Lots of fun. Look in the mystery section of your favorite library.
    Crais, just start at the beginning, you’ll love them. I’m reading his latest, but have two Parker books in waiting-I love him! Again….Spenser. Others are just good,not great.

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  27. Thanks for the suggestions Derek, I read Dean Koontz ‘The Husband’ and thought it was great but starting reading ‘The Face’ and after 90 pages I got too bored … I’ll give him another shot and will check out James Patterson …thanks !!

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  28. I haven’t found another with exactly Harlan’s voice. He’s very polished yet has a love for juvenile phrases, something that must drive his editor(s) nuts. At least he is prolific. Have you read everything he wrote? Patterson is a good alternate with similarity, if more uneven in his plotting. Some Patterson novels are so out-there absuurd I’m expecting aliens to land next.

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    • Lee Child would be my suggestion. I like his Jack Reacher novels. About the same level of disbelief to get beyond?

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  29. Why don’t you try another genre? John Grisham for instance!I am reading “Playing for Pizza” right now & have read all of Grisham’s books. “Playing fo Pizza” (imo) is not as good as some of his others (so far), but a great writing style, so its still decent. I am appx 1/3 in.”The Partner” was my favorite Grisham.

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  30. I love reading fiction, I too likes Harlan Coben especially the novel ” Tell No One ” although the recent one is kinda let down, Im thinking about ” The Innocent” (I never like his Myron Bollitar novels.With that in mind Im gonna suggest the following author. Jeffrey Deaver- Skip his earlier novels cause his style back then is too amateur, Start with “the Bone Collector” onwards. I especially like ‘The Devils Teardrop and The Blue Nowhere ” I assure you he is better than Coben

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  31. Michael Connelly – If you want your crime novel with a touch of hearth and melancholly, then dont miss out on this very fine author, his writing style, the way he gives life to his characters is really amazing, and he achieve all that without making his novel boring.

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  32. John Sandford- Talked about a fast paced intelligient thriller and Im sure Jonh Sandford should be on your list, although Im just recommending all the “Prey Series”.

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  33. I might read them all! Start at the beginning as characters develop, and you can follow this. Lee Child’s last was good, I like Reacher. Just finished it.
    On to the latest in the Bourne series, but not the same-and I’m only 30 pages into it and I see a difference in style.

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  34. I’ve not actually read for ages, never seem to have the time now I’ve got LO but I did love Patricia Cornwell books and also the Sue Grafton Alphabet books too. Might have a look at the others mentioned, been looking for something new for a while. Sue Grafton has a really good sense of humour throughout her books that I like too, kind of dry and sarcastic at times.

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