How Does He Do It?

I started reading Harlan Cohen’s most recent book, A Boy From the Woods, late Friday night, and I finished it this afternoon. The 384 pages (actually 624 pages since it was the large print edition) just flew right by. I didn’t want to stop reading it.

This is not the first time this has happened with one of his books.

So I started to wonder – why is that?

What is it about his writing that is so compelling that I literally have to turn the next page? That everything else becomes secondary?

I know I don’t have that gift. Heck I’ve started to read some of my old blog posts, and lose interest halfway through and go on to something else.

I was the same way with The Count of Monte Cristo; I remember being late for one of my classes because I just had to finish a chapter (the students didn’t seem to mind, and were probably happy that class would be a few minutes shorter than usual).

Since Harlan’s books are always on the bestseller lists, I guess I’m not the only one who enjoys his books.

He has branched into visual media, including a film, as well as several miniseries that have been quite popular on Netflix. We have watched them all, just wrapping up The Woods last week.

I don’t know if such writing came to Coben naturally, or if it is something he studied or just practiced, practiced, practiced. He was a political science major in college (where he was in the same fraternity as future bestselling author Dan Brown). He was also childhood friends with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

So now I have to wait another year or so for his next book to come out, and when it does, I’ll probably go into seclusion once again…

By the way, he’s also got a fun Twitter account to follow, for those of you who might be interested…


38 thoughts on “How Does He Do It?

    1. That’s why I want to read his book On Writing – I think you had mentioned it before. I’m just curious how you get that good as a writer. Is it just practice, practice, practice? And how much do the editors contribute to the process?

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      1. Hi Jim, I think that King had some very good ideas and he was a front runner in his genre. I think that editors contribute a lot to the process and it is an expensive process so a lot of people can’t afford it if they publish privately. I think On Writing is a good book to read if you want to learn about writing.

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  1. I too get this feeling, which terribly discourages me from writing myself. For me it’s Terry Pratchett. I’ve tried dissecting his prose and still can’t come up with an explanation why it’s good.

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    1. Rather than being discouraging, to me it helps sets a standard that I would like to shoot for. I have not read any of Terry Pratchett’s books – thanks for the recommendation!


  2. I have not read any of his books as yet, but I will put him on my reading list after your glowing review. Even then, I won’t have any better an idea how he does it than you do. Some writers just know how to hook you, I guess. Great post, Jim!

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    1. If you like mysteries, I think you will like his books. As I mentioned to Beth, I am a big fan of his Myron Bolitar series, which I read in order (starting way back in the 90s…).

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  3. i love this, when you have an author who you look forward to reading, because you’ve loved everything they’ve done. i’ve not heard of this author, but after your ringing endorsement, i’m going to check him out. it’s magic when this happens, and i don’t know the formula, but each of us is drawn to certain writers.

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  4. Coben is one of my favourite authors too, and his books kind of take you over till you finish them. Last summer I was without internet and tv for 15 days after moving flat, and in that time I caught up with several Agatha Christie novels, a couple of Andrea Camilleri, and all 11 of Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. I haven’t read his latest yet, but I’m sure I will!

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      1. Exactly why I enjoy them too. Some of the one-liners are laugh out loud stuff. Andrea is an Italian – male. He writes mysteries around his lead character, Inspector Montalbano. Even in translation they are very good – cleverly written with nice touches of humour too. We get the tv films of the books here, with subtitles, and they are a joy to watch. I’m also partial to Carl Hiaasen’s novels too – I often used to get strange looks on the train in my commuting days, laughing at them.

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      2. I figured I had a 50-50 shot at guessing if Andrea was a guy or gal’s name. This is why I don’t gamble. His books sound right up my alley, and so do Carl’s – another author I have not heard of. Thanks for the recommendations!

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      3. I don’t gamble either – it’s a mugs’ game! I think you’ll like them both. Hiaasen is an interesting character: a long time writer for the Miami Herald, friend of the late Warren Zevon, whose lyrics feature in his books and with whom he wrote three songs, and creator of some outrageously funny weirdo characters.

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  5. I have never read his books, but now you have me curious. You have me curious about The Count of Monte Cristo as well! I love books that I can’t put down. Well I love books in general, but especially the page turners! What makes them page turners, I agree with Tippy, the “It” factor! You have IT or you don’t . Not that you can’t improve on writing for I think one always can, but I believe there are certain aspects that just can’t be taught!

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      1. Well thank you! Though I don’t know if the credit goes to me or to the crazy stooges! LOL! It might be safer for me if you wait until tomorrow to read my post, 2 stooges have already had fun!

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