Author Michael Connelly goes back to the news biz in his latest thriller, The Scarecrow(read Sun-Times review here), revisiting Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy, the hero of his 1996 novel The Poet.
Connelly, a former L.A. Timesman himself, did a little Q&A with the Associated Press, where he talked about the book and the current state of journalism.
Q:Did the idea for the new book just come to you or did you intentionally delve into it because of the state of journalism?
A: It was a little bit of both. I worked at three different papers in my career and I was hearing about cutbacks and buyouts and all that stuff at all the papers. Eventually word comes to your door. I heard from people who were pushed out or eventually took the buyouts, so on somewhat of a personal level it started to come close to me. And I'm also a big fan of the show "The Wire," and in their last season they had a B theme on the newspaper business. And watching that show I thought, well, I should check in on ... Jack McEvoy to see what he's been up to and kind of write a story about him that obviously would serve as a thriller first, then open up a window on what's happening in this business.
Q:Do you miss your days as a reporter?
A: I feel I'm functioning at some level as a journalist because even though I write fiction, I'm trying to get the world accurate. I act pretty much like a reporter. I'm trying to get the physical side of L.A., the places the story takes the reader, right. I go out there with my notebook and take pictures, take notes. So that function is still there. Deep in my heart it still feels like I'm a journalist even though I haven't worked for a paper and carried a press pass for 14 years.
Q:Does switching characters once in a while refresh things for you?
A: It does. I really think Harry Bosch is my main focus as a writer, but I can't write about him all the time. I think that's a quick way to end the series, to be 24-7 Harry Bosch. I need to take breaks, recharge the batteries on him. But I'm a writer. I don't like taking the year off from writing and recharging Harry. I'd rather just pursue something else, a different character. And there are things I want to write about that don't necessarily fit in the police detective type of story.
Q:Journalism is very different from when you were a reporter. What's your opinion on the state of the business?
A: When I wrote this book, my first draft was pretty much writing it from my experience, but I hadn't been a reporter for 14 years. So I ended up with this story and I showed it to some people who were in the business currently at the L.A. Times. They all said, 'You know, it's a good thriller but it's not like the business is now. It's changed since you've gone. You haven't even been in a newsroom in 10 years.' So I ended up being a reporter again. I interviewed them to find out how it's changed and tried to incorporate some of the new technology and all that into it. As far as my opinion goes, one of the reasons I wrote this story is it's a lament or a torch song for this shift in society where the newspapers are in this downward spiral. Hopefully it's not a death spiral. I don't know. I think there'd be huge losses if there weren't newspapers. I know everything's shifting to the Internet and some people would say, News is news, what you're talking about is a change of consumption, not the product that's out there.' But I think there is a change. A newspaper is the center of a community, it's one of the tent poles of the community, and that's not going to be replaced by Web sites and blogs.
President Obama told The New York Times during a recent interview that he has been reading Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, a highly praised novel about cricket, marriage and living in a post 9/11 world.
The hardcover came out last year and the paperback publisher, Vintage/Anchor Books, citing an Obama-cized double-digit increase in sales, announced Monday it has moved up the paperback release from June 2 to this week (May 7).
A posthumous collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut will be released this November. The collection, called Look at the Birdie, contains 14 stories by the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and other works, Delacorte Press announced Friday.
The publisher plans to reissue 15 Vonnegut titles including Mother Night, The Sirens of Titan, Galapagos and Slaughterhouse-Five. Also due: another collection of his unpublished writings and a book of letters sent to and from the author during his life.
Chicago author Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote her way to the best seller lists six years ago with The Time Traveler's Wife, has apparently snared a $5 million advance for her followup novel, Her Fearful Symmetry.
Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, was the big winner in a hot bidding war, which also included Time Travleler publisher MacAdam Cage and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published the paperback.
Audrey Niffenegger is also a visual artist and faculty member at Columbia College Chicago. (Al Podgorski~Sun-Times)
I would say it's a bit of a gamble for a publisher to shell out so much money for a second novel, not only in this climate of a crumbling economy, but also because second novels don't usually ever match the success of the first.
Scribner VP and editor in chief Nan Graham isn't worried.
"She really has defied custom and written a spectacular second novel, which is one of the hardest things to do in this universe," Graham told the New York Times. "She's not selling it essentially on the success of her first book."
Time will tell. The publishing industry is hurting as much as any industry these days, with layoffs and cutbacks at every turn, so kudos to Niffenegger, whose writing obviously is good enough to garner $5 million worth of confidence on their part.
Her Fearful Symmetry is scheduled for release this fall.
Chicago author Joe Meno is a finalist in the fifth annual Story Prize for outstanding short fiction for his most recent collection, Demons in the Spring (Akashic Books, $24.95).
Sun-Times theater critic and frequent book reviewer Hedy Weiss said Meno's stories were "thoroughly modern -- at once quirky and accessible."
Meno is in good company. The other finalists are Jhumpa Lahiri for Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf, $25) and Tobias Wolff for Our Story Begins (Knopt, $26.95).
"Short fiction of this caliber should be on everyone's reading list," wrote Sun-Times book reviewer Mary Houlihan of Lahiri's collection. Reviewer John Barron wrote that Wolff's book "offers both greatest hits and evidence of Wolff's continued prowess."
The winner, who receives $20,000, will be announced March 4.
It would seem that David Wroblewski is taking a cue from the film industry. After seeing such wild success with his debut novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, the author plans to write a prequel. A third installment also is planned, which will make the story of the mute boy and his dog a trilogy.
Oprah declared The Story of Edgar
Sawtelle the "best novel I've read in
a long, long, long time" when she
announced it would be her book club
selection last September. (AP/Harpo
Productions, Inc., George Burns)
First there was buzz all over the industry last fall, which brought on heaps of praise from reviewers. Then Oprah laid her golden "O" on the cover when she chose it for her book club, and it's been on the best seller list ever since.
Wroblewski issued a statement through his publisher Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins: "My fascination with the Sawtelles and the Sawtelle dogs is far from over. This new novel is a chance to look more deeply into their story, and a tremendously exciting project to me."
Today Vintage Books releases a 50th anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's, arguably Truman Capote's best-loved book. The 1958 novel, which took place in the '40s, followed the eccentric call girl Holly Golightly through the eyes of the young, unnamed narrator Holly refers to as "Fred."
Many more of you will likely remember the 1961 film version of the book, starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. It's a lovely and classic film, which also can boast one of cinema's best party scenes of all time. But the film doesn't reflect the novel entirely, so I encourage fans of the film to go back and read this classic story.
Aravind Adiga was considered the longshot to win the prestigious Man Booker prize, according to an Associated Press report this morning, but the Indian author impressed the judges panel and won the 50,000-pound (about $88,0000) prize for his debut novel, The White Tiger.
The White Tiger is the story of a man's dreams of escaping his poor village life, by any means necessary, to attain success in the big city.
The 34-year-old Adiga was the youngest of the finalists, who included: Sebastian Barry for The Secret Scripture; Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies; Steve Toltz for A Fraction of the Whole; Linda Grant for The Clothes on Their Backs, and Philip Hensher for The Northern Clemency.