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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for August, 2010

Big paychecks for popular authors

According to Forbes magazine, via the New York Times, James Patterson was the top-selling author in the year ending June 1, with $70 million in income.  Stephenie Meyer came in at $40 million and Stephen King made $34 million.

Danielle Steel came in at $32 million, Ken Follett $20 million, Dean Koontz $18 million, Janet Evanovich $16 million, Nicholas Sparks $14 million and J.K. Rowling $10 million.

Thomas Perry’s “Death Benefits”

I’ve long admired Thomas Perry.  He gives us fast-moving, compelling plots, peppered with smart, pithy dialog.  Jane Whitefield is one of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered in fiction.  Ken just read the first in that series, Vanishing Act, and, like me, was enthralled by the chase scene at the end.

But even top authors stumble once in a while, and Perry tripped in 2001’s Death Benefits.  It feels like two books stitched together into one.  In the first half, San Francisco insurance analyst John Walker gets recruited by a private eye to track down an incident of fraud.  In the second, Walker gets sent to Florida to process post-hurricane claims and stumbles on similar cases of fraud.  He and the PI follow the trail to a New Hampshire village, where they blunder about, missing clues the size of billboards.  The geography of the village alone is so contrived as to defy credulity.

In other books, Perry has built suspense by using parallel plot lines as a device, with alternating chapters telling the stories of the hunters and the hunted.  He couldn’t get away with that here, because the bad guys would have had our two heroes tied up 30 minutes after they hit town.

My personal suspicion is that Perry just wanted to vacation in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and New England and write off the trips as location research.