An Introduction to Harlan Coben
I can date the moment when I first became one of Harlan Coben‘s most enthusiastic fans.
It was back in 2001, and I had travelled to Washington in the US to the biggest crime convention in the world, Bouchercon. I knew very few people there, but as a junior commissioning editor I was keen to follow up on exciting new crime-writers. And there was Harlan talking about his new thriller, Tell No One. Instantly I knew that he was destined for the big time, and fast.
I wasn’t wrong: Tell No One was a game-changer. It was a book that altered the genre; that went up close and personal to its readers as it asked the key question: ‘what would you do?’; it raised the bar for other race-against-time narratives; and it made future bestsellers with unreliable narrators – Before I Go To Sleep, Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train – possible.
So when Harlan came to Century, and we discussed his new book, I was in no doubt as to what I was hoping for. ‘Make it as compelling as Tell No One,’ I said to him. ‘We want to go to all your crime fans and tell them, “you thought Harlan was good? This is how good he really is”’.
And this is exactly what he did. A compulsive, unputdownable read, Fool Me Once has an appealingly flawed yet fascinating heroine, a great what-if premise (you’ve seen your husband die; so what do you do two weeks later when you see him alive and playing with your daughter on the nanny-cam?), multiple twists and turns, and a killer ending that you really, truly don’t see coming.
I cannot tell you how exciting it is when a book comes in that everyone in the company loves and believes in. My brilliant colleagues in Sales, Marketing and Publicity swung into action with ground-breaking campaigns that included outdoor advertising, an interactive first chapter and an incredibly filmic trailer that Harlan loved so much that he asked his US publishers to use it too.
The book instantly became a bestseller worldwide and then came the news that Julia Roberts loved Fool Me Once so much that she had optioned it for film for her to produce and star in!
We had always been determined to make 2016 Harlan’s Year, and the very positive reception for his original drama series for Sky1, The Five, plus the news that we would have another book, the brilliant new Myron Bolitar thriller Home, to publish in September only confirmed our belief that we were well on the way to making this happen.
It’s been an exciting journey for the teams involved in Harlan’s publishing in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and in Europe. And as we look into 2017 and beyond with lots more new books from him – it’s a journey that I know we’ve only just begun.
It also feels really meaningful to me that, come September, and after a gap of some years, I’ll be back in the US at Bouchercon. I will still be sitting in a convention hall, and I will still be happily listening to Harlan. The best news of all though is that this time he will be their Guest of Honour and he’ll be talking about books that we will have published.