It’s official. David Baldacci has edged into First Place as my favorite author. The last two books of his that I’ve read have launched me onto a journey of discovering WHY his books are so un-put-down-able. I’m sure there’s more to it than these “simple” elements, but these are what resonated with me, both as an author myself and as a reader.
- CHARACTERS – Baldacci’s expertise in this area is nearly criminal. I’ve tried NOT reading one of his, but then I think…oh, I’ll sample a chapter…and WHOOSH. 100 pages later and I can’t stop reading. It’s like a crack addiction to his memorable but oh-so-flawed and/or broken characters. He’s master at making me care. In my own writing, I start with characters. Always. Many books “fail me” because I can’t really get a sense of the character, and that’s where I abandon reading.
- BREVITY – Baldacci doesn’t waste time with information or lengthy descriptions that leave my latte cold and me yawning. It’s part of his voice, and it totally works, especially with his characters, Will Robie and Amos Decker. When I teach at conferences, I tell the audience, “we’re a fast-paced society that gets angry waiting 5 minutes for a latte, so remember that when writing.” Literary classics have the license to be literary. Today’s author is challenged with readers who want a quick read. Baldacci’s books aren’t “quick” (400 pages), but they’re so good they feel like it.
- CONCEPT – the concepts are always incredible, making me think, “Oh wow. I wonder how he’ll pull that off.” There’s an irresistibleness to a hardened assassin paired with a 14 year-old girl (The Innocent). Then there’s the “ooooooooh!” about two assassins pitted against each other (The Hit). And the “that’s unique” to a former football player-turned detective who has perfect recall and synesthesia, trying to solve the murders of his wife and daughter (Memory Man). Gosh, I could go on. The concepts are fresh and intriguing. They make me jealous. Why didn’t I come up with that?!?
I came late to the game with Baldacci–just last year–but now I just want to read “one more” of his novels. I’m also so glad there’s Audible, which fills my 30-40-minute drives with more Baldacci as I navigate Northern Virginia traffic.
Already, I rue the day I will be caught up on his novels and stuck in the dark, depressing chasm of lag-time between releases.