Passionately and thoroughly entertaining.



What makes a bestselling novel? Longtime teacher and prolific thriller writer Hall (Dead Last, 2011, etc.) explores how certain books strike literary paydirt.

The author animatedly shares a distinct fascination with books and reading that has taught him “secrets about the real world that I could discover nowhere else.” Inspired and developed by a popular fiction course he began teaching more than two decades ago, Hall examines 12 of the most successful novels of the 20th century and “reverse-engineer[s]” them, mining their separate defining qualities and their comparative appeal to readers. Chosen for their dexterity and entertainment potential with consideration for gender diversity, location, familial dysfunction and their “strikingly similar techniques and themes,” they range from melodramas like Gone with the WindPeyton Place and Valley of the Dolls to suspense/horror hits The Exorcist, Jaws and The Dead Zone, as well as classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Godfather. For readers, Hall writes, an emotional connection with a central character is paramount. Social taboos, time constraints and the “threat of danger” also draw (and hold) attention, as does secrecy and mystical mystery (see The Da Vinci Code and The Exorcist). Hall writes that the graphic sex in Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls takes on a deeper adulterous subtext in The Bridges of Madison County and The Firm. Similarly, the author partially attributes the runaway successes of The Hunt for Red October and The Godfather to the irresistibility of the American Dream. Referential and cleverly elucidated, the book raises many good points about the precise methodology of bestselling novels—Hall’s own work included.

Passionately and thoroughly entertaining.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8129-7095-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?



Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?