Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Another Nice Review

 Booklist is one of those periodicals that librarians (bless their hearts) read and thus, the book reviews often help them select new purchases.  Ordinary book readers usually are unaware of Booklist's importance in the publishing business, but it carries considerable weight among booksellers, editors, publishers, and other book reviewers.  The folks at Booklist have always been fans of my novels (showing more enthusiasm for some books than others).  

What I always value in a review is a smooth and efficient retelling of the storyline (without spoilers) and an appreciation for some of the other intangibles in the prose that I work so hard on creating.

This review has both.

Thorn is a hermetic, fly-tying loner whose attempts to carve a separate peace for himself on Key Largo are only intermittently successful.  Inevitably, he’s drawn into somebody else’s fight, or, in a kind of reverse serendipity, simply walks into a mess that needs fixing.  And when Thorn gets to fixing something, he doesn’t stop until the job’s done.  Ah, but the collateral damage, there’s the rub.  Too often Thorn’s knight-errantry puts those he loves in danger.  This time it’s a little different.  The problem is Thorn’s newly discovered son (Dead Last, 2011), who has joined forces with a band of ecoterrorists who have designs on Florida’s largest nuclear-power plant. (The plan is supposed to be nonviolent, but a cell within the cell has other ideas.)  Thorn’s only hope of extricating his son is to join up with the terrorists, which raises the bar on possible collateral damage to a new high.  Hall is one of those rare thriller writers who can build character as he ratchets tension, who can do no-holds-barred action scenes with panache and, in the midst of bedlam, never loses sight of nuance.  All those skills are on display here, as Hall assembles a full-bodied supporting cast whose stories hold our interest as much as Thorn’s attempt to save his son without helping to bring about a South Florida version of Chernobyl.  A fine thriller on every level.

--Bill Ott, Booklist, November 1, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013


Like it or not, getting reviewed is part of the deal when you're a writer.  A year's worth of work (and sometimes much more) summarized, praised, dismissed, or castigated in a couple of paragraphs.

I remember at the beginning of my career with Under Cover of Daylight I got dozens of great reviews, including a standalone in the New York Times with my photograph, a half a page of space and it was written by Charlie Willeford, and I thought in my naivete that this was normal and expected and no big deal.

Well, it was a big deal, and my publishing career zoomed off the launching pad in a wonderfully lucky trajectory.  Now I see just how lucky those early reviews were.  They gave my publisher confidence to increase the advertising budget and to place full page ads in the New York Times and elsewhere.  As a result that novel sold many times more copies than the average first novel does.

And I got a big dose of undeserved pridefulness.  The years have cut me down to size.  Under Cover was a good book, and one I'm proud of, but there were dozens and dozens of other books as good that were published at the same time but didn't get the reviews I got, and some of those writers suffered as a result, their careers probably affected by the lack of early attention. 

I appreciate all the reviews now, good and bad.  I'm always interested in seeing how someone writes about something I've worked so hard on.  I've gotten some really wonderfully well-written savagely negative reviews and some ho-hum good ones in the 30 years since Under Cover.

I remember complaining once to Elmore Leonard that I'd just gotten a bad review on one of the novels and he used that wise old adage: 'Did they spell your name right?'  Implying of course that any publicity is good publicity.  Later on at that same lunch he mentioned a journalist he was scheduled to do an interview with in a couple of days and he said he wasn't sure he wanted to talk to the guy because he'd once called Dutch "the most over-rated crime writer in America."  He remembered more of the quote, and knew it word for word. 

So yes, any press (or blog post, or Amazon or Goodreads post, etc.) is good press, but even someone of Dutch Leonard's stature was hurt by some reviewer's zinger.

With that in mind, (and much more that I don't have time to recount right now), I offer the following review, the first to appear on Going Dark, the novel that's coming in December.  It's a good one.  And damn, I'm grateful.  And they did spell my name right too.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review *

Moral ambiguity seasons the violent action in Edgar-winner Hall’s outstanding 13th thriller featuring laconic loner Thorn (after 2011’s Dead Last). Thorn, who lives in the undeveloped backwoods of Key Largo and loathes the kind of hyperdevelopment that’s ruining Florida, is roused from his isolation to extricate his grown son, Flynn Moss, whose existence he only recently became aware of, from the Earth Liberation Front, a group of ecological terrorists who are planning to shut down a nearby atomic power plant. Thorn actually is sympathetic with ELF’s goals—but he doesn’t trust them. Meanwhile, FBI agent Frank Sheffield begins uncovering a plot to create a nuclear disaster that could annihilate Miami, while a beautiful female Homeland Security agent and a cocksure psycho who likes to play with electricity are working their own schemes. Hall shifts among the skillfully drawn characters, each uncertain of which ends justify extreme means, as the action races toward a literally explosive climax at the nuclear plant. The result is both thoughtful and white-knuckle tense.