MAPLEWOOD, NJ – When it comes to mystery writers from New Jersey, they don’t get much bigger than Harlan Coben.
Physically that’s true – he’s 6 feet 4 inches. But that statement really refers to the fact that he’s written five No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. He was also the first novelist to win the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony Awards, making him one of the top writers in his genre.
Despite his success, Coben has never forgotten his origins. Born in Newark and living in Ridgewood, the author sets most of his stories in the Garden State because he said the area is what he knows best. Having grown up in Livingston, Coben is especially looking forward to appearing at nearby Maplewood’s Words Bookstore on Wednesday, March 20.
“I love meeting readers,” Coben said. “Especially heading back to Maplewood… there’s a lot of old friends who stop by and it’s a lot of fun, actually. The actual event is fun. The traveling – not so much fun.”
Coben said he also appreciates the chance to come back to Words because there are few independent bookstores left. He said he encourages everyone in the Maplewood area to support it.
“The bookstore in Maplewood has been a real boon, a great help,” Coben said. “There’s so few communities that have great, vibrant bookstores like Words, and so it’s really kind of an honor to go there.”
At Words, Coben will sign his new book, “Six Years,” a day after March 19 release. His latest mystery centers on Jake Fisher, a college professor who cannot get over his lover, Natalie, marrying another man. But when he attends the funeral of that man six years later, only to discover he has been married to another woman the whole time, Jake must figure out what happened to his old flame.
According to Coben, “Six Years” is “as much a love story as it is a thriller.” But whatever the type of story, Coben will almost certainly include plenty of his signature plot twists. He said that while he always knows a novel’s ending, he actually comes up with many of his surprises as he writes.
“I love twisting and turning,” Coben said. “I love to play with your expectations and fool you. It’s something I enjoy reading, and it’s something I enjoy writing.”
And Coben has written a lot. So far he’s produced 24 novels, 10 of which comprise the Myron Bolitar series. Though he admitted writing any book is “really, really hard,” Coben said the Bolitar series is slightly less difficult.
“Comparing it to making a painting, with the Bolitar novels some of the work is already filled in before you start, which makes it a little easier but makes it more limiting,” he said. “A stand-alone novel is a completely blank canvas.”
The Harlan Coben book signing is at 12:30 p.m. on March 20. Space is limited. To reserve a spot, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A copy of “Six Years” must be purchased to attend. To buy the book, visit http://store.wordsbookstore.com/book/9780525953487.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.