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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Harking to the past

I was in the library browsing for a book for the weekend, and picked up one called Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben. Flipping to the front while I made up my mind, I read ..


Okay, if this is the first book of mine you're going to try, stop now. Return it. Grab another. It's okay, I'll wait.

If you're still here, please know that I haven't read Miracle Cure in at least twenty years.  I didn't want to rewrite it and pass it off as a new book. I hate when authors do that.  So, this is, for better or worse, the exact book I wrote when I was in my early twenties, just a naive lad working in the travel industry and wondering if I should follow my father and brother and go to (shudder) law school .... 

Well.  That made me pause. Then I thought, what the hell.  I don't know Harlan Coben's books, but I liked this candid approach.  And I remember a similar experience with one of Michael Crichton's books, an early manuscript that turned out to be a fascinating account of his first year as an intern in a busy hospital. So I took Miracle Cure home and read it.

Boy, it was dated. The medical details were tired enough, but the issues were even more retro.  The author was oddly conscious of being Jewish -- or, at least, it seemed odd from the 2015 perspective. And the whole thing was so, so wordy.  I skipped entire pages. I did get to the end, however, though it was mostly to confirm that I had guessed the baddie right. (I had.) And I have read worse. A lot worse.  I might try one of Coben's more recent books.  After all, he's a bestselling author and the multitudes can't be wrong.

But I did wonder why he would bring back a book that had been published twenty years earlier.  Did he need another million?  Did he have a multi-book contract with a deadline and no book to fulfill it?  Did his agent beg? His publisher demand?

Otherwise, why bother?  Historians love rewriting their books and papers, to include the research that they have done since -- and to correct those embarrassing factual errors, too.  And I guess historical novelists can be lumped in with the nonfiction writers, as there are always those lovely little tidbits that have been learned in the meantime, and which can add such wonderful color to an evocative scene.

But a medical thriller, where everything is out of date?

It does seems strange.

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