Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Thriller Panel at BEA 2010: Lee Child, Karin Slaughter & Justin Cronin

BEA Panels

There is so much to do, see, and find at BEA that I wasn't able to attend all the talks and panels that I would have liked.   One of the highlights of my BEA 2010 was the Thrillers panel with Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels,  Karen Slaughter, author of Broken, and Justin Cronin, author of The Passage,  on Thursday.

I attended the Thrillers panel to hear Lee Child speak.  I'd attended his talk about writing series characters during Thrillerfest 2009. He was funny, insightful, and made curious about his character Jack Reacher.  I quickly read my first Jack Reacher novel, and then proceeded to read the other 12 in the order that I could get them!  The book signing of Lee Child's 14th novel, 61 Hours: A Reacher Novel (Jack Reacher Novels) was another highpoint for me!

I'll write more about 61 Hours, but I thought this is the perfect time to introduce Jack Reacher.  A self-described "military brat,"  Reacher's father was a U.S. Marine and his mother was French.  Reacher was born in Berlin and grew up on military bases all over the world (including  in a base outside of Manila in the Philippines).  Although people called his brother "Joe",  everyone always called him "Reacher."  Even his mother calls him by his last name.

Lee Child was careful not to give too much details, so each person paints his own picture of Jack Reacher.  We do know him from the reactions that other people have, as well as from some basic details.  The first impression people have of Jack Reacher is his size: hands as big as chickens....

Reacher's vitals:

Name: Jack Reacher (no middle name)
Born: October 29th
Measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest
Hair: Dirty-blond
Eyes: Ice blue
Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam

Reacher left home at 18, graduated from West Point. Performed 13 years of Army service, demoted from Major to Captain in 1990, mustered out with the rank of Major in 1997.

What I like about Jack Reacher is his deep sense of honor.  During the panel Lee Child talked about how there are two equally compelling and competing ideas in America: (1) that each person must pay his own way and (2) that we should take care of the little guy, those unable to take care of themselves.  Jack Reacher embodies both of these contradictory sentiments.  Aside from being a superior physical specimen and deadly fighting machine, it is clear that Jack Reacher can take care of himself.  But Jack Reacher will always stop to help the person who can't take care of himself.  Reacher isn't gullible, but when his sense of justice and right are affected, Jack Reacher will stop and help out even if doing so puts him in mortal danger.  Jack Reacher is a modern day nomad of sorts,  he travels light (no luggage) and has no home.  In each novel, the location and "villains" are new, it's only Jack Reacher that remains constant.   If you'd like to learn more about Jack Reacher or Lee Child, I recommend the description of Reacher  and book excerpts on Lee Child's website. 

61 Hours 61 Hours   The Passage       Avatar 5

click for a larger photo        Broken: A Novel 

Karin Slaughter is an international bestselling author of the Grant County novels.  Karin Slaughter has several strong characters whose lives we follow throughout the series.  Unlike Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, Karin Slaughter's books have a clear sense of place.  The Grant County novels are set in imaginary town, an amalgamate of small towns that Karin has known.  There's just as much going on in Grant County as you'd find in a large city. Karin Slaughter's next novel,  Broken, comes out in June 2010.   Learn more about Karin Slaughter and her novels at  Read Lee Child's interview of Karin Slaughter at

Justin Cronin's The Passage has been described as the big book of the year, one not to miss.  Everyone who has read it (or is reading it) loves it.  It's the first in a trilogy set in the near future and the distant future.   Curious?

Here's the blurb:

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.
 There was a hugely positive review of The Passage in the New York Times entitled, "Literary Novelists Turns to Vampires and Finds Pot of Gold" recently.  After hearing so much about Justin Cronin's The Passage, I had to have a copy.  I've only read the first few pages, but it's sucked me in.  I'll post more about The Passage in the future.   Curious?  Check out Justin Cronin's website at

The YA Buzz Panel

I heard that the YA Buzz Panel was particularly good as well.  The YA Panel featured Ally Condie, author of Matched, Rebecca Maizel, author of Infinite Days, Kody Keplinger, author of The Duff,Sophie Jordan, author of Firelight author of and Erin Bow, author of Plain Kate.    Fortunately for those of us who missed it,'s writeup, "BEA 2010: You're Reading That!?@ - Tackling Crossover YA/Adult Readers" gives us an idea of the discussion. (See

   Infinite Days (Vampire Queen Novels)     The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)   Plain Kate

For more BEA news, keep an eye out for my interview with Talya, a bookseller from Newton, Massachusetts who reads books of every genre but has a particular fondness for YA novels.