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Chapter 32 - Catching Fire


I was thinking about this - what makes a book catch fire? To be traditionally published presumably an author needs to have a good story to begin with. Many times debut novels sputter and die only to have a second or third novel "catch fire" and make the author's name in the book world. Often though, the hot novel isn't as good as the first and it is only after the best seller that the author's other novels take off.

Here are some authors whose bestselling novel wasn't their first but led readers to explore their body of work and enjoy some earlier novels better than the "hot" one.

Ruth Ware - Ruth Ware became well known when her novel The Woman in Cabin 10 rose to the bestseller list in 2016. Most reviews of it were complimentary but her previous novel In A Dark, Dark Wood was also on the best seller list and received very little fanfare. Most people think this is the better novel and her subsequent novels, The Lying Game and The Death of Mrs. Westaway, even better still.

Gillian Flynn - Flynn is best known for her 2012 bestseller Gone Girl, a suspenseful novel which was on the bestseller list for 8 weeks and sold over 2 million copies by the end of that year. Her previous books were Sharp Objects and Dark Places. In my opinion Sharp Objects is the better book but never really got the public acclaim of Gone Girl. Since Gone Girl most people are now aware of all three of Flynn's books.

John Grisham - Grisham's first "hot" novel was The Firm. It was a good story of a young lawyer lured into an untenable situation by the law firm he joins. His "first" novel was A Time to Kill, the story of a has-been attorney defending a black father who killed the man who raped and murdered his 13 year old daughter. It is by far the best of the two novels and, arguably, the best book John Grisham has written.

Dan Brown - Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is one of the best selling books of all time. In spite of the fact that he had written three books before it, no one really knew about Brown until Da Vinci Code was published. Brown's hero Robert Langdon is in Paris when the curator of the Louvre is shot and police request Langdon's assistance in deciphering a message left by the dead man. Robert Langdon appears in Brown's third novel Angels and Demons and it is actually the better story even with its historical inaccuracies. It is a novel after all.

Stephen King - When The Shining was first published everyone stood up and took notice but Stephen King was not the household name he is now. His first book, Carrie, was rejected by a couple of publishers and sold over a million copies in its first year alone. It has been republished over the years and is probably one of his best books.

Are there any books you can think of where you liked the author's first book better than the one which made the best seller list and made the author a household name? Let me know.

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