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Old 08-23-2015, 10:47 PM
38 posts, read 41,387 times
Reputation: 15


A question that has been bugging me for a long time.

Me & wife are avid readers. Detective/crime novels make one of our favorite genres, and Harlan Coben stands out as one of America's finest writers (among those still living) in this field. We enjoy Jeffery Deaver and Michael Connelly as well, to name a few. Each of them has his own merit. Don't mean to offend fans of other writers.

Anyway, back to Coben. One interesting thing is that all of his stories are based in New Jersey, featuring real towns every now and then. Back then we were in Beijing. Being foreigners who have never been to NJ before, the portfolio of his left us sort of a trauma. NJ sounds like a cradle of crime with psycho killers lurking in every dark alley. The first time we visited the US, we were fairly *uneasy* after finding out the plane's gonna land in the legendary Newark.

After living in NJ for 2 years, we are now totally loving it. There are creepy neighborhoods for sure, but in general it's beautiful. So I just wonder if "real Jerseyans" read Coben, and what you feel about him? Do you think he's kind of damaging NJ's reputation? Or it doesn't matter as long as the story is great?

We collect books, and go to estate sales all over north/central Jersey. In the process we almost never find any Coben book on anyone's bookshelf. Does that mean Jerseyans loath him?

Well if this Coben's a Chinese writer, he would have been silenced ages ago, or at least forced to relocate his stories to non-existing towns.
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Old 08-23-2015, 11:07 PM
12,810 posts, read 10,856,768 times
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Interesting. I never heard of him so I've never thought he or his novels have damaged the state's reputation, no. I doubt New Jerseyans as a whole loathe him, but maybe some do for whatever reasons. I just looked him up - he's from NJ, which explains why his books are based around here. If I were an author I would get inspiration from familiar places, too. I think it helps you map out your story better, if you have specific towns, landmarks, places, or even people in mind. I know that when I read books, I like to read about stories based in NJ and NYC since I am very familiar with the area. When an author writes about a specific location in Central Park or elsewhere in the city, I can picture the area and it helps me better connect with the story. One of my favorite mystery/thriller crime drama writers whose stories are based in NYC is Linda Fairstein.

I'm a little surprised though that you guys actually thought NJ would be a terrible, dangerous place because of some fiction novels. I guess it's no different than people getting their ideas about places from TV and movies and even the media, though. I'm glad you changed your mind and now live here!
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Old 08-24-2015, 12:50 PM
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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I've never read any of his books, but I know where he lives!
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Old 08-24-2015, 01:05 PM
Location: Randolph, NJ
4,073 posts, read 7,561,848 times
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I've read about a dozen of his books.

Personally, I didn't really think it made the State sound especially dangerous or crime-ridden. And I do like the NJ references to places, etc.

Hey... a long time ago I used to sometimes watch Murder She Wrote and I didn't come away thinking of Maine as the murder capital just because of those shows.
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Old 08-24-2015, 01:22 PM
Location: Greater NYC, USA
2,760 posts, read 2,821,574 times
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I have never read those books, but a common quote from internet "Nothing was so damaging to Jersey Shore as the show Jersey Shore"

Since NJ is the most hated state in US, who cares, it's not like our reputation can be hurt much more

I lived in NJ, in NYC suburbs most of my life, I heard stories about how areas where Blacks are down right dangerous. Until I ventured outside the area that is NYC suburb. We have very scary white people here as well.
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Old 08-24-2015, 05:15 PM
Location: Coastal New Jersey
58,630 posts, read 56,487,808 times
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I did want to read something of his, since he is a NJ author. There was a poster of him at one of the train stations I pass through, advertising his last book. I recognized Ridgewood train station in the background of the photo, as I commuted from there for many years. That's where he lives, in a lovely (from the street, anyway) Victorian set back from the road.

Mary Higgins Clark, another NJ author, often sets her stories in NJ as well. She resides in Upper Saddle River.

My favorite NJ resident author, Sharon Kay Penman of Cape May County, does not set her stories in NJ. She writes medieval historical fiction, and while there have been scenes in her books set in Shrewsbury, it is neither of the towns of that name in Monmouth County but rather their namesake on the Welsh Marches.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:08 PM
38 posts, read 41,387 times
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Thanks everyone for the feedback!

It's just that from foreigner's perspective, seeing a small place (didn't know how big NJ actually is, only compared it with other states on the map) having so much crime material to write about that the writer produced over a dozen bestsellers can be unnerving. LOL.

When we get large enough home to unpack our entire library, we are gonna go through his works again, make a list of mentioned places, make field visits and take pictures. Seeing places we've read about manifesting in reality (for life-long Jerseyans it would be the other way around) adds an extra layer of fun to those books.
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Old 08-24-2015, 10:10 PM
Location: Northern NJ/Amagansett, NY
12,014 posts, read 10,584,968 times
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Harlan's books are great. He is from Livingston. He was in the same graduating class as Chris Christie, and although they have completely different political ideologies, they are good friends. He mentions Livingston a lot because Myron, the main character in his books, is from there. When he talks about the neighborhood Myron is from, I know exactly where he is talking about. He mentions real restaurants and other places all around north Jersey. Baumgart's in Englewood and The Ritz Diner in Livingston come to mind, as well as others. The "dangerous" situations often take place in NYC (and sometimes Newark), and he goes back to the suburbs of NJ for refuge, so no, I don't think the books show NJ in a bad light.

The two of them at this years class reunion.
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Old 08-25-2015, 08:23 AM
Location: New Jersey
472 posts, read 607,717 times
Reputation: 145
I have one of his books, but I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet.
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Old 08-26-2015, 05:10 PM
Location: Redneckville, NJ
6,992 posts, read 10,344,696 times
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My husband, myself, my mother-in-law and her sister have read them all. We pass books back and forth until we have all read them. So there's 4 Jerseyans for you.

I love his books, they are fast reads and usually have a good twist. I love the Myron Bolitar series. How can you not love Myron and Win's adventures?
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