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November 05, 2009

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Edward Champion

It's certainly an intriguing development, and it makes me wonder if other hosts along these lines (Olbermann and Maddow) will book more authors to pick up the slack. The real question for publishers is whether or not a Glenn Beck appearance will sell books. I do think you've hit it on the head by distinguishing between books that entertain versus books that enlighten. I'd love to see more talk shows devote their airtime to both. But if an audience is turning in to have its politics confirmed, perhaps it won't matter so much. Then again, if an author appearance can move even a few more units, that's a significant boost for an industry that sometimes gauges success in hundreds rather than thousands.

Jeff Abbott

I think he's already pretty besieged by publicists promoting thrillers; this isn't news to anyone promoting a thriller that he's into them. Interestingly, his producers approached me; my books had been recommended to them by another author. I appeared on his CNN Headline show while promoting COLLISION, and while his first question to me was a political one (about military contractors, which is an element in the book where I present both sides of the issue of how involved they should be in wars), the rest of his questions weren't really political at all. I got the sense he just loves thrillers and likes promoting them. In prepping for the show I watched tapes of other authors appearances and he seemed just as excited about the books by authors he might politically disagree with (Andrew Gross, as mentioned in the article, they disagree about what constitutes torture) as he did those that were more conservative.

Re his audience, at least half the emails I got after appearing on the show were from women. And I don't recall the numbers, but the hits on my website after he interviewed me went up significantly, and stayed up for days. (He also does a weekly email newsletter that goes out to a huge subscriber list, with links to interviews and to author sites.) I did get some negative feedback for having been on the show from readers who dislike Beck; I just made sure they knew when I was interviewed on Air America for TRUST ME.

Jason Pinter

I've encountered this (on a smaller scale) since I started writing for the Huffington Post - as you noted yesterday. I've gotten a bunch of emails and responses on Twitter essentially saying, "I used to like your books until I realized you were a leftist commie pig." And my response, like Andrew's, has been, "Please actually read what I write and then make your decision." A few have taken it back, but I have also (sniff) lost a few followers on Twitter. When it comes to entertainment, I think folks on the left and right have far more in common than they want to or are willing to admit. And as much as I loathe Beck's histrionics, he is pretty much the only mainstream television host who promotes thrillers regularly and embraces the genre.

Edward Champion

Jason: I'm sorry to hear that. If it's any consolation, since Obama's inauguration day, I've had uptight liberals get their panties in a twist because I tell the truth (and often criticize inert Democratic policy from the left). And I've had right-wing demagogues confuse my outspokenness with libertarianism. These are strange times to have a voice, particularly when cartoons like Beck are fashionable. But your voice is needed. I suspect the hostility you allude to (and November's election results) has more to do with people trying to another source to blame in this terrible recession, which has hurt so many.

Ralph H.

There are plenty of thriller writers out there that I would put above those interviewed by Beck. I confess, I read a few books by those guys and in many cases they work on their own terms -- narrative, pacing, even character development on occasion -- but anyone who thinks that Daniel Silva, for example, has anything useful to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict is deluding themself. Same with Vince Flynn and the GWOT.

Neil Nyren

I think Jeff and Jason are right -- Beck just likes thrillers, and as someone deeply involved in thriller-publishing, I'm happy to have any outlet that'll sell books effectively. God knows we need them. It was kind of amusing, actually, to find that the Times had "discovered" something that those of us who do thrillers had known for a good while!

David J. Montgomery

I was at an ITW cocktail party a couple years ago at ThrillerFest. It was a small affair with only a couple dozen authors, including James Patterson, Jeff Deaver, Clive Cussler, people like that. Also attending were two bookers from the Glen Beck show. They were talking to everyone and seemed really enthusiastic and happy to be meeting folks. (I'd never even heard of Glen Beck at that point, I have to admit.) So, as is often the case with Times' reporting on publishing, this ain't nuttin new.

Sarah

@David & Neil - In defense of the NYT, what's not new to a small select group suddenly becomes "new" to a national audience because a particular story gets a national angle. So sure, I know I had more than a vague awareness that thriller writers were being booked on Glenn Beck's show, but until he moved over to FOX, he didn't have a gigantic, lightning-rod national profile. Now that he does, his love of thrillers takes on a whole extra and stakes-raising sheen for both publishers and a national audience.

The larger question is what this means in terms of future guests. Will Beck stick with his bread and butter, or will he branch out? Will he book some female authors, for example, or continue to steer clear? And will there be potential damage for authors who, like Andrew Gross, may not share the political views of Beck and his audience?

Not to mention all these questions take on greater importance if this afternoon's news that Oprah's going to move her show to her own pay tv channel as of 2011, which could backfire in the way that Richard & Judy leaving Channel 4 for a smaller pay network did in the UK. So we'll see.

Keith Thomson

A thriller writer, I was effectively conscious of the Glenn Beck effect the very moment I was asked to write my first Huffington Post column in 2008. That was 35 columns ago. Sure, prospective interview subjects slam the phone down on me while I'm saying, "The Huffintgton Po—" And it's annoying because I've always tried to be an objective reporter, if only for fear of partisan blowback one way or the other.

But I concluded there's a line you can't cross; I think of it as the Tylenol Line. The 1982 case showed a juncture where all press ceases to be good press. With regard to the aforementioned forums for thriller writers, I don't see the line being crossed. We're good either way.

And for what it's worth: Lately, most interview subjects—including some of the hardest of hardcore snack-on-scrap-metal hawk-types—are afraid NOT to take calls for the Huffington Post.

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