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Thrillers, mysteries, and short stories by women

Harlan Coben in New York last year.
Harlan Coben in New York last year.Andrew White/The New York Times

Crime fiction heavyweight Harlan Coben’s newest, “Win,” combines hostage-taking, a stolen Vermeer painting, and an ice-cold case that has stumped the FBI. Coben has written more than 30 books, a number of which have been developed into Netflix series, such as “The Stranger.” He lives in New Jersey. “Win” is out Tuesday.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

COBEN: Recently I read Michael J. Fox’s new memoir, “No Time Like the Future.” It’s a very good book because Michael is willing to be a little darker here, and he’s such a nimble writer. I also recently read S.A. Cosby’s “Blacktop Wasteland.” I think he’ll be a future star in the crime field. It’s set in the rural South with a lead character who wants to get out of the life but can’t. And the best thing I’ve read in a while is the novel “Homeland Elegies” by Ayad Akhtar.

BOOKS: Do you read mostly fiction?


COBEN: More than 90 percent of what I read is fiction. A third of the fiction I read is thriller and crime. I also love short stories by women. I don’t mean it to, but this will sound politically correct. I love short stories by women authors, such as Elizabeth McCracken.

BOOKS: How long have you been reading short stories by women?

COBEN: Years and years. I think that started big time with “Blueprints for Building Better Girls” by Elissa Schappell. I get so many books to blurb but no one thinks of me as the guy to blurb short stories by women, but I just love them.

BOOKS: Who do you read for crime fiction?

COBEN: I read a lot of my friends, like Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Shari Lapena, all the writers I came up with.


BOOKS: Who have been some of your most recent discoveries in crime writing?

COBEN: Cosby would be one. Attica Locke is an exciting new talent. She wrote “Bluebird, Bluebird,” which won an Edgar Award. Alison Gaylin is still flying under the radar. At some point she’s going to break out in a big way. And Janelle Brown’s last book, “Pretty Things,” was really good. We are definitely in the golden age of crime fiction. There has never been crime fiction written by authors in so many different parts of the world, people of different colors and genders. It really strengthens the genre.

BOOKS: Do you read mysteries by foreign authors?

COBEN: I jump on them when I can. The problem is hardly any foreign crime authors are translated into English. I sell a lot of books in France. I’m the Jerry Lewis of crime fiction there. Whenever I go there I always get asked who are my favorite French crime fiction writers. I’m like, “None of them have been translated.” Americans need to up our game. It’s much easier for American writers to be translated overseas than the reverse.

BOOKS: Did you grow up in a house full of readers?

COBEN: Books were always sacrosanct in our house. You couldn’t necessarily buy every toy you wanted but you could buy books. On Sunday my family would drive into New York City and go to the Barnes & Noble Annex on 18th Street. You could fill a paper bag worth of books for $5. My dad could pack that bag like a trunk of a car.


BOOKS: What was the first thriller you read?

COBEN: My first adult thriller was William Goldman’s “Marathon Man.” My dad gave that to me when I was 15 or 16. It was the first time I read a book and thought, “You could put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t put it down.” The very first thriller I read was “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman, which I read as a little kid. What a goddamn terrifying book that is. A baby bird falls out of its nest, and then goes looking for its mom. It’s asking a cat, then a dog, even a steam shovel, “Are you my mother?” That’s scary stuff.