Squawk Radio

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Liz Makes Sport of the Saturday Book Blog

I started reading Harlan Coben when one of my favorite booksellers recommended TELL NO ONE. I loved it and immediately wanted to glom everything the guy had written. However, as I read the back cover copy for each of his earlier books, I was dismayed to discover they all featured a recurring protagonist named Myron Bolitar. Now, usually, I love recurring protagonists in mysteries. But Myron Bolitar was a sports agent, and I’m totally not into sports (unless Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the one writing about them). I really didn’t think I’d like the books, and I feared they would be too male-oriented for my tastes. Still, Coben became an auto-buy for me after TELL NO ONE--in hardback, no less--so I continued reading all his ensuing books, all of which were excellent, and none of which featured Myron.

I was SO looking forward to Coben’s new book that came out earlier this month, PROMISE ME. But when I read the jacket copy, I saw with some disappointment that the story returns to his Myron Bolitar character. Dang. What was I going to do for my annual Harlan fix? For all I knew, he’d be returning to Myron indefinitely. With a heavy heart, I bought PROMISE ME anyway. But because I dislike coming into a series in the middle of a character’s growth, before I could read it, I’d have to go back and read the Myron Bolitar books from the beginning. All six of them.

I am SO glad I did.

DEAL BREAKER is the first of those books. In it, Myron is still building his sports representation agency, but he’s landed a plum client in quarterback Christian Steele. Unfortunately, while Myron is negotiating a very important contract for Christian, Christian’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of a missing-and-probably-dead girlfriend, secrets, lies and blackmail. There are a number of twists and turns to the plot, and the end, as it always is with Coben’s books, was a total surprise. But the stories, as good as they are, aren’t what keep pulling me back to these books. It’s Myron, plain and simple, who does that.

Oh, there’s a lot of male fantasy built into Bolitar. He’s a former college basketball star who took Duke to the NCAA finals and won. Then he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. (Alas, an injury ended his career before it even began.) He did some shady work for the government once upon a time. He’s handsome and women adore him. But instead of buying into the whole macho schtick, Myron is modest and self-deprecating and charming. He’s the kind of guy who would appeal to any woman.

And speaking of women, one of my favorite things about all of Coben’s books are his women characters. Even in the sports books, there are many, and they are strong and well-written, not the cardboard background scenery women often play in books written by men. Myron’s assistant, Esperanza Diaz, another recurring character, is a former pro wrestler attending law school at night. In a later book, Myron reps a female pro basketball player whom Coben brings fully to life. Even Myron’s love interests are interesting, smart women who serve to build and enhance Myron’s character instead of being a prop for it.

I just love everything about the series. I’m currently reading THE FINAL DETAIL, the last of those first six Bolitar books, and then it’s on to PROMISE ME. Myron’s come a long way from DEAL BREAKER, and it’ll be interesting to see what’s been going on with him the last few years while Coben’s been visiting other characters. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a handsome, charming guy.

So has anyone else fallen for Myron the way I have? Any other Harlan Coben fans out there? Or has anyone else read a book they thought would disappoint, only to be completely swept away by it?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 8:51 AM