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Dateline: Seattle, May 31

06/01/2006

Seattle. One day – but the perfect Book Tour day. Scheduled almost to the minute, lots of bookstores, great media.

Well, actually, it didn’t start perfectly. I shaved too quickly and somehow cut my nose (don’t ask). Apparently the nose is, as my brother the doctor would say, “intensely vascular, and it bleeds like stink.” Whatever that means. I carry a styptic pencil along with me, but that did no good. The blood began running down my face and into the hotel sink as if I’d decapitated myself. It took a good ten minutes and a box of Kleenex before the bleeding stopped. All the while, I kept thinking: This is not going to look good on TV this afternoon.

Started with two radio interviews, including a terrific interview on Seattle’s NPR station with John Moe, who asked some really interesting, provocative questions. You can listen to it here. Stopped by Seattle Mystery Bookstore, saw JB Dickey and Bill Farley, and signed a bunch of copies. Some interesting talk about the bookselling business. (I love getting the inside dope from people who really know it.) Anyone who wants to buy signed copies can get them there.

Did a terrific TV interview on KOMO-TV’s afternoon news program, though it was a format I was totally unused to: the anchorwoman, Kathi Goertzen and I stood next to each other in the newsroom and talked. Suddenly I became very aware of my hands. A very good interview, and far more in-depth than the usual three-minute TV spot. A lot of people watch that show – and lots of them turned up for my evening signing at Third Place Books outside of Seattle.

What a great bookstore that is. I’ve never seen anything like it – it’s huge, extremely well stocked and well displayed, and it’s sort of open to, and adjacent to, a food court. This creates a kind of giant café area, a destination in its own right, from which people can migrate over to the bookstore. Wendy Manning, the events manager, put on a fantastic event. She really got the word out. A big crowd.

Interestingly, many of them were people who’d never read my books before but were intrigued, wanted to hear more – and most of them bought copies of Paranoia and Company Man as well as Killer Instinct. The audience was truly engaged, asked lots of great questions about everything from how I name my characters to was Ashley Judd as beautiful in person as she is on the screen. When I announced the winner of the NEC TV – and she gasped – everyone broke out in loud applause. I also got to spend a little time with Jeff Ayers, a writer and librarian who wrote an excellent piece about me for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I’m coming back to Third Place Books next year. At least if I have anything to do with it. And I hope I do.

A lot of press stuff on the new book has come out this week. An amazing piece in Time magazine this week, for one, by Andrea Sachs. It’s headlined “Chapters for the CEO Set: Novelist Joseph Finder has carved out a market niche: the corporate thriller.” Wonderfully written piece, done with humor and a light touch. She quotes Malcolm Gladwell saying, “Joseph Finder is doing for the business thriller what John le Carre did for the spy thriller – moving it from the level of simple genre to something more complex and ultimately satisfying.” Wow. Plus a very cool photograph of me taken my one of the legendary photographers Time regularly calls upon, Asia Kepka. She’d scouted out a location on the Boston waterfront and found a bizarre structure: a boat ramp with a ribbed ceiling of blue tarpaulin that made an arresting background image. Very cool-looking.

A great review in the Boston Globe by David Montgomery that was so enthusiastic, and so articulate (Montgomery is a regular mystery reviewer and one of the best . . . clearly) that St. Martin’s ran an unusually long excerpt from it in their New York Times ad today (Thursday). If I may quote (I may – this is my blog, dammit): “Superb . . . fascinating . . . Heart-pounding suspense . . . The most successful writers are often the ones who either anticipate the trends or create trends on their own . . . that’s what Tom Clancy did with military thrillers . . . what Dan Brown did with the religious thriller. Joseph Finder has firmly established himself as the master of the corporate thriller, doing for the country’s boardrooms and executive suites what John Grisham did for its courtrooms.”

I blush as I type those words.

I also am beginning to realize that I’m not easily going to be able to shake that “corporate thriller” label I so detest.

A great review also came in from Fortune Magazine. I had no idea they were going to review the book, and I’m delighted they did.

But I leave the best for last. I had about an hour between the TV appearance and when I had to leave for Third Place Books, so I went back to the hotel room to grab a desperately needed nap. I was just drifting off when my cell phone rang. Snatched it up, fumbled with it, heard a voice saying, “You’re number 13.”

I said, “Who’s this?” And what did this mean?

“Keith.” My editor.

“I’m number – oh. Oh, my God!” I woke up fast. He was telling me that Killer Instinct had just hit the printed New York Times bestseller list, for the week of June 11. Amazing, actually, given how many of the big chain bookstores were out of the book last week. And given the mega-bestsellers who have books out right now – Cornwell, Patterson, Sandford, Mary Higgins Clark. Plus my friends Harlan Coben and Lee Child, both of whom have been at the book-a-year thing far longer than I and have built up deservedly huge followings. Alexander McCall Smith, who apparently writes 15 novels a year. Bad Twin, which seems to be some bogus “Lost” spin-off. And Dan Brown, of course.

Within a few minutes, my BlackBerry started buzzing – congratulations from a bunch of people at St. Martin’s, and a number of friends in the publishing industry, including my beloved first editor (at Viking, for The Moscow Club), Pam Dorman.

I e-mailed my brother the editor to tell him the news. Among the books Killer Instinct led was Suite Francaise, two novellas about life in Nazi-occupied France, by Irene Nemirovsky, a woman who perished at Auschwitz. As I marveled at this, my brother replied — I trust him for the blackest of humor — “Well, she didn’t tour.”

A good day.