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Current Reads

Mother and Son Reunion

An intricate new thriller set in Pakistan.

Book Cover In that evanescent realm which I think of as my reading experiences there are a handful of writers whose narrative skills move them beyond the increasingly respectable category of so-called “genre fiction” to the seemingly more respected arena of “literary fiction”—Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Charles McCarry, Alan Furst, Thomas Perry, and Michael Gruber.

Gruber is an interesting specimen—having in college indicated an interest in English literature and writing, he continued his education by acquiring a master’s degree in marine biology, and as he tells it in 1973 received a Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. He continued working at a number of different occupations (chef at several Miami restaurants, a hippie traveling around in a bus and working as a roadie for various rock groups, then as an analyst for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County and director of planning for the county department of human resources), and finally going on to federal civil service work.

In 1986 Gruber was asked by Robert Tanenbaum to ghostwrite a courtroom thriller to be published under his name, and since then he has also written the first 15 novels in the popular Butch Karp and Marlene series. Gruber explains:
I started writing fiction professionally in 1984 and I’ve had twenty-three novels published. Looking back, it’s all a fog. Occasionally (perhaps shamefully) I read one of the books I’ve written as if I’d just found it on a rack, and remarkably it’s just as if I’d found it on a rack. I have no memory of writing the thing, the plots surprise, the jokes are amusing (or not), the characters are there to be discovered. I’m always a little amazed by this. Who wrote this stuff?
I suppose, following conventional foolishness, I was obliged to introduce the fact of Michael Gruber’s new opus, The Good Son (Henry Holt ) in the first graf. The reason I didn’t is my sense that picking up any of his six novels (under his own name) will inevitably lead you to the others. Personally, I am, despite my antipathy to series, enamored of his first three novels (Valley of Bones, Tropic of Night, and Night of the Jaguar) featuring Miami homicide detective Jimmy Paz.

Here he is questioned about The Good Son:
Q: You have been praised for being able to write on a wide variety subjects. In what ways does The Good Son represent your exploring new territory as a writer?

A: I’ve never done a classic international intrigue novel before and I wanted to take a stab. I started thinking about this book five or so years back when the situation in Pakistan had not become what it is now. Today, The Good Son has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it that was not my original intent. I was thinking more of a modern version of Kim.
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