Brand Loyalty?

Evaluating recent releases from two high-profile authors

Brand Loyalty?

Some authors have secured such a fan-club following that their books are published nearly every year and usually make the bestseller lists. James Patterson, Clive Cussler, and the late Tom Clancy are so successful and productive that they (or their estates) employ writers to co-author new books.

The “serious” authors of adventure and crime literature — including Daniel Silva and Michael Connelly, my go-to novelists every summer when I put aside books on constitutional law or justice issues in favor of an entertaining read — also have followings. The Other Woman by Silva and Dark Sacred Night by Connelly, this year’s company during my two weeks in Nantucket, get mixed reviews. Silva’s is good; Connelly’s, not so much.

Connelly’s newest (number 31), due out in October, has at its center his longtime anti-hero, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, and a new lead character introduced in his last book, Renée Ballard, an eccentric but devoted surfer-detective relegated to all-night duties (“the late show”) for complaining about a superior who made unwanted advances. Young Ballard and retired Bosch join up to solve a cold-case murder that haunts Bosch “like a dog with a bone.”

Connelly is a master of crime fiction and knows life and law in Los Angeles, the site of most of his stories. As in all his books, this one is filled with side stories and insider police jargon and procedures that provide verisimilitude, but which, in this book, become overdone and eventually detract from the story’s movement. You can’t win ‘em all.

Silva’s newest caper starring Gabriel Allon — an art restorer and reluctant spy-assassin — is one of the better of his series about Israeli spies and terrorist hunters. As he often does, Silva provides side stories to his escapades filled with information about such subjects as the Black Sunday Olympics murders, art restoration, and, here, the imagined follow-up story of real-life British-Russian spy Kim Philby.

In The Other Woman, Silva creates Philby’s fictional child, and the story revolves around finding that child, now an adult, who is a treacherous British intelligence mole positioned high in the U.S. foreign service.

As Silva’s publisher proclaims, this book explores “the long reach of the past” while tapping into “the contemporary zeitgeist.” Silva says, “The Russians are wonderful fictional villains…because they’re villains in real life,” as the news of the day proves. Silva didn’t intend to write more than his first book about Allon, The Kill Artist, but its success has led to 17 more.

In Connelly’s latest, Bosch has become even darker and more detached, and the eccentric young Ballard doesn’t quite manage to come alive. Connelly’s books — 74 million copies sold — center on three different characters: Bosch, his half-brother, Mickey Haller, the “Lincoln Lawyer” of movie fame, and now Ballard. Silva has a group of regular eccentric but wise characters assisting Allon who readers will enjoy following.

The technique works when it comes to “brand” books. Readers await the next of their favorites and are rarely disappointed. Bosch is now a very well done television series streaming on Amazon, and I predict Silva and Allon will come to the screen soon, too. An Israeli version of 007 can’t miss.

The joy with brand books is that fans can look forward to familiar, guaranteed reads, as they do with movie series like “Rocky.” The inevitable problem is that sometimes — like with “Rocky V” — they disappoint. Even at his very best, Ted Williams got a hit only four out of every 10 times. Still, loyalty to authors and their casts keeps us coming back and makes publishers rich.

Ronald Goldfarb is an attorney, author, and literary agent. His column, CapitaLetters, appears occasionally in the Independent.

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