Classy nonfiction author Eric Konigsberg's assessment of super successful thriller writer Harlan Coben's career begins on a slightly sour note—"What it takes to succeed as a thriller writer—even when the literary establishment doesn't acknowledge your existence"—and then just kinda keeps getting sourer. "Until I met Harlan Coben, I was only vaguely familiar with his name. It was one of dozens I would see on the short paperbacks that line the shelves of airport news shops." Hiss! A few sentences later, the seeming-vitriol is kinda-'splained.

My introduction to Coben occurred in October 2005, when he and I were among some 150 authors featured at a book fair in New York's Bryant Park. I was a last-minute addition to the schedule—my publisher was able to get me a slot because another writer canceled—and was thrilled that despite my book's small print run, about 30 people attended my reading. After I finished, however, I realized that most of them were not there for me but had come early to secure themselves seats to hear Coben, the next writer on the bill.

Of course, in the part of the article that's not online, Eric does cop to Harlan's being an "absolute mensch" and admits that when he actually tried to read one of his novels, he found it "a struggle to put it down." And he concludes with the thought that Harlan isn't being a hack on purpose or anything.

It isn't that Coben has gone out of his way to have the most commercial success he can. That's been completely on his way, the most natural path he could have taken. 'There's no calculation: I can't write what a lesser writer writes or what a better writer writes,' he said later. ' This is what I write.'"

One does leave with the lingering sense, though, that Eric wishes that was what he wrote, too. Paperback Writer [Atlantic Monthly]