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Book News: Medical Thriller Writer Michael Palmer Dies At 71

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The bestselling thriller writer Michael Palmer died on Wednesday, according to a statement released by his publisher, St. Martin's Press. He was 71. Perhaps best known for Extreme Measures, which was made into a movie with Hugh Grant, Palmer wrote 20 novels – including his latest, Resistance,set to come out this spring. A doctor, Palmer was known for incorporating his medical training in his novels, writing in a genre some have called "the medical thriller." Though he became a bestselling author, Palmer wrote on his website that his writing career didn't get off to a promising start: "On my first English paper as a freshman I got a "G" as in A ... B ... C ... etc. My professor, as I recall, drew a line halfway through the paper and wrote, STOPPED READING HERE in the margin." Palmer's son Daniel wrote in a tribute that "the only thing my dad loved more than his family was writing books that thrilled, chilled, and made you turn the pages fast enough to get a blister."
  • While not "Book News" per se, an article in Indiana University's student newspaper about the closing of a local Waffle House is worth mentioning for its mournful beauty: "On the last morning, before the waffle irons went cold and the pictures came down, before the lock refused to lock, before the claw crashed through the roof, the old man paced."
  • Salon asked 12 novelists, including Roxane Gay, Pamela Erens and Jennifer duBois, to write two-sentence horror stories. Gay's reads: "It wasn't what you'd expect, how she knew she was never truly alone. It was the damp trail of moisture she sometimes found — along the arch of her spine, across her shoulders, between her breasts — that let her know he was there."
  • Playwright Tony Kushner on writing: "I'm utterly unsuited to the task of telling you how to live a happy, disciplined writer's life. I'm a slow reader, a deliberate tortoise of a thinker rather than the intellectual gazelle I would like to be; I'm undisciplined and unhappy writing and expect to be until the writing stops. I find a remarkable number of things to do in a day much more compelling than writing."
  • Ann Patchett speaks to The New York Times about her favorite writers. Of Edwidge Danticat, Patchett says, "She knows exactly how to break my heart and put it back together again."
  • Amazon is starting its own literary journal, called Day One,which will feature a weekly poem and short story.Many other publishing imprints also run their own literary journals or websites, including Hamish Hamilton's Five Dials and Random House Canada's excellent website Hazlitt.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.