A quick aside before I get into it: I have a theory (which is mine): The best book John Grisham wrote was A Time To Kill. It was also the very first book he wrote--by flashlight at his desk so no one else in his law firm would know he was already at his desk. You have to be passionate to get up at 4:30 in the morning, trundle off to work, and write your manuscript by flashlight, and that kind of passion translates into a very good book. A Time To Kill is a very good book--Grisham's best--but it wasn't good enough to get published. Many people don't know that it was only after The Firm was published to critical acclaim--and excellent sales--that Grisham's publisher took a chance on A Time To Kill.
An author's debut novel has to be very, very good. Why? Because otherwise it wouldn't get published. Name recognition is huge is world of books. As evidence to support this statement, please consider that the names of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy are still being stamped on the cover of newly written books--despite the fact that both are passed away. (Ludlum has been dead for over a decade, yet he still draws readers.) This is why I am starting the Debut Novel Review--to even the playing field a little for my fellow debut novelists.
Ok, enough digression--a fearful habit of my blogging self. On to I Am Pilgrim. (Warning: No Spoilers in this review.)
Debut Novelist Terry Hayes
Everybody looks for something different in a book. I like good writing. My wife enjoys a good premise. Daughter #1 likes fast-paced action. Son #1 is drawn to a twisting plot. Son #2 loves great dialogue (and he can be heard--often--reciting lines from his favorite books again and again.) Daughter #2 is a fan of memorable characters. (And yes, I have a lot of children.)
Great books--and debut novels--have all of these. I Am Pilgrim is no exception. I was drawn in to the writing from the first sentence:
'There are places I'll remember all my life--Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.'
That's good writing. But I Am Pilgrim doesn't stop there: there are memorable characters (the main character, Pilgrim, and the well-conceived bad guy, Saracen) for daughter #2; an excellent premise--only one man can stop a pyschopathic jihadist on a mission to destroy America--for my wife; great pacing and lots of action for daughter #1; crisp dialogue for son #2; and a superb, serpentine plot for son #1.
Yes, I Am Pilgrim is the ideal book for my family--it's also the ideal book for you. Click on the link to I Am Pilgrim and give it a try--and support a debut novelist!
That's a wrap, folks. Thanks again for your time and attention, and stay tuned to PeterHogenkampWrites for news about my own debut novel, Absolution.
What are your favorite debut novels? Please let me know by responding in the comments. I'll end by posting several selected reviews of I Am Pilgrim:
The Guardian review of I Am Pilgrim
NYTimes Book Review of I Am Pilgrim
Kirkus Reviews; I Am Pilgrim
Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at email@example.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at firstname.lastname@example.org.