My Week: Harlan Coben: Thriller Writer

The American thriller writer endures the tension – and then the elation – of the presidential election
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The Independent Online


A very strange day. It reminds me of when my ice hockey team got to the Stanley Cup final a few years ago. You'd think everyone would be crazy with excitement at the prospect, but actually we are all just silent with nerves. That's what it's like with tomorrow's election. I pass my neighbours on the street where I live in New Jersey, and we just nod at each other, not wanting to break the spell. For us Democrats it is all feeling a bit too good to be true. We have this lead and everything feels right and it is all coming together. And yet we are so nervous. The campaigning goes on, and some of my relatives have gone to Pennsylvania, a swing state, to support the Democrat cause. Meanwhile, I'm trying to work – on a TV series I'm about to pitch.


I decide not to go out this evening. I want to watch the results on TV with my family – my wife Anne and our four children. The kids are aged from 14 down to six and they're asking a ton of questions. They've held their own election in school today and Obama has won, which is nice. They want to know when we're going to get the result and I tell them about Bush and Gore in 2000 and the recount. They want an explanation of the electoral college. We're giving them a lesson in politics and then the results start coming in.

For me the first indication is when they can't call Indiana and Virginia. Then it's Pennsylvania. And the moment it is really all over is when Obama wins Ohio. The strange thing is it plays out just as was forecast. It's not anti-climactic, but nor is it a shout-out-loud moment – more a kind of welling up. There is a feeling of euphoria but it's muted. It's like this with Obama himself in his acceptance speech. He has more gravitas than his supporters. My kids are very animated but it's late now and they're also very tired. Tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary so we don't want to be too late up ourselves.


My wife and I celebrate by spending the day in New York. The excitement is still evident. There is a spring in people's steps. The leaves on the trees seem that bit brighter, the air that bit crisper. Such a strange thing this sense of hope. We have lunch at a lovely restaurant on West 69th, and walk in Central Park.


It feels like real life has returned. The season's over, and people don't quite know what to do with themselves.


I do a fair amount of writing – my treatment for the TV series, and work on a movie that's being made of my book The Innocent. And I think about Obama winning and I realise that it doesn't change everything, of course not. But there is a feeling of cleansing – that if we haven't yet stepped on to the right road then at least we have stepped off the wrong one.

Interview by Simon O'Hagan

Harlan Coben's most recent novel is 'Hold Tight', published by Orion