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July 29, 2009

Mary Jane Clark: How About Picking a Page-Turner?

Posted by webmaster
Suspense writer Mary Jane Clark knows that book clubs can have the best of both worlds: a page-turner that also has plenty of topics for discussion. In today's guest blog post, she shares talking points for two of her novels featuring television reporter Eliza Blake --- the most recent, Dying for Mercy, and It Only Takes a Moment. If you're interested in having Mary Jane join your book club discussion by phone, click here for details. Watch for her on ABC's Good Morning America on August 12th.

What mysteries and thrillers has your group read lately? Which ones garnered good discussions? We'd love to know about some of your experiences, if you'd like to share them in the comments section.

I'd always been under the impression that mysteries and thrillers are not appropriate book club selections. People think beach reads, airplane stories, the types of books you just can't put down, aren't discussable enough. They don't have enough texture. They aren't relevant to the lives of book club members.

My suspense novels have been called page-turners. People express how much they enjoy reading them, tell me they can't wait for the next one, they ask if I can write faster. A book that engenders that sort of response has to have something going for it. And I know, as the person who wrote it, how much thought and research and imagination went into making the book what it is.

Dying for Mercy, along with providing a fast-moving story, has many general themes for discussion. A mother's struggle to balance family and career, the public's insatiable appetite for sensationalism, marital infidelity, Italy's rich artistic and religious history, political ambition, the effects of religious conversion, children with disabilities, the desire to be accepted, the worldwide appeal of St. Francis of Assisi, suicide, puzzles and crimes buried in the past. All of those subjects and more are aspects of the novel.

It Only Takes a Moment focuses on kidnapping, dreams, the loss of a child, the role of psychics in police work, the effects of infidelity on a relationship, immigration, pedophilia and the justice system, the danger faced by TV personalities from their fans, the invasiveness of the media and the consolation of friends and neighbors when tragedy strikes. (For a list of specific discussion questions for both books go to

With all that happening between the covers, I'm puzzled. Why don't I get more requests to speak with book clubs? It concerns me, especially since I have learned that my initial assumption is not necessarily true. recently conducted a survey about book clubs, with almost 7,500 members completing it. It turns out mysteries and thrillers are popular---almost half of the groups read them.

Then why don't I have wonderful book club experiences and anecdotes to share? Do readers assume that my media thrillers are only action driven? Do they doubt that there would be depth to the characters? Do people think that the situations and problems the characters encounter won't be interesting or complicated enough? Or that there will be no absorbing conflict or heartfelt emotion in the book?

Given the chance, I'd like to prove myself. I think I can win you over. Just give my books a try. What do you have to lose?

Please. Don't reject a book just because you can't put it down.

---Mary Jane Clark