Monday, June 9, 2008

Top writers feel heat from publishers' presses

Elmore Leonard said, "If it takes you more than six months to write a book, you're not working."

In an age when reading for pleasure is declining, book publishers increasingly are counting on their biggest moneymaking writers to crank out books at a rate of at least one a year, right on schedule, and sometimes faster than that.

Boston's Dennis Lehane tried the book-a-year pace once, to his regret. He had written a second book by the time his first novel, "A Drink Before the War," was published in 1994. He wrote a third book, he said, "blazing fast, a real fluke." His fourth took 2 1/2 years.

"Then they asked me to turn a book around in a year," he said. "I did it ["Prayers for Rain" in 1999], but the week it was published I realized what would have made it a really good book. The anger of that realization haunted me. I said I would never go back on that hamster wheel. It's what led me to write 'Mystic River.' " He took two years, published it in 2001, and it was his biggest book. The 2003 movie won two Academy Awards.