DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF WHAT MAKES A MEGA-BESTSELLER IN THIS ENTERTAINING, REVELATORY GUIDE
What do Michael Corleone, Jack Ryan, and Scout Finch have in common? Creative writing professor and thriller writer James W. Hall knows. Now, in this entertaining, revelatory book, he reveals how bestsellers work, using twelve twentieth-century blockbusters as case studies—including The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jaws. From tempting glimpses inside secret societies, such as submariners in The Hunt for Red October, and Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code, to vivid representations of the American Dream and its opposite—the American Nightmare—in novels like The Firm and The Dead Zone, Hall identifies the common features of mega-bestsellers. Including fascinating and little-known facts about some of the most beloved books of the last century, Hit Lit is a must-read for fiction lovers and aspiring writers alike, and makes us think anew about why we love the books we love.
The style of Hall's survey of the workings of popular fiction reflects its subject: "fast, emotionally charged full of familiar character types brimming with schmaltz," and "Written in earthy, simple, earnest, transparent prose." In this latest offering (after Mean High Tide), Hall a prolific writer of fiction, poetry, and essays dissects the elements that make fiction popular in the American context, using 12 bestselling novels (including Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, and The Da Vinci Code) as case studies. Readers won't be surprised to hear that a bestselling novel "must be entertaining," or that sex and religion sell, which makes the word "code" in the book's subtitle a somewhat dubious designation. As a study in the building blocks of popularity, Hall's investigation resides in the awkward space between a how-to manual and an appreciation of the tropes of popular fiction. It's a sincere book, one with a real interest in validating the production and consumption of American popular literature. However, the book's earnestness cloys. Hall's attempts to reason out why we love what we love (and why it sells) often seem to merit an adjective more usually lobbed at the fiction he writes about superficial.