Shelf Life

Shelf Life: Writer's block gives way to a plot full of twist and turns in New England

2014-06-01T12:00:00Z 2014-06-04T16:27:10Z Shelf Life: Writer's block gives way to a plot full of twist and turns in New EnglandJane Ammeson Times Correspondent
June 01, 2014 12:00 pm  • 

Marcus Goldman, a successful young author albeit one currently suffering from writer’s block, takes a journey to the village of Somerset, N.H. to visit his mentor Harry Quebert. But while Goldman is hoping Quebert can help him in time to meet his publisher’s deadline, he instead finds himself involved in the murder investigation of Nola Kellergan, a 15-year-old girl who disappeared more than three decades earlier and it’s his mentor who stands accused of her death.

Intriguingly, "The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair" (Penguin $18), which has already been translated into 32 languages, sold over 2 million copies and Ron Howard recently purchased the movie rights, was written by Joël Dicker, a 28-year-old Swiss lawyer who lives in Geneva.

“I simply wanted to place a work of fiction in a New England setting, a place I know well,” said Dicker who spent his summers in New England when young, explaining why he chose New Hampshire as the backdrop for his mystery novel. “I came across a drawing I had sketched of a big house in New Hampshire once, and my idea grew from there. Very quickly I realized that I was so familiar with the U.S. that I could allow myself to create an American town with American characters. It’s hard for me to answer whether it would have worked in a different location. I’ve never thought about it.”

It was also, said Dicker, a way of recreating his experiences in New England.

“This book helped me discover a part of myself: that I could surpass my origins and my writing language, and recreate a part of the United States in French,” he said. “I’ve spent so much time in New England that I feel like it is part of me. I put those places in my book in order to share them with my readers in Europe. To show them which regions and settings live within me.”

An intricate book, with many plot twists and turns, Dicker didn’t have a plan before he started writing the book.

“The pleasure for me was simply to invent the story as I went along,” he said, “and to see how the events unfolded.”

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