How is it that some authors grab you by the sleeve and won't let you go, while others only provide a pleasant diversion that can be set down at any moment to do something more pressing?

Laura Lippman does it; Barry Eisler too. It could be in Lippman's case that she writes as I think, pulling up details that seem like they came from my own brain, but in Eisler's work I have no frame of reference, being neither Asian nor a hired assassin. So it must be something else, and I call it atmosphere.

The great writer creates for the reader a world that her whole consciousness enters into, and it's like life--you need to know what's coming next. There isn't any one thing that makes it happen. It's a tapestry that's slowly woven into a recognizable pattern, but you're not looking at it, you're part of it. Which is why we're a little sad when it's finished, a little less than what we were for that brief span when we were both readers and participants in the story's unfolding.

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