arts 07.22.04

John Searles

One of our very favorite first novels was John Searles' Boy Still Missing from 2001. We've been waiting, rather impatiently, for his second book. Wait over: the new one is called Strange But True (William Morrow, $24.95) and it's already racking up some great reviews.

We asked Mr. Searles, who is the book editor at Cosmopolitan, about the genesis of Strange But True. Here's what he told us:

JOHN SEARLES: Before Boy Still Missing was published, Chris Bohjalian gave me this advice: He told me that he always found it best to begin a new book before the current one came out. I took that advice and began writing right away. In fact, I spent two years working on another book. As I neared the end, though, I felt frustrated because it wasn't coming together as I had hoped.

Then on a rainy night last spring, I was riding the subway home from Cosmo when the idea for Strange But True came to me — fully formed and seemingly out of nowhere. I went home and starting writing by longhand, telling almost no one what I was up to. In three weeks I completed a very rough draft on twenty-three pads of paper. I spent the rest of the spring, summer and fall revising the story.

On the morning the book was due, I showed up at my editor's office with the vague feeling that it may have been slightly more professional to let her know sooner that I had put aside the book I was under contract to write. (This was not like my waiter days, after all, when I would swap a Saturday night shift for a Friday night. Now there were contracts and money involved.) When I told her what I'd done, she looked a little panicked and told me it would take two weeks for her to get back to me.

It turned out that she called the very next day to say she started reading the moment I left her office and could not stop. After a few more people at Morrow read it, they decided to crash the book into the summer schedule. So now, they've signed me up for two more and I plan to ride the subway a lot hoping for another moment of inspiration!

You can hear Mr. Searles read tonight at 6:30pm at the Borders Store in the Shops at Columbus Circle and this coming Wednesday, July 28, at 7pm, at Barnes and Noble on Union Square.
Summer Reading
Are you reading something great right now? Let us know (and include a sentence or two about why it's so good) and we'll publish a list of what our readers are reading. Email us at

recent entries

What the World Needs

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

See all articles in ARTS

Get a daily dose of MUG
right in your Inbox.