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Thriller author Joseph Finder gets 'buried'

Posted by Delia Cabe  June 22, 2011 03:27 PM

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9780312379148.jpgAuthor Joseph Finder climbed into a thick steel casket in a Boston suburb because he needed to know what it felt like to be buried alive. The lid squeaked when the funeral director closed the lid.

"At first, it was very restful," the New York Times bestselling author told the crowd at Brookline Booksmith Tuesday night. The mattress, Finder thought, was comfortable.

That "I could nap" feeling quickly dissipated. Finder, who had experienced his first episode of claustrophobia not too long before that, started sweating. When he tried to sit up, he banged his head. Panic was kicking in.

"OK, let me out," he shouted.

The funeral home employees couldn't hear Finder's voice. He knocked on the casket. That they heard. The darkness, the tight space, the lid lifting, the whoosh of cool air rushing in when it opened--these details were what he was after.

"I went through this for you," Finder told his fans. The audience laughed.

IMG00212-20110621-1917.jpgFinder wanted his descriptions of interment to feel real to readers in his latest thriller, "Buried Secrets." The novel, published yesterday, is about a kidnapped girl whose captors bury her alive and include a videocam. Private spy Nick Heller, who first appeared in Finder's last book, "Vanished," is hired to track down her kidnappers

Finder is obsessive about research to make every detail ring true, though his casket ordeal was an extreme one for him. For this book, he also consulted a mines expert to learn how much air one needs to stay alive when buried and computer specialists who explained the nuts and bolts of streaming video on the Internet, evading signal detection and other high-tech stuff.

Bostonians who pick up "Buried Secrets" will recognize several locales. For example, Heller goes to the Graybar Hotel, where the kidnapped young woman was last seen. The hotel was converted from a jail, "once a grim, hulking black monstrosity, filthy and overcrowded, the riots legend." (Here's the real one and its history as a jail.)

Finder doesn't like to do a formal reading, preferring to leave that to poets. However, last night, he made an exception and read short scenes that introduce characters named for real people, some of whom were in attendance. Finder "sells" naming rights for characters in his books. "They bought their way into the book," he said before he read the passages. He donates the money to charities, such as PEN New England. In "Buried Secrets," Back Bay socialite Smoki Bacon is "cast" as a willowy redheaded personal assistant.

As for Nick Heller, private spy, expect to see him tangled up in future novels by Finder.

Local writers also came out to see Finder:

Suspense novelist Gary Braver, whose latest, "Tunnel Vision," was also published June 21.

P6211398.JPGAuthors Daniel Palmer and Hank Phillippi Ryan, who is an investigative reporter for WHDH-TV when she's not writing mysteries.

You can read an excerpt of "Buried Secrets" on Finder's website.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Delia Cabe's work has appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Self, Prevention, Scientific American Presents, and other publications. In between posts, you can read Cabe's tweets at!/DeliaCabe, More »

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