Cover image for Rough draft : a novel
Rough draft : a novel
Hall, James W. (James Wilson), 1947-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
335 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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For twenty years, bestselling author James W. Hall has been one of the most highly respected thriller writers around. With last year's Body Language, Hall garnered acclaim from authors like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, and from reviewers in publications like People and The New York Times. Now, Hall serves up Rough Draft, which is at once both his most personal and his most gripping book to date.

A few years ago, while browsing in a used bookstore, Hall found a copy of one of his early novels full of strange marginal notes and underlined passages and other cryptic messages. Fascinated by these weird hieroglyphics and unable to get them out of his mind, he used this as the basis for Rough Draft, a novel about a woman crime novelist who stumbles across a similar book and finds in those marginal notes what seems to be a direct message from the killer of her parents.

Hannah Keller's struggle to find her parents' killer, and at the same time protect her son, takes the reader on an extraordinary ride through James Hall's best thriller to date.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As more and more thrillers are set in South Florida, the location threatens to become a genre cliche. Only Hall among the Florida contingent has consistently avoided repeating himself, developing new characters and offering intriguing variations on the now-familiar art-deco Armaggedon theme. He does it again here, with the gripping tale of a former Miami cop turned mystery writer who is trying to solve the murder of her parents and, in the process, rescue her son from the demons that torment him. Drawing on an incident from his own life, Hall has his heroine, Hannah Keller, find a copy of one of her books containing cryptic marginal notes that appear to be a message from the killer. Meanwhile, the FBI is tracking a psycho hitman who dispatches his victims by crushing their hearts with his bare hands. The psycho is hunting the money launderer who may have killed Hannah's parents, and unbeknownst to her, she becomes the bait in the Bureau's elaborate sting operation. Hall weaves his contrapuntal plot strains beautifully, letting the reader know more than Hannah knows but never enough to be comfortable. Is Frank Sheffield, a disaffected FBI agent, Hannah's ally, or will his attraction to her only make her more vulnerable? Computer technology plays a role in the unraveling of the plot, and unlike so many thriller writers who attempt to use the Internet and its manipulation as a plot element, Hall handles it adroitly, ratcheting tension while also dispensing fascinating information. He is also one of the few male crime novelists capable of creating successful female protagonists. Only the overhwelming gore factor--appropriate to the story but nauseating nonetheless--stands in the way of this one reaching an enormous crossover audience. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Veteran thriller master Hall (Body Language) exhibits a new dimension in this latest suspense novel. His intrepid protagonist Thorne conspicuously absent, he again features a female protagonist. Five years ago, beleaguered Miami police detective and single mom Hannah Keller was closing in on J.J. Fielding, a banker/money launderer for the Cali drug cartel. But when agents got close to nabbing Fielding, he disappeared with $463 million in embezzled cash. Meanwhile, Keller and her loving parents were about to celebrate her big break; she'd just sold her first mystery novel for a sizable sum. Her happiness turned to horror when she discovered her mother and her father, a former U.S. Attorney, dead--assassinated gang-style by killers leaving Fielding's "calling card" and a sole witness, Keller's then six-year-old son, Randall. The case has remained unsolved since. Now, Miami FBI agents Frank Sheffield and Helen Shane are out to capture the man who murdered a U.S. senator's daughter. They're sure that the killer is Hal Bonner, hired gun for the Cali cartel, and they decide to use Keller and her son as decoys to capture Bonner. Meanwhile, looking for revenge is Fielding's disturbed daughter, Hooters' employee, Misty. Filled with rage at her father's disappearance, she's determined to kill young Randall. In a creepy plot twist, Keller finds a copy of her first novel marked with scribblings that contain a code, possibly from Fielding himself. Solid suspense builds as the FBI, Misty and Hal chase Keller in choppers, cars and UPS vans. An expert creator of grotesque villains and fast action, former poet Hall raises the crossbar with his sensitive insights into the human condition. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hall's latest clever thriller will grab new fans and please old ones. Ex-cop Hannah Keller has a successful career writing crime novels. Her teenage son, Randall, witnessed the killing of his grandparents five years ago and still hasn't fully recovered. While waiting in her son's psychiatrist's office, she discovers a copy of her first novel with strange notes and numbers in the margins. Deciphering it reveals what appears to be a direct message to her from the killers of her parents. With the help of a reluctant FBI agent, Hannah decides to play along, but by her own rules. Hall (Body Language) is a master at duping the reader into believing something that inevitably proves to be jaw-droppingly false. A surprising book that should be on all public library shelves. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/99.]--Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.