Yet the man whose books have been published in 41 languages didn't grow up wanting to be a writer. After graduating from college he worked in the family travel business as a tour guide. This experience led to his first piece of writing, an autobiographical novel that was "self absorbed" and "pompous" as he described it in an interview with The Telegraph, and the manuscript failed to find a publisher. He scored modest success with a mystery featuring sports agent Myron Bolitar and wrote seven books in the series. His achieved best seller status when his switched from mystery to thriller with Tell No One. Since then his novels have been consistent best sellers.
Universal Studios bought the rights to Tell No One and rumor has it they are trying to sign Liam Neeson for the starring role. A French production was released in 2006 and garnered a positive review by Roger Ebert.
For a look at how Harlan writes a twist ending, read his tips in Writer's Digest. And check out The Atlantic magazine article for an in-depth look at his writing career.
And the three things you need to be a great writer, according to his interview with the Wall Street Journal? Inspiration, perspiration...and desperation.
"I love stories," he says. It shows.