The four excellent posts I have linked to got me thinking about why we enjoy reading our favourite authors.
I thought I would produce a simplistic list of the factors that I hope to find in a book.
My Fourteen Points and criteria [with apologies to President Woodrow Wilson] are indeed very simple, but the books I really enjoy obey the majority of them, and some books struggle even on these very basic points.
1] A believable plot and sub-plots.
2] A interesting main protagonist.
3] A good supporting cast of characters.
4] An easily readable narrative style.
5] A little humour at some point in the story.
6] To be educated, without being given a lecture.
7] A sense of place.
8] Accuracy in the setting, especially in historical crime fiction.
9] Clues and puzzles to solve.
10] Excitement and tension.
11] A degree of honesty with the reader.
12] A sense of justice achieved, I am very old fashioned about that.
13] That any violence should be limited to what is essential to the plot, and not just gratuitous exploitation.
14] A limited amount of political propaganda.
This may seem just common sense and almost too easy to achieve. But last year I read a book where the protagonist pops down to the local Gestapo HQ to explain that his girl friend is a member of a resistance organization, and could he make a deal for her safety. That fantasy failed the book immediately on about five criteria in one paragraph. [My review of that book has not been posted]. I have also read one book in the past few years that forgot to have a plot, but did have one sentence containing over 190 words.
Of course the one factor I have not mentioned in the success of an author is the excellence of their marketing campaigns, and their business acumen of their management team. The novels of Stieg Larsson, Ian Rankin and Agatha Christie obey most of the criteria, but they also have been brilliantly marketed.