Profile and interview with new Bond writer Jeffery Deaver
American crime writer Jeffery Deaver has been hailed as âthe master of ticking-bomb suspenseâ - reports the Express
Heâs written 26 page-turning thrillers, won a host of awards and sold more than 20 million books around the world. His chilling novel, The Bone Collector, was made into a hugely successful Hollywood movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie and earlier this year he was chosen to write the next James Bond novel.
Deaverâs clever and intricately- plotted crime stories terrify the living daylights out of his readers but in person he turns out to be charming and outgoing. âSome people are rather disÂappointed because they expect to see someone a bit more gothic,â he says. âI tend to wear dark clothes and have a rather stern, lean face, but personality-wise I enjoy seeing people and I like making people laugh.â
Deaver is in the UK to promote his latest book, The Burning Wire. The ninth of his tales featuring quadriplegic forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme, itâs every bit as gripping as its predecessors. This time, Rhyme is on the trail of a merciless killer who hacks into New Yorkâs electricity grid, bringing death and terror to the city. The book also sees Rhyme, paralysed from the neck down after a heavy beam fell on him at a crime scene, struggling with the options of euthanasia or pioneering surgery.
Even though the novel features all of the Deaver trademarks â dizzying twists and turns, vivid characterisation and a race against time to catch the perpetrator (or âperpâ in US cop speak) â he stresses that his books arenât âgruesomeâ.
âMy goal is to give my readers the most intense, emotional experience they can have,â he says when we meet in London on a blisteringly hot day. âBy that I mean not only terrify them, which is important, but also tug at their heartstrings.
âOne of my idols in writing was Mickey Spillane, the pulp fiction writer, and he said, âPeople donât read books to get to the middle â they read books to get to the end.â The way I try to adhere to that philosophy is to make sure that on every level people are engaged and part of that is to make sure they are terrified.
âFear on every page is a continual theme of my books but I never think âthis could scare people too muchâ. You can, however, repulse people. Thatâs why, believe it or not, my books are not violent. And I am very conscious of never hurting children or animals.
âI adhere to what I call the Alfred Hitchcock model in that my books are suspenseful but not gruesome. I find the enjoyment of anticipating something terrible happening and then cutting away from what does happen â whether people are saved or whether they perish â a more wholesome and fulfilling experience than dwelling on gruesome scenes.â
Despite heart-stopping moments like a city bus being reduced to molten, shrapnel-ridden metal in The Burning Wire, 60-year-old Deaver insists his books donât scare him. A slim, balding figure in Prada glasses, well-cut dark jacket and black trousers, he says heâs scared of ânormalâ things â âlike heights and could George Bush ever be re-electedâ. When heâs writing, however, he remains detached from the horror.
âI use the analogy of being an airline pilot,â he says. âThe pilot looks ahead and sees a beautiful sunset but itâs his job to make sure the plane flies smoothly. He doesnât get involved and Iâm pretty much the same way. I donât get emotionally engaged, either frightened or ecstatic, when Iâm writing. I have to be in control. Thatâs the way it works for me.
âI like making the readers feel clever. I put in clues and red herrings and make sure that every clue has multiple meanings. Usually Iâll fool everyone at least once. Sometimes I donât fool anybody but 90 per cent of the time I fool people with my surprise endings.â
Deaver and his partner Madelyn have homes in North Carolina and Washington DC but he says he can write pretty much anywhere. Heâs certainly prolific. He produces two books every three years, alternating between the Lincoln Rhyme series and novels featuring Kathryn Dance, an expert in the science of body language. But this year his schedule has gone up a gear. His new stand-alone thriller, Edge, is out in October, he has planned Interrogations, the next Kathryn Dance novel, and is now hard at work on Project X, his eagerly-awaited Bond book.
A lifelong Bond fan â From Russia With Love is his favourite â Deaver was thrilled when Ian Flemingâs estate approached him to write the next book in the James Bond series. Previous official Bond novels have been written by such authors as Kingsley Amis, Raymond Benson and Sebastian Faulks.
Deaverâs Bond book doesnât have a title yet but he has written a 160-page outline and it will be published in May next year.
Right now he is not giving much away but he promises that Project X is âa clever story, with some very good twists and surprisesâ. Set in 2011, it stars Bond as âa young agent of about 29 or 30â. Fans will be relieved to hear that it features exotic locations (part of the story is also set in London) and much-loved characters such as M, Miss MoneyÂpenny and Bondâs friend Felix Leiter.
In Deaverâs version, however, Bond will be more like Flemingâs spy than the debonair, quipping character we know from the movies. âThe original Bond was quite a bit different,â he explains. âHe was extremely intelligent and suave but he was a very dark, edgy character, a killer. So the very complicated patriot that Fleming created is the character I will recreate, but he is appearing in a Deaver-type story.â
Asked whether he has anything in common with Bond, he sips some water and thinks for a second.
âYes, I do. It has nothing to do with putting my life in peril to save my country but I like to drive cars quickly, I love whisky, I scuba dive and I ski. M wrote an obituary for Bond in You Only Live Twice and ended it with a quote saying, âI shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.â And I kind of believe that, too.â
Far from being daunted by the challenge of recreating Flemingâs iconic character, Deaver reckons he is well equipped to do it. âI wouldnât have taken it on if I didnât feel I could handle it,â he says.
âIf the Tolkien estate had asked if Iâd like to write Lord Of The Rings 2, I would probably have said no. Even though I love Lord Of The Rings, it would be out of my level of expertise. But I am working on the Bond novel with great excitement and itâs moving along swimmingly.â
Before becoming a full-time novelist in 1990, Deaver learned âmeat and potatoes writingâ as a business journalist. He later trained as a lawyer and says working as a corporate attorney taught him the importance of analytical thinking and structuring his books properly.
âBut at the end of the day I write for my readers,â he says. âItâs all about them. Iâm not here to save the world. Iâm here to raise a few social questions certainly but more importantly Iâm here to make sure that people enjoy what I write.â
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