Jeffery Deaver has spent the last few
weeks in the UK promoting 'The Stone Monkey', his latest novel
featuring his crime-fighting duo Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs,
in a timely tale of 'human smuggling' set against the backdrop of
New York's Chinatown. The novel is propelled with desperate
time-pressure, and twisted plotting that have become his hallmarks
(Full review in Crime Report section). In fact, one of his less
well written-about characters in his work is 'The Clock' - or the
time pressure he forces into his plots which in turn works a sense
of urgency making them a unique, edgy and sweaty read.
Jeffery Deavers previous careers
includes law and journalism before reaching that pinnacle of
full-time writer. His short stories, like his novels, feature plot
twists that can make your head spin like Linda Blair. A prime
example of this was the cyber crime classic of last year, 'The
Blue Nowhere' pitting his protagonists against the clock in the
search of a truly evil Uber-Hacker. 'The Blue Nowhere' is a good
illustration of just how good thrillers can really get, in so far
as time is suspended as you tear through the story and come up
against a startling climax(es). He has the ability to drop his
characters into a pressure-cooker atmosphere, turn up the heat,
and then set the timer. You sweat as the pressure builds and the
It is however with his Lincoln
Rhyme/Amelia Sachs series that you can see Deaver at the height of
his powers, further developing his characters, and pitting them
against enormous odds, from 'The Bone Collector', 'The Coffin
Dancer', 'The Empty Chair' right up to the latest book 'The Stone
Monkey'. Jeffery now alternates between the series novels and
standalones such as the surreal 'The Devils Teardrop' which
stormed the UK charts a few years back.
He graciously took time out of his
tight schedule to talk to SHOTS Magazine about crime writing,
Lincoln and Amelia. A Jeffrey Deaver novel is like one of his
famous banquets - exotic, unusual, challenging and with as many
courses as plot-twists always accompanied to the sound of an
impatient ticking clock in background.
Welcome to the pressure cooker
world of Jeffery Deaver
Thank you so much for
taking time out to talk to Shots Magazine, and welcome to Milton
My pleasure, and thanks for asking me.
Lincoln and Amelia return
in The Stone Monkey but before we talk about the book,
can you tell us from where these amazing characters came from?
A Lincoln and Amelia
They came out of
two ideas, the first coming out of the thriller writer side of me,
I liked the idea of a book, and I'm speaking of 'The Bone
Collector' (the first in the Lincoln Rhyme series). I liked the
idea of a story in which my hero was completely helpless in the
final scene, and I mean completely physically helpless - so the
bad guy is hovering over him with a weapon of some kind intent in
doing him harm and there is apparently no way for him to escape. I
wanted to instil in my readers a sense that there is no way the
author's going to pull it off, especially as I'd set up that
Lincoln wanted to kill himself, because he's a quadriplegic (for
the readers unfamiliar with the series). Lincoln's paralysed and
he's considering what we call in America 'Assisted Suicide' or
'Euthanasia' so I wanted the readers to think, well he wanted to
.but in fact he's instilled with the will to live,
and in fact I am able to pull that out of the fire, so to speak.
That was my 'manipulative' sense of Lincoln Rhyme. My other
concept is a more broad one, it's that I wanted to create a hero
who was 'universal' - I wanted to create a Sherlock Holmesian kind
of character that uses his mind rather than his body. He solves
crimes by thinking about the crimes rather than someone who can
shot straight, run faster, or walk into the bar and trick people
into giving away the clues, because we've seen a lot of that.
Amelia came abou because these books are
thrillers; these books are crime stories and we needed someone who
can shoot, who can drive a fast car, who can walk into bars and if
someone does give her difficulties she can pull out a switchblade
and hold it against their throat, and say 'You know what?
You're going to jail'. So I wanted the combination of the two,
but I also wanted the roles a little bit reversed, and I didnt
even think about 'The Bone Collector' becoming a series, but the
popularity of the Characters has been so extreme that I kept on
going and have been delighted to do so.
wonderful characters, now what about Rune and John Pellam from
your earlier books? Where did they come from?
These are characters born a long time
ago. Rune in the 1980's and Pellam also in the 1980's but perhaps
more toward the end of that decade. Rune is, what we in the States
call, a 'Downtown Diva' - a young woman who lived in the
1980's club scene, believes in the human spirit, is irrepressible,
a bit like the Holly Golightly Character from Breakfast at
Tiffany's from the Truman Capote Story. She's someone full of
energy, and really accepts the apparent good side of people, but
when they turn out to be bad, she pursues them as an amateur
Private Eye. She's a really fun character, youthful around 18 to
19 years old and I wrote three books featuring her adventures. She
is an individual that to me encapsulated (I felt) life in
Manhattan in the 1980's which was a very unique time in the city.
I lived there then, I was practising law at that point.
John Pellam - is my homage to 'Shane' the character in the great
George Stevens movie of the same name, based originally on the
wonderful western novel by Jack Schaefer. So John Pellam is a
Hollywood Location Scout who comes to town and finds some form of
crime, and he is the stranger who solves the crime and renders
justice, exposes evil and moves on to somewhere else. The series
were not too successful when they first came out, but are now
quite successful as often happens when popular authors early books
become rediscovered. I will say that they do tend to be more
traditional mystery novels than crime.
You were a Lawyer prior to
becoming a full-time writer. Can you tell us a little about your
Do you mean my apprenticeship period as
No, no - your
apprenticeship as a writer
no one wants to
know about laywers. I've always written ever since I was 10 or 11
years old. I was the editor of a literary magazine in school, I
wrote poetry, I wrote songs, I was a journalist for a time, but
those were all ways to support myself as I cast about trying to
become a full time professional fiction writer. It was not until
my thirties that I really turned my attention to commercial
fiction that I thought might allow me write full time. The thing
about writing is that Mozart may have composed when he was 4 years
old, and Picasso may well have painted when he was quite young,
but authors of fiction I believe need to have lived life, and so I
cast about looking for various outlets for my writing in my
twenties, but I didn't really seriously pursue it until I'd been a
journalist, until I'd travelled around the world and I felt
comfortable and felt old enough to write novels, I would never say
'mature' enough, but I guess old enough.
to today. Your books are often very topical, with last years
The Blue Nowhere probing what Thomas Harris
referred to as The damp floor of the Internet.
Firstly, can you tell us about the mechanics behind The Blue
Nowhere, especially as so much of the action centres around
a keyboard and what research you did to make it so realistic?
It was a real challenge for me to make a
compelling story about individuals who are 'Black Hat' and 'White
Hat' hackers and I knew right away that there is nothing so boring
as watching someone at a computer keyboard all day. The scenes at
the computer keyboard (that we do need to have) all have hovering
over them the fact that simultaneously (with the person at the
keyboard) something terrible is about to happen that we know
about, and those characters may or may not know about. This makes
it tense for the reader, but I had to in every scene, that entails
someone at a keyboard, they either need to get information from
somebody or a victim will die, or need to figure out what on earth
is going on to try and track down where the bad fellow is. By the
same token I certainly didnt create a sympathetic villain,
but I created a villain who has his own agenda, and that we are
not going to feel
gosh I wish he gets to the victim
still tried to impose a sense of urgency in his mind, as he too is
fighting the clock, as the good fellows are trying to track him
down. So that was quite a challenge.
With regard to the research, I had spent
8-months doing an outline, during the 8-months I had to learn
about the Internet, which I knew basically nothing (apart from
what a lay-person would know).
Well, it was very
successful, and the end sequence was stunning with the villains
not being all that you thought they were.
The Stone Monkey,
just out in hard cover, is again very contemporary, with the issue
of immigration and asylum seekers making regular political news in
Europe. Could you tell us a little about how you came to pit
Amelia and Lincoln against the snakeheads?
Yes, sure. A typical Deaver book involves
a short time frame, a number of deadlines all leading up to a big
twist, and ideally another twist, and if I'm lucky and I can work
it in - a third twist. It seemed to me a very compelling story to
have potential victims in a rather exotic setting with that clock
ticking - that's my typical Lincoln Rhyme scenario. I could pick a
number of crimes for that, but I can't pick say a legal thriller,
as that is a little more leisurely.
So I was thinking what would be a
compelling idea? I was aware of 'snakeheads' and of 'human
smuggling' in England you call them 'asylum seekers'
in the US we refer to them as 'illegal immigrants' - but
they are the same thing. Well I thought that would fit very nicely
in my framework, and it would also allow me to add a certain depth
to the characters - because you can have the best plot in the
world, but if you dont care about the characters, the whole
thing becomes meaningless.
My whole goal is to create the most
emotional experience for the readers that I can, so the
ruthlessness of these 'snakeheads' - their willingness to
kill women and children, and innocent men, certainly seemed to me
to be a 'shoe-in' for a Lincoln Rhyme adventure.
One thing that you may not
be aware of is that both you (in The Stone Monkey) and
Harlan Coben (in Gone for Good) named your bad guy as The
Ghost. Would you care to comment about this?
Hey! I didnt know that, that's very
What are the future plans
for Amelia/Lincoln, and are we ever likely to see a solo Amelia
No, we'll never see that, but I am going
to show you the next Lincoln Rhyme book, its on disc.
Jeffery Deaver twirls a computer disc
and then quickly stuffs it back into his pocket.
saw your eyes light up then, I'm going to have to frisk you after
No need, after reading
'The Blue Nowhere' I came across a gadget and software that can
read hard drives and discs from distances
got one in my bag
(Laughing) don't worry it's encrypted. The
book is actually entitled 'The Vanished Man' and it features both
Lincoln and Amelia. I have no intention to do separate Amelia and
Lincoln Stories. My number one responsibility is to my readers and
readers like Lincoln and Amelia. I will do non-Lincoln Rhyme books
and in fact the book I'm planning for 2004 is a historical book
set in 1936, the book after that will be another Lincoln Rhyme
book, so I sort of alternate.
Weve heard that The
Oxford University Press has commissioned you to write the
introduction to a new annotated edition of Mary Shelleys Frankenstein.
Can you tell us a little about it, and how it came about?
It's out now, and I thought it would be a
fun thing to do, and estimated that I could shoot this thing over
a weekend. It turned out to be like writing a term paper in
college again, my goodness I could not make up things! I had to
rely on the facts - it was quite disturbing to me. But seriously I
enjoyed it a great deal. They commissioned me, as they have a
series of classics that they are re-issuing (with popular thriller
writers introducing them). I think Stephen King's done one. I had
great fun doing it, I hadn't read it for many years and it truly
is an epiphany as a work of modern fiction and very complex on
You also publish a number
of short stories, and I particularly enjoy the Twists
you put in. I enjoyed Beautiful from Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine. Will you release a collection of short stories
any time soon?
Yes, next year. I have around 28 to 30
stories and I'll do an original one for that anthology, and then
compile all of them in a single edition. We dont have a
title at this time, but plan a release in late 2003.
Youve revised and
re-released Mistress of Justice in the US and believe
its due out in the UK soon. Can you tell us how that came
I've re-written all my earlier books
actually, I want to make them faster paced, less digressive, less
observational I guess. With Mistress of Justice, I
wanted to make it more of a thriller, so I cut some scenes, added
some scenes and so it's quite a different book now, and I think
readers will enjoy it much more.
Your first published works
were Voodoo and Always a Thief which are
now out of print, and turn up on ebay for some ridiculous prices.
Will you do the same in re-releasing them.
That will never happen.
On the social side, we
hear that you a remarkable cook and love to entertain. Can you
tell us about what you like to cook and what cuisine you favour?
And did you eat ethnic cuisine while writing The Stone
Well I've always eaten ethnic cuisine, and
in fact cook Chinese food quite often. I'll do anything, in fact I
recently did a Medieval Banquet for about 65 people using original
recipes from an Elizabethan cook-book, and I even served Mead,
which I frankly found disgusting, but some people enjoyed it. I
then did a Roman Banquet for again about 65, and also I do a lot
of Indian Cooking, I did also a German Party at Oktoberfest. I do
Spanish Tapas, really any type of cuisine. As I live alone, I find
it very important to maintain an active social life, so I'll have
friends over as I like to cook, but I also get invited out, but I
rather like cooking - you know wine, sharp knives, warm pans
with my dog at my feet, hey I'd cook up a storm.
Whats your thoughts
on the problems faced by 'The mid-list writer' at the moment, as
it seems to me that it has become increasingly more difficult for
the mid-list writer to survive or even move up into the best
Frankly I dont have too many
thoughts on that. There will always be room for good quality
story-telling as people are intrigued by new characters out there,
and the mid-list to me seems more a function of circumstance than
nature or quality of the writing.
I can't speak for any other genre, but I
feel there will always be a market for good quality thrillers.
However after September 11, the global economy has been affected,
and I feel that the market for books, like many other industry's
has just shrunk, and this is not a factor on the quality of the
books out there, its a function of the market shrinking. I
just hope it's temporary, as there are many fine writers out there
that deserve to get into print.
With that note we would
just like to thank you for your time today, and wish you success
with 'The Stone Monkey' - a remarkable novel, and personally I am
really looking forward to the short story collection, and its been
a real pleasure talking with you.
Very good, and a big thanks to all my
readers in Europe, and take care Ali.
SHOTS wish to thank
Jeffery Deaver, Hodder & Stoughton Publishing, Christopher
Glasgow of Ottakars Milton Keynes, and Jude Davis of Waterstones
Manchester for their help in organising this interview and
'The Stone Monkey' is
available as a Hodder & Stoughton Hardcover priced £14-99
'The Blue Nowhere' is
available as a Coronet Paperback priced £6-99
novels have been re-released, including the John Pellam novels
(which he wrote as William Jefferies) plus the 'Rune' series under
the paperback Coronet imprint.