'I write for my readers, not for my own satisfaction'
With more than 30 million books in print in 125 countries, multi-award winning novelist Jeffery Deaver is one of the world's most successful thriller writers. Myles McWeeney talks to him in Dublin
Published 06/07/2013 | 05:00
Sporting full TV interview make-up, Jeffery Deaver, with his raven wings of hair framing a high forehead and a neat goatee beard, looks as if he could have walked straight off a film set having played a villain from one of his own stories.
In reality, he is an enormously polite and soft-spoken bachelor who happens to be a superb cook and an obsessive writer.
"I write everywhere, even on trains, planes and even in cars. Who wants to look at scenery?"
The latest instalment in his best-selling Rhyme/Sachs canon is the just-published The Kill Room. It is perhaps Deaver's most ambitious and controversial novel to date, given that the murderous events at the heart of the story concern extrajudicial killings carried out by an assassin who is working for an arm of the American security services.
And it features prominently the increasingly internationally unpopular US hi-tech drone weaponry that became familiar to most of us through the chilling video clips of President Obama and his then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton watching in real time with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff the killing of Obama bin Laden.
Most best-selling authors append an extensive list of acknowledgments at the end of their books to experts who have helped them in the creation of their tale. You won't find that in one of Jeffery Deaver's books.
He does all his own research either through reading or scouring the internet. He says talking to people and drawing them out about their area of expertise completely skews his perspective of a story he has already meticulously mapped out in an outline that has taken him many months to prepare and may run to 140 pages.
In The Kill Room, which takes Rhyme to Nassau in the Bahamas far from his New York comfort zone, an important element of the story hangs on the ballistics involved in a shot taken from a mile away from the target. Little research had to be done for this.
"The Kill Room probably has more of me in it than any other of my books," Deaver says. "I do shoot. I own guns, and I have a permit to carry one around, which is rather rare. I manage to alienate both my liberal and conservative friends over the issue of gun control. I own guns, which maddens liberals, and I support strict registration of guns, anathema to right-wingers who believe there should be no gun regulation at all."
Back in 1996, when Deaver was plotting The Bone Collector, he told me his intention was to create a once-off cerebral detective who would solve crimes by intellect alone and not, at the end, pull out a gun and short-cut the detection process.
"At first I thought to having him tied up in a room and somehow communicating with the outside world, not knowing where he was but telling them where the clues were and solving the mystery like a chess grandmaster. That, I thought, was very artificial. Then I thought of him being paraplegic, like Ironside, but I wanted him 100pc cerebral, so Lincoln Rhyme became a quadriplegic."
It was only when Denzel and Angelina decided to do the movie that Deaver decided to write a second Rhyme/Sachs book, The Coffin Dancer.
So why, after a further eight books about them, is there no second film featuring Rhyme and Sachs?
"There is an ongoing legal dispute over The Bone Collector or any other Rhyme project," Deaver says with considerable exasperation. "I have pitched a Lincoln Rhyme TV series, but the studio couldn't get the requisite permissions."
He protests that he is not bothered about the failure to get the TV series off the ground, but one senses there is huge frustration at the glacial pace of the Hollywood film process.
Deaver has a second series running in tandem with his Rhyme/Sachs books featuring FBI agent and kinetics expert Kathryn Dance.
He always knew he wanted to be a writer, but other things in life intervened. He studied journalism and became a reporter, he was a folk singer for a while, but then became a successful attorney. Having published his first book at the age of 35 – he is now 62 – he sees himself not so much an author, but more a businessman.
"I write for my readers, not for my own satisfaction" he says.
"A few years ago I was asked to write a new James Bond novel by Ian Fleming's estate. It did well in Britain and Ireland, but not spectacularly well in the United States. There won't be a second. My readers want Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, so they'll get them."
But not until later this year, sometime before Christmas. September will see the publication here of The October List, a stand-alone novel he's really excited about and has spent more time writing it than for any previous book.
"It goes backwards, opening with the last chapter, with each subsequent one taking place a few hours before.
"It's a little different, but still contains all the twists and surprises I really love."