Jeffery Deaver: His Gift is His Song
Excerpts from the interview by Reed Andrus in the April/May 2002 issue of Mystery News
In previous reviews of Jeffery Deaver's novels, I've compared his style and methodology to that of Andrew Klavan. Both writers employ time compression as their principal mechanism for ramping up suspense, placing their characters -- and by voyeuristic extension, the reader -- under extreme pressure. My first encounter with Deaver's variant was The Coffin Dancer (1998), in which quadriplegic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme must prevent the assassinating of a key witness within a 48-hour period. The hook was set, but the author didn't reel me in until The Devil's Teardrop hit bookstores the following year. What a ride! Time compression to the max!
I asked the author if the tension he produces in his books ever blended into his real-world activities.
"To answer that I have to describe what I think is my responsibility as a thriller writer: To give my readers the most exciting roller coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of. This means that, rather than looking through newspapers or magazines for inspiration, I spend much of my time sitting in a dark room and trying to think up a story that will fit the typical Deaver novel: one that features strong (though possibly flawed) heros, sick and twisted bad guys, deadlines every few chapters, a short time frame for the entire story (eight to forty-eight hours or so), lots of surprising plot twists and turns and plenty of cliffhangers.
"I'm always looking for great ways to scare readers. In the case of my recent novel, The Blue Nowhere, what, I thought, was scarier than the idea that every time we go online there's somebody looking over our shoulders, gathering information from our computers to destroy our life? I added a bunch of plot surprises and a double-whammy twist ending and, voila; out comes the book.
"People ask me if I get spooked by my ideas -- or if I'm sick and twisted myself. Actually, no, I'm very calculating. The darker ideas are solely products of an imagination that's always looking for ideas to thrill a large audience with a commercial thriller. I myself have no emotional involvement in the ideas I come up with. After the book is over (actually before the book is over) I'm already thinking about new ways to give my readers the next roller coaster ride."
"I want my readers' palms to sweat and for them to miss subway stops and show up late for work because they're compelled to finish one of my books."
I confess that I've read about a third of Jeffery Deaver's output to date, beginning with The Bone Collector. My particular favorites are split between one standalone, The Devil's Teardrop, and one series, The Coffin Dancer. That leaves a significant number of the author's books ready and waiting to be sampled. The fact that I'm actually considering picking up his Rune or John Pellam series is a tribute to the author's achievement of those personal goals mentioned above. I haven't read Lawrence Block beyond his Matt Scudder series, nor have I extended my enjoyment of Ed McBain outside the 87th Precinct novels. But there is something about Jeffery Deaver's style and ability to manipulate his audience that demands further attention. His books remind me of a song you can't get out of your head -- you just keep on humming the tune, waiting for new verses.
Read the complete interview in the April/May 2002 issue of Mystery News