Putting a twist in the tale: Author Jeffery Deaver on life as a renowned thriller writer

Jeffery Deaver is in Ireland next month for the Murder One crime-writing festival.

The Bone Collector was turned into a hit film, but Jeffery Deaver has 34 more novels under his belt, writes Richard Fitzpatrick

THRILLER writer Jeffery Deaver returns to Ireland for this year’s Murder One crime-writing festival. He’s visited the country three or four times before. The American writer may be one of the best-selling novelists in the world but even he was surprised by the reception that met him on arrival at Dublin airport in May 2002.

“I was greeted by paparazzi,” says Deaver. “There must have been 50 reporters there. I was just astonished. I was so pleased because I was hardly a celebrity in my mind. I walked up to them and they all looked right behind me. It turned out it was when Roy Keane had turned back to Dublin after a dispute before the start of the World Cup.

“They weren’t there to see me at all. They were there to see a footballer. I was rather disappointed. I can tell you much of my media for that trip disappeared because the journalists had to decide: ‘Jeffery Deaver or Roy Keane?’ And they chose the footballer, as I would have done too. Let’s hope when I’m over there this time there’s no football disputes going on.”

Deaver is visiting Europe on a tour to promote his latest mystery book, The Never Game. It’s the latest from his impressive canon. He’s published more than 35 novels, among them The Bone Collector — which was turned into a movie starring Denzel Washington — short stories, as well as a non-fiction book on law. He trained as a lawyer, and also worked as a journalist and as a folk-singer, before hitting the jackpot as a full-time writer. His books have sold more than 50 million copies.

The Never Game is the first outing for Colter Shaw, who makes his coin as a reward seeker. Sober of demeanour, he hunts down missing persons using his guile as a tracker. His search for Sophie, a 19-year-old college girl and ace software coder whose father offers $10,000 for her discovery, brings him into the subterranean world of video gaming in Silicon Valley.

Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector, adapted from Deaver’s book.

HOME SCHOOLED

Colter was home-schooled on a thousand-acre compound in California. He has an innate understanding of how nature operates — both human and animal — and although he prefers paper to digital he makes good use of his iPhone (“the weapon he most frequently uses”) when needed for information purposes and, when called on, his skills as a champion college wrestler.

“I created the character of Colter Shaw because I love the idea of regional mysteries,” says Deaver. “America is so big and so diverse that I wanted to have a character who would be itinerant. He describes himself as the restless man. He lives for challenges. I’m a bit reflective in Colter Shaw because I have a very low boredom tolerance. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I’m a novelist. I need to keep moving, to keep myself engaged.

“I was aware — I think it was reading a military story about the rewards offered by the US government for terrorists or criminals like serial killers who’ve gone into hiding — and thought what an interesting idea for a character who would go on their trail. It gives him the opportunity to jump in his Winnebago camper and travel around the country to get that reward.”

Deaver’s detail on the art of tracking is intriguing. Colter draws on his animal instincts when he’s hunting someone down or when he’s attuned to attack, to being caught in the crosshairs. It’s something Deaver has personal experience of — he’s had to deal with the unwelcome obsession of a stalker.

“This is going back several years now. I’ve been working with the FBI in his home state and the local authorities there,” says Deaver. “This man sent me some very nice, reasonable emails complimenting me on my writing, asking me for some advice as a writer, and asked if he could send me his manuscript. I have a policy — as most authors do unless it’s a close friend — never to read a manuscript not under contract with a publisher because then there is a risk of a plagiarism charge. There’s that phrase, ‘No deed goes unpunished.’ I very politely said, ‘I couldn’t,’ and that set him off.”

THREATENING MAILS

Deaver was hit with threatening emails. At one stage, he was getting 60-70 emails a day, just “ranting”. He never responded. Deaver had a private investigator track down the man’s location, which fortunately was over a thousand miles away. The stalker didn’t have a car. He lived with his mother and was on medication.

“He sent me a Google Earth map of my house, which caused me a bit of pause, but the police monitor him. It’s fairly calm now but it did inspire a book of mine, Xo, which was about a young country-and-western singer who suffered from a young man who might have been a stalker or might not have been – because I like my twists and turns.”

The Never Game is published by HarperCollins. Jeffery Deaver is appearing at Murder One: Ireland’s International Crime Writing Festival, Friday, May 24, City Hall, Dublin. murderone.ie

Jeffery Deaver’s 5 thrillers to read before you die

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

John Le Carré

(Hodder & Stoughton, 1974)

He’s my favourite thriller espionage writer. It’s hard to single one out but this was so well done.

From Russia, With Love

Ian Fleming

(Jonathan Cape, 1957)

Technically, it was the best-crafted Bond novel and the most real. I really liked the reality of the Cold War he brought into it. It was very gritty and interestingly we didn’t see Bond until about 60 pages in, which was very courageous.

The Executioners

John D. MacDonald

(Simon & Schuster, 1957)

I modelled my character Colter Shaw on Travis McGee a bit, from the John D MacDonald series. The Executioners was turned into the movie Cape Fear – twice.

Farewell, My Lovely

Raymond Chandler

(Alfred A. Knopf, 1940)

I’m a plot guy. Plot to me is number one, but Farewell, My Lovely just rambles. The psychology, however, is gripping. You’re palms are not sweating about what’s going to

happen next but you’re inside the minds of these characters. The study it offers of duplicity and human greed is just masterful.

The Blue Room

Georges Simenon

(Penguin, 1964)

Alfred Hitchcock and Simenon were friends. Hitchcock called him in the south of France, or wherever he was living at the time, and asked his wife if Georges could come to the phone. She said, “I’m sorry, Mr Hitchcock, he’s just started a book.” Hitchcock replied: “Oh, that’s alright. I’ll stay on hold until he’s finished.” Because he wrote an astonishing number of books extremely quickly.

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