Lee Child, internationally best-selling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers (the latest in the series, Never Go Back, is available now), recently sat down with author Clyde Phillips to discuss his reentry into mystery writing, his success with the show "Dexter," and the beauty of a juicy twist at the end of a novel.
Lee Child: I was a huge fan of the first three books in
this series. I thought those were fantastic. As strong as anything in the
genre. But then you disappeared. I’ve had that happen to a lot of writers I
like. Either they die. Or they go into rehab. But you had a better reason for
Clyde Phillips: Well, I didn’t die. Before I wrote my first
book, I had a fairly big career in television. But there was a book I was
burning to write, Fall From Grace. I wrote that book and the other two in
rather quick succession. Blindsided, then Sacrifice. And then it
was time to go back.
LC: So it
wasn’t that you were disenchanted with the writing process. The old industry
CP: I was getting offered some fairly big shows. And
then Dexter came along. We didn’t know
we were sitting on this explosion of a show that was basically going to help
redefine the anti-hero genre in television.
LC: In a curiously circular way, Dexter is a much-loved show within the
crime fiction community.
CP: I was
lucky to be part of a new golden age in television.
LC: It’s like the Olympic gold medal to have done Dexter. And yet you came back to the
world of books. That says a lot about the world of books I guess. Or the
attraction of the process.
CP: It’s two different kinds of writing. Writing a
book is solitary. Sometimes lonely. And enormously rewarding. Doing a
television show is collaborative. Every time I’m in one situation, I’m longing
for the other. It’s a pretty delicious dilemma.
LC: How easy is it to leap from one to the other?
CP: Not hard at all. We’re storytellers. Whether I’m
doing a comedy or a drama or writing a book, I’m in the same place in my head.
I’m telling a story.
LC: You are one of the few authors writing against
gender, in that your lead character is a woman.
CP: I wanted
greater odds for my protagonist. For a woman in a police department, there is
so much more for her to fight against. It’s such a boys club. Also, because
she’s lost her nephew in the mass murder at the beginning of Unthinkable,
she finds it harder to make good decisions. And when you’ve got a good
character having trouble making good decisions, you’ve got a much richer
character to write.
LC: We’ve talked about your long hiatus from the
books. Has your protagonist, Jane Candiotti, aged in real time?
CP: Yes. In the first book, she was just a cop. Now
she’s the head of the homicide division. And she and her partner, Kenny Marks,
didn’t even have a relationship in the first book. Now they’re married. She’s
also, most importantly, pregnant.
LC: I find with Jack Reacher the best parts are
always when he’s acting for somebody else. Because if you’re taking into
account somebody else, the dilemma becomes harder. And if you’re a woman and
pregnant, that’s the closest possible connection you can have to responsibility
for somebody else.
CP: There’s nothing more important. And her
pregnancy gets in the way. Jane gets in a very dangerous situation near the
end. And she has to choose between going forward and the health of her baby. A
primal choice. I won’t give away too much because the last 50 pages…
LC: I remember that was one of your specialties.
It’s all good; and then the last 50 pages blow the top of your head off.
CP: Thanks. Nobody sees it coming in this one.
LC: That’s not an easy trick to do. But you always have.
CP: Thank you. And thank you for taking the time to
sit down today.
LC: A total pleasure. It’s just great to have you