Why the devil's in the detail for Deaver
Fictional detective is back and delving into the minds of killers, finds Declan Burke
Forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme is one of the more unusual heroes in literary history, but there's no doubting that the world's most famous quadriplegic detective gets the job done.
In fact, about the only person entitled to point out Rhyme's shortcomings is his creator, the best-selling and award-winning author Jeffery Deaver.
"The emphasis with Lincoln has always been on the science," says Deaver, "the fine elements of fingerprinting and trace analysis, which is fascinating in its own right. And people love that, as we've seen with the CSI phenomenon.
"But I was finding that there were some crimes and some villains that I just couldn't put into a Lincoln Rhyme book, because some villains may not leave behind any more evidence than fingerprints. Or they may not even leave behind fingerprints. They could simply be someone who, for instance, talks an individual into killing himself."
It takes a peculiar kind of mind to envisage that kind of scenario, but it's exactly that kind of perverse thinking that has made Deaver a superstar of popular fiction. The 62-year-old Illinois native has written 29 novels to date, been translated into 25 languages and has seen one of his Rhyme novels, The Bone Collector, adapted for a major Hollywood movie, starring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington.
Last year Deaver was chosen by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the latest James Bond book, Carte Blanche, which he regards as one of the greatest compliments he has ever received.
We meet in the Royal Marriott Hotel in Bristol, where Deaver is Toastmaster for the Crimefest festival as part of a whistle-stop tour to promote XO, his latest novel and the third to feature his new series' heroine, Kathryn Dance, who is something of a polar opposite to her good friend Rhyme.
"Kathryn doesn't really care much for forensics," says Deaver. "She's an investigator, a police officer, but her speciality is kinesics, the study of body language. And that gives her a chance -- that is," he laughs, "it gives me a chance to sit down across from a nefarious, Charles Manson-like killer, and have her engage in a one-to-one and to look into the minds of both of those characters."
Was he ever worried that women readers might not buy into a man writing about such a psychologically nuanced female character?
"I've always written women characters," he says, "and I've been very pleased by critics and fans who have said that they believe I write very credible women characters."
XO opens with Kathryn taking a vacation to meet with a friend of hers, the Country and Western singer Kayleigh Towne. The character of Kayleigh offered Deaver, who as a young man was an aspiring musician, a rare opportunity to indulge his abiding passion for music.
"Generally my books don't have all that much to do with me," he says. "I think an author should be -- well, I guess it's up to every author to write whatever they want.
"But yeah, I once tried to be a musician. Unfortunately, I didn't really have any musical talent. I wrote songs, and I performed for a couple of years, but there are so many talented people out there where everything comes together -- they have a voice, a stage presence, they can improvise, they're good songwriters . . . I just wasn't one of those people.
"So Kayleigh sort of reflects where I sometimes wish I'd gone. And just as the music is an integral part of the book, it was an integral part of life a long time ago, to the extent that the songs that I wrote for Kayleigh for the book are an important part of the story. That's a reflection of my attitude that music and creativity are inextricably bound up."
Indeed, the story contained in XO overflows the covers of the book. An album of the songs referenced in the novel, written and performed by Nashville musicians, will be released in tandem with the book itself.
There's another personal dimension to XO, this one a little more chilling. Kayleigh finds herself pursued by a fan who mutates into a stalker, an experience Deaver found familiar.
"I'm no Brad Pitt," he grins, "I'm not a movie star. So it's a little curious, but I have got mail, mostly from women, who've said, 'I'd like to get to know you better', or 'Whenever you come to town, give me a call'. And -- and I'm sure these are people who are extremely delusional -- even marriage proposals.
"But I was curious about this," he continues, "and then, looking through the comments and the emails, I realised what it was all about. It really had nothing to do with the crimes in my books, or the detective work, or the violence -- it's that I also include personal relationship issues."
Nevertheless, Deaver still can't quite understand the attraction.
"Looking at my books, which are pretty sick and twisted and deal with a lot of dark topics . . ." He laughs. "I mean, I would not stalk someone like me. I'd run for the hills."
XO by Jeffery Deaver (€11.99) is published by Hodder & Stoughton on June 21