Prolific American thriller writer David Baldacci is releasing a new hardback historical noir novel this month entitled One Good Deed, and then will be headlining upcoming literary festivals Bloody Scotland and Capital Crime in the autumn. He speaks to us about his upcoming projects.
Can you tell me a little about your new book One Good Deed (Pan)?
It tells the tale of Aloysius Archer, a twenty-something WWII vet who came back after the war and was put in prison for a few years for a crime he didn’tcommit. Now that he’s out he has to do his parole in a town called Poca City. When he gets there he finds it’s a place in transition, still small and mostly rural but wanting desperately to be something bigger, more substantial. He runs into two women and two men who have a huge impact on his life. When he’s accused of murder he has to use all of his wits and skills to survive.
Why have you written a historical noir for the first time with One Good Deed and where do you see this character going?
I love crime noir books. I’m a big Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett fan. The forties were a great time period to set books, particularly after the chaotic World War where so many died, and the survivors came back, still shell-shocked, to pick up their lives and move on. It was fun putting in the touches of cars and fashions and weapons and vernacular. Archer will live again in at least one more novel. I want to see him continue to rebuild his life and see if he can realize his potential in the world. If that sounds like I’m talking about a real person, that’s because, to me at least, I am!
You’re due to headline Bloody Scotland—are you looking forward to this and are you a fan of the festival?
I love Scotland and have been there several times. I’ve even partially set a book there (The Innocent (Pan)) taking advantage of the underground Edinburgh tours. I’m a big fan of book festivals; we don’t have enough of them. So I’m tremendously excited to be part of Bloody Scotland, and I look forward to meeting the other authors who are taking part.
In April you published a new Amos Decker novel (Memory Man), then you had the new historical Aloysius Archer (One Good Deed) in July, and the second Atlee Pine novel (A Minute to Midnight) is coming in November. How do you manage to keep so many series up in the air at once?
Series are challenging but they’re also refreshing. They ensure that I can never drop into complacency and start turning out the dreaded formula books. Plus, my interests are wide and varied so when I find a subject matter that’s appealing to me from a story-telling perspective, it’s greatly satisfying to me to create a new character who can then dive into that new world.
How do you find writing a female main character in Atlee Pine?
I have had the advantage of being surrounded by strong, independent women throughout my life. I feel very comfortable writing from the female perspective, though I will admit it is a daunting challenge for any male writer. I doubt I will ever get it perfectly right, but that’s okay, none of my characters are perfect either. That would make them incredibly boring. But with Pine I did have to be very aware that she was a woman operating in largely a man’s world with the FBI. I had to thread the needle of allowing her to be as tough as she needed to be to do her job and fit in—to the extent she cares about that. And then also allowing her to retain her gender identity at the same time.
Why did you decide to launch your literacy foundation Wish You Well and how is it developing?
The Wish You Well Foundation’s mission is to eradicate illiteracy in the US. Reading is the most fundamental skill anyone could ever have. It drives pretty much all that we do. If you can’t read, or can’t read at an adequate level, there’s also no way for you to be a full participant in a democracy. Instead, someone will tell you how to vote and what to believe in. Never a good thing. And I’ve found that readers are more open and tolerant and reasonable in their views. In sum, if more people read, we’d have a far better world. That should be a worthy goal for everyone.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on the new Amos Decker and the new Archer. A Minute to Midnight, the new Atlee Pine thriller, will be out in November.
Baldacci's latest novel One Good Deed is published by Macmillan on 25th July.