If best-selling thriller writer Jeffery Deaver gets his way, the Monterey Peninsula will experience a crime spree come 2007.
That’s when his next book, which will be his 22nd overall and the first in a new series set on the Central Coast, will be released by Simon and Schuster.
Called “The Sleeping Doll”, this new novel will be Deaver’s first book with Kathryn Dance as the main character. After years of winning over fans across the world with his “Lincoln Rhyme” novels, Deaver has set his sights on terrorizing and delighting the Monterey Peninsula with a new cast of characters.
“I hope there’s not a dropoff in tourism after they read the scenes set (at Point Lobos),” says Deaver, who lives in Pacific Grove.
Deaver can’t say too much about the new series. But he was able to state in a telephone interview from his summer home in Chapel Hill, N.C., that the story revolves around a California Bureau of Investigation interrogator whose fictional office is located off Highway 68 near the Monterey Airport. Dance’s specialty is something called kinesics, or the study and interpretation of body language in order to solve crimes.
“(Kinesics) means ‘motion,’ but in law enforcement and law in general it refers to analyzing body language,” Deaver says. “In cases like the Peterson trial and the O.J. trial, all of the big defense attorneys and prosecutors hire jury consultants with kinesics backgrounds. They examine someone under questioning and can tell whether they are telling the truth.
“Kathryn is an investigator, she carries a gun, she tracks down bad guys, but her specialty is interrogation, especially with her skill in kinesics analysis. I’ve gotten quite interested in this subject. It’s amazing what these people can do.”
In the new series, Dance is up against an escaped convict, who instead of fleeing the area after breaking out of a fictional maximum security prison outside of Aptos, stays in the area, and according to Deaver, does “some very bad things.” Some of these bad things occur right in our backyard, including locales like Point Lobos, Moss Landing and downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Deaver, 60, has been coming to the area since the early 1970s, when he would venture down from San Francisco to visit his grandparents in Carmel and wrangle a free meal out of them. At the time he was trying to survive as a folk musician in the Bay Area, so home-cooked meals were few and far between.
He fell in love with the area at the time, but moved back to his hometown of Chicago in order to find work. It wasn’t until the late 1980s when he started writing novels full time that he was able to return to the area on a semi-regular basis, visiting his sister Julie Reece Deaver, a successful young adult novelist, about three times a year.
Since then he’s rented an apartment in Pacific Grove, often telling himself he ought to take a deep breath and buy a house. “But you look around six months later and the price has gone through the roof again,” he says.“I always love coming out here. It’s always a very creative time for me. I find it an inspiring and comforting place. I hope I can do it justice in the series.”
In fact, Deaver found Pacific Grove gratifying from the start.
“My first relatively successful novel,“Manhattan is My Beat”, started in a hotel in Pacific Grove,” he says. “I can’t even think of the name of the hotel anymore and it could be gone.”
What appeals to Deaver so much about the Monterey Peninsula, all the way up to Santa Cruz, out to Salinas and down to Big Sur, is the region’s eclecticism.
“You have gangs, you have money, you have celebrities, you have the military influence,” Deaver says. “You have the history, like Pacific Grove being a former religious-camp town.You have corruption and land grabs in the past. Then there was the fishing industry and canning industry, and the literary figures of Steinbeck and Jeffers and Langston Hughes.”
Deaver says the new series has been fulfilling in that it departs from the tried-and-true, evidence- based plots that were at the center of best-sellers like “The Bone Collector” and “Cold Moon”. Conversely, “The Sleeping Doll” will entail more human drama.
Part of this has to do with the main characters. Rhyme, a quadriplegic forensic detective and former head of the New York crimescene unit, is a man heavily steeped in evidence. (Denzel Washington played Rhyme, opposite Angelina Jolie, in the film version of “The Bone Collector”.)
Dance, however, is an expert in interpreting emotional subtext. “The classic example is ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, where there’s almost no forensics,” Deaver says. “That’s what I want to do with the Kathryn Dance series.”
While Rhyme will appear in the new series, Deaver said he wanted to concentrate on his new character.
“It’s probably my most ambitious book,” he says. “There’s more characters; it’s about a hundred pages onger…more plots.”
Deaver says the passion to write novels took hold at an early age. “I outlined Sherlock Holmes, Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie and pulled them apart, saw how they told their stories,” he says. “My first effor ts were terrible, but I wanted to do it.”
These days, Deaver completes about one book per year. For eight months he works on research and an outline, which ends up running about 150 pages, covering every aspect of what will be in the book. After that, it takes about two months to craft the novel off the outline, an intense period where he often writes much of the time in a dark, windowless room. He says he revises a manuscript 40-50 times before shipping it to the publisher.
The business end of the work includes answering an average of 60 fan e-mails a day, and doing interviews and book tours that take up the rest of his year.
Deaver is not shy about his end goal, which is to please a mass audience.
“When I hear writers say that they write for themselves, I’m actually a bit offended by them,” he says. “You don’t write for yourself, you write for someone else. I call myself the Proctor and Gamble of writing, and other authors don’t like to hear me say that. I make a product for a consumer audience, and I’m proud of that and work really hard at it.”
But Deaver doesn’t consider the work daunting.
“I look at my lawn that needs mowing, or my laundry piled up in my bedroom. That takes discipline for me,” he says. “I don’t like to do it.Writing, I absolutely love. I’ve always loved it. I just love the idea of stories, to get lost in stories.”