Novelist Daniel Silva's coming to Houston on Sunday to read from his latest thriller, The Defector. Fast-paced and intense, the book follows former Israeli operative Gabriel Allon, a frequent Silva character, as he searches for a Russian defector who's gone missing. Silva spoke to Hair Balls about the thriller and his career.
Hair Balls: You've written several books with Gabriel Allon as the central character. How is he different in The Defector than he was in his first outing?
Daniel Silva: Oh, he's tremendously different. He was a real recluse when I first created him. Now, he's much more fully formed. He's also got more of a sense of humor. It's a dark sense of humor, but he's a funny guy. The funny thing is that he was never meant to be a continuing character. I had to be talked into it.
How are you different as a writer?
I hope I'm better. (Laughs) When it comes to Gabriel, he's like a piece of music that I've been playing for years now. I get a little better at playing him every time I write him. But there's also something magical that happens when you're writing a continuing character. I know that if I set up the story properly, when I get to the half way point I can basically just step out of the way and let Gabriel finish it for me.
One of the things that critics often say about your books is that the secondary characters are very well drawn, especially your women characters.
I think that every supporting character that you create reinforces the central character. They are necessarily smaller on the page than Gabriel but they're incredibly important. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and drawing them. They are now moving with Gabriel from book to book and their lives are evolving along with his, and that's an awful lot of fun. I love the soap opera aspects of it; it's General Hospital but set within a thriller.
Early reviews are calling The Defector the best novel you've ever written. Does that sort of praise put pressure on you to make your next book that much bigger, that much better?
If anything, I put pressure on myself. I have a very loyal fan base, a very passionate fan base. I feel committed to them and I want to make sure that I hold up my end of the bargain from year to year. Particularly in a year like this when we're having difficult economic times, if people pay you the high compliment of spending money to read something that you've created, I want to make sure that I deliver.
There is an element of, "How do I top this?" but I'll worry about that when I get off the book tour and start writing again. (Laughs)
In The Defector, you draw on real life situations, the tensions in Russia, for example. That seems risky. For example, if things in Russia change, that might make The Defector seem dated.
I think of this, the Gabriel Allon series, not as a reflection of reality but almost a parallel universe where things are very similar to what's going on to the real world but slightly tilted. I do get literary license but I am very careful about the scenarios that I create so that I am not going to be bypassed by events.
President Obama just went to Russia to try to improve relations between the United States and Russia. As I was finishing my book, I knew that the trip was in the works. I was quite confident that there was not going to be some overnight breakthrough. I thought I'd be pretty safe.
Daniel Silva will appear at Murder by the Book at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 16. 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit www.murderbooks.com. Free.