Jeffery Deaver’s new Lincoln Rhyme novel, “The Kill Room,” is the first of a political trilogy. He spoke from Monterey, Calif., where he is researching his next novel.
“The Kill Room” deals with the ethics of covert government-sanctioned assassinations of U.S. citizens. Why did you choose to write about this?
About nine years ago I wrote “Garden of Beasts,” my only historical thriller, in which a hit man is recruited by the government in 1936 to assassinate a fictional Hitler aide. I became very interested in the moral elements of government-sanctioned killings, and I played a lot with the back and forth of learning that the target was not a monster: He hated Hitler, he wanted a return to a republic, but he had to play the game. A few years ago, the Anwar al-Aulaqi incident took place: two U.S. citizens killed in Yemen. I thought, now I want to update the story. I want my readers to think, “To what extent and when should the U.S. government take a human life, outside a combat situation?”
Your book seems to imply that the ends sometimes justify the means.
Yes, I think it is justified for the government to take a life under certain circumstances — I wish they were more circumscribed than they are now. There’s no reason why the government can’t use the truly remarkable resources of the intelligence and forensic community to make sure the bad guy is the bad guy. I have no problem with us taking out bad guys. I want to do whatever I can to limit collateral damage.
It’s not the only controversial area you explore in this novel — gun control is another. Where do you stand?
I own guns, and I shoot as a hobby. I studied law, and the Second Amendment can be read both ways, but we also know the Constitution allows for reasonable and rather hearty regulations of everything. I have to get a license to drive a car; I have to register a car. I don’t have any problem with having to get a license to purchase a weapon or having to register it. I was appalled at the most recent failure to put in place what I consider quite reasonable rules.
The creepiest character in “The Kill Room” by far is Jacob Swann — the gourmet assassin who tortures and kills victims with the same knife he cooks with. Did your own cooking hobby inspire this?
Even though I love to cook, I’ve never had a character who paid much attention to cooking, largely because the books move very quickly. There isn’t much time for sitting down to a leisurely meal. But the idea of making the villain a cook came to me: He has sharp knives, he’s fastidious, his mother called him “the little butcher man” because he used to help her trim meat. I just thought, that’s creepy. Then I thought I might be able to take the experience outside the pages of the book. So I came up with about 14 recipes, mostly ones I’ve made over the years, variations on classics such as coq au vin. I’ll be putting them on my Web site.
Do you really think people will want to cook Jacob Swann meals?
The recipes are pretty tasty. And I have a very loyal fan base. People show up with tattoos of my books. One couple met at one of my events — they got married (then they got divorced). So I think there will be a number of them who make the recipes. They’re written with additions like, “Mr. Swann will be very disappointed if you use simple table salt instead of Himalayan salt.”
Burns, editor of “Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between,” teaches creative writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales.
On June 5 at 7 p.m., Jeffrey Deaver will be at Barnes & Noble, 7851 Tysons Corner, McLean. Call 703-506-2937.