Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 17th, John Sandford’s new Virgil Flowers novel, Deep Freeze, finally hits bookstores. Personally, this is a book I’ve been high on ever since I read it a few months ago. It’s sort of a hybrid between a thriller and a crime novel, taking the best of both worlds and combining them into one unputdownable story.
Ahead of Tuesday’s publication, New York Times bestselling author John Sandford agreed to take part in our Five Questions segment, providing some really great answers that his fans will get a kick out of. See the brief Q&A below, then keep scrolling to read more about Deep Freeze.
TRBS: First and foremost, this book begins with a bang! Typically, these types of stories are told one of two ways: either the reader knows who did it before the protagonist, or they’re trying to put it all together along with the character. You wrote something sort of in the middle of that (readers think they know what happened, but then there’s an early twist when you reveal that the dead body isn’t found where we last saw it), and I’ve never really seen it done that way. How did you come up with the story idea?
Sandford: “I started Deep Freeze as a thriller, but then turned it into a mystery and almost finished it that way…but when I got toward the end, I realized that it wasn’t working as well as I hoped. Or maybe it was, but I don’t like mysteries as much as I like thrillers, so I decided to turn it back into a thriller. Some of the mystery artifacts were still in it when I finished, but I was happy with it that way. Thrillers tend to go from clash to clash, while mysteries go from clue to clue. I came down harder on the thriller side, but there’s still a bit of the other DNA.”
TRBS: Personally, I think Deep Freeze is the best Virgil Flowers book yet. Is there a book in this series, or maybe one from your Lucas Davenport series, that was especially fun to write?
Sandford: “I don’t really have favorite books of my own, but two that went quickly and well right from the start were Certain Prey, the first book of the two-book ‘Clara Rinker’ hit-woman sequence, and Deadline, in which Virgil cracks a dog-stealing ring, a meth cookery, and a multiple murder…the murders carried out at the direction of the local school board.”
TRBS: Speaking of Davenport, which character is more fun for you to write — Lucas or Virgil?
Sandford: “Virgil’s more fun to write, but Davenport’s more intense. I spend about five months writing the typical Virgil, and about seven writing a Davenport, even though the books are about the same length. Davenport really does move hard from clash to clash…Virgil is more like knitting…there’s a lot of personality and weird stuff thrown in there (a lot of it I’d actually seen as a reporter) and that’s easier to do than a really dense, interconnected straight-ahead thriller. I keep telling people that when I was reporting, it was impossible not to notice that most criminals were stupid and did really stupid stuff most of the time — never did encounter a mastermind. Typical crime was an armed robbery, which will get you sent to prison, with the average take being like $8. The risk totally out of proportion with the return. Or you’d see people steal something totally stupid, like a truck load of Huggies. What are you going to do with them? Cops actually laugh a lot…”
TRBS: Which authors do you personally enjoy reading, and what books are currently on your nightstand?
Sandford: “I read most of my colleagues (competitors?) Stephen King, Carl Hiaasen, Alex Berenson, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Preston & Child, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Alan Furst, Robert Harris, Joe Kanon, Harlan Coben, all three Kellermans, Jeff Deaver, Stephen Hunter, Scott Turow, Steve Berry, and on and on. I read maybe 60-75 thrillers a year, and some science fiction as well. Lately I’ve been reading runs of Mick Herron and John Connolly novels. When I get hung up on a problem in my own writing, I can read six or seven novels in a week, and I’ve begun to haunt used bookstores looking for writers I might have missed twenty years ago…Not to mention any names, though, there are quite a few well-known writers that I don’t care about at all.”
TRBS: Lastly, now that Deep Freeze is hitting bookstores, what’s next for you?
Sandford: “I’m halfway through the new Davenport. A little more than halfway, actually….”
What makes Deep Freeze so good right off the bat is that Sandford throws in a really surprising twist that shakes up the same formula used by authors all the time. Usually, when presenting a mystery novel, authors either show readers the crime — allowing them to know what happened and who did it before their main character does — or they keep readers in the dark along with their protagonist.
Sandford actually manages to do both in a very creative way that immediately sucks you in, leaving you desperate and dying to know what, exactly, happened.
Whether you’re a fan of Sandford’s Virgil Flowers or looking to give this series a try for the first time, Deep Freeze is a solid choice for thriller and mystery fans.