He’s one of the most famous bestselling authors on the planet, with no shortage of fan-favorite characters, and yet for the second time in back-to-back years, David Baldacci is introducing a new hero into the mix.
You may know him for his iconic debut, Absolute Power (1995), which was later adapted for film and made into a major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood. Then came The Camel Club series, followed by six King and Maxwell books, along with a bunch of standalone thrillers. These days, though, Baldacci has focused mostly on his newer lead characters: CIA assassin Will Robie, former cop turned special FBI agent Amos Decker, and John Puller, a military investigator and combat veteran.
While juggling those three series, Baldacci added FBI agent Atlee Pine with last year’s Long Road to Mercy, and now he’s set to introduce his latest protagionist, Aloysius Archer, star of his brand new novel, One Good Deed.
Set in 1949, Archer, a WWII veteran with a rocky past, is fresh out of prison and looking for work—which he finds in the form a proposition from local businessman Hank Pittleman, who wants Aloysius to collect a debut that’s owed to him. Archer accepts, only to quickly realize that things aren’t what they first seemed . . . and it’s all downhill from there.
Just ahead of the book’s release, David Baldacci agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for this one to when readers might see some of his other characters again.
Check out his answers below, then order your copy of One Good Deed, in stores everywhere on July 23, 2019.
I really loved this book, which by the way, feels really different than anything else you’ve ever written. How did you come up with the story idea for One Good Deed?
Baldacci: “It was supposed to be a short story that I thought might be published in an ebook-only format. I was on tour for Long Road To Mercy and wanted something to work on when I got back to the hotel each night. Within about three months I had more than four hundred pages, so the short story went out the window. It was like something took over my mind when I was writing this one and the pages flew out of my fingertips. I love the Forties time period from a storytelling perspective, particularly post-WWII, when everyone was picking themselves back up and ambitions and hopes were running high around the country. But there was a lot of upheaval too as soldiers came back and women were forced back into their roles as housewives. My two favorite movies are Chinatown and The Big Sleep. I look at One Good Deed as my attempt at writing something like that.”
Most of your books take place in the present day, whereas this one is set in 1949. Did that present any new challenges for you while writing it?
Baldacci: “I had to do a lot of research, but not as much as you would imagine. I have read so many books and watched so many TV shows and movies set during that time that I had a really good grounding in it. Also, my father fought in WWII and as a kid, I would listen to him and his brothers talking about that time. All five fought in the war and all came back home safely. I just soaked all that in.”
How, with so many successful series currently going strong, do you keep all your characters, and their universes, straight? What’s your secret, tons of notes? A detailed filing system? A great memory?
Baldacci: “My memory is really good. Not Amos Decker-level, but then whose is! Since I created each of these characters the details from each of them are firmly in my mind.”
Out of all the main characters you’re currently juggling—Amos Decker, John Puller, Will Robie, Atlee Pine, etc.—is there one that is harder to write than the other, and do you have a personal favorite?
Baldacci: “Will Robie probably is the hardest to write because I have to make him likeable, and his profession—killing people, even though they may deserve it—does not lend itself to likeability. Thus, I have to constantly balance digging into his past and his point of view to show readers that he does labor mightily to do his job because it’s not like he is simply a cold-blooded killer. Each trigger he pulls takes a little bit of his soul away. But with that said, all characters are difficult to piece together. It’s a five-hundred-page fence straddle and it doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many books you write. Right now, my fav might be Aloysius Archer. Maybe because he’s my newbie, but there’s such an everyman sort of quality to him, unlike my other protagonists, who all have some special skills, that I tend to identify more with him.”
Lastly, now that this book is set to come out, what’s next for you?
Baldacci: “Atlee Pine rides again in November in A Midnight To Midnight. And Amos Decker comes back next spring in a book I’m working on right now. The TV series rights to Decker have been optioned by Hollywood. Let’s see if they can pull that off! And of course, Aloysius Archer will be coming back and getting into trouble again!”
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.