Richard North Patterson
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born near beautiful San Francisco, and raised in California until I was 10. Tragically, my dad was transferred to Cleveland when I was 10, where I discovered snow. I spent the next 22 years working my way back to California.
Given my deep-seated fear of cold weather, I spend summers on Martha’s Vineyard, winters in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and the other seasons in San Francisco. One of the benefits of the fact that my presence in a particular place is absolutely inessential.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12 I wanted to be a baseball star; at 18 President of the United States; and at 30 a novelist. One out of three isn’t bad, especially when I can pretend to be the other two.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That limited government is best. I’m now more concerned with social justice and equity.
Two books in particular molded my interests and made me want to write about politics: Alan Drury’s classic novel of Washington DC, Advise and Consent, and Jack Newfield’s memoir of Robert Kennedy. Both books persuaded me of the dramatic power of political life at the highest level, and RFK himself was like a character in a novel–always complex and sometimes contradictory. And War and Peace showed me the novel at its grandest and most ambitious – I may not be Tolstoy, but I like to push my gifts is far as I can take them.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because you absolute own it, unconstrained by anything but your own imagination. It is a wonderful form of self-assigned work. (BBGuru: Great answer!)
6. Please tell us about your latest novel
The Devil’s Light concerns Al Qaeda’s theft of a nuclear bomb for Pakistan, and the efforts of the CIA and Mossad to keep a brilliant Al Qaeda operative from destroying a major Western city. It is deeply researched and, for all the fear generated by the scenario, absolutely authentic–the CIA’s worst nightmare.
(BBGuru: Publisher Synopsis –
Terrorist operative Amer Al Zaroor masterminds and executes the theft of a Pakistani military weapon: a two-hundred-pound nuclear warhead, capable of causing destruction on an unprecedented scale.
A chilling transmission is then broadcast to the world, in which Osama Bin Laden pledges to attack a major US city on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Intelligence indicates that the bomb has been smuggled out of Pakistan and is en route to the US, with Washington or New York the suspected target.
However, this is a clever decoy set by Al Zaroor. While the CIA is focussed on thwarting a domestic attack, the weapon moves nearer to its true target, Tel Aviv, which Bin Laden plans to wipe off the map. Back in Washington, agent Brooke Chandler, a once-prodigious field operative, senses this deception. Chandler, who has his own score to settle with Al Qaeda, thinks he knows just how the bomb is being moved, and has an idea how to find it. Chandler must convince his superiors of his conviction, and then find and disable the bomb before it is too late.
If he fails, Al Zaroor’s plan will succeed, and the Middle East as we know it will be relegated to the annals of history.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A riveting story with dimensional and engaging characters, from which the reader also learns important things he or she didn’t know. That was my ambition in The Devil’s Light.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
There are too many writers I admire to mention them all. But I value Philip Roth for his brilliant and varied work over more than four decades. The man deserves a Nobel Prize. (BBGuru: Yes, he does. If it’s any consolation Roth just won the Man Booker International Prize 2011 )
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To create a diverse body of work, which entertains and enthrals while addressing the major problems of our time, including the Israeli–Palestinian tragedy and the threat of global terrorism. Hence The Devil’s Light.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
To treat writing as a job. If you set out to write five polished pages a week, by the end of the year you’ll have 250 pages without losing your day job and ruining your relationships. Keep after it.
Richard, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.