Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

If Hitchcock Wrote: Jeffery Deaver in Ottawa

His mind was whirring with plots, twists, and cunning  villains. The Post-It notes covered the corkboard with  a  Caroesque  meticulousness.  The progression to the next best-selling crime-fiction thriller appeared imminent. The North Carolina summer humidity had other plans. More than two-thirds of his plot punctuations lay prostate on the floor in a scattered heap. 


"You'd think I'd have numbered these notes," said Jeffery Deaver. 


"I do now. " 


Deaver, in addition to a wry, witty sense of humour, is the author of over thirty-something novels, and is perhaps best know to the general populace for having been the author of The Bone Collector, which was subsequently turned into a major motion picture starring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington. There is a disarming self-assurance in his manner, akin to a man practiced in his profession, yet not wearied of its rewards. 


The festival recently lost a true gem in its bookseller  David Dollin.  Sean Wilson in his introduction mentioned how much David loved Deaver's page-turners and would have really wanted to be there and hosted the evening. Given that this is Deaver's first trip to Ottawa, he was moved at the sense of loss palpable in the room, and of the welcome extended to him.  


We were introduced to the devious Antioch March, the villain of Deaver's latest  Solitude Creek  featuring one of his popular creations in the investigator Kathryn Dance. Much like Milton's Satan, Deaver takes pleasure in his antiheros, and seeks to endow them with realism and relatability. As March plants fear into families visiting an amusement park that slowly  detonates into a full-on stampede, the audience was left tantalisingly wanting more. 


"As the great literary theorist, Dirty Harry, once said: A man's got to know his limits," joked Deaver when asked about his career-choice. After trying his hand at poetry and literary short-fiction, coupled with a career in law, Deaver wanted to delve into writing things that he liked reading. To him, it was an honest choice. He also contrasted gore versus suspense by pointing out that there is a difference in someone watching Hitchcock, and someone watching an autopsy video. He decried what he called "torture porn" not on moral terms, but as creative failures due to sloth. It was fascinating to hear him speak of respect for his readers in how he viewed himself in a detached manner from his creations, and worked arduously to grant a definite ending where there are no grisly scenes; making him a mainstay for families and schools.  


He is perhaps too modest. He previously collaborated in writing a  Bond  novel and has  a radio play  on Audible.   We sensed a measure of his work ethic when he confessed that he spent the better part of his day, viz. 10 hours, writing and that at his age (he is 65), he is knackered by the effort thereby making him much more selective with his ventures. It is hard not to admire such deliberate dedication to both his craft and to the many, many readers who are held in rapt suspense by his creations.