John Carr (aka Oliver Stone), former CIA assassin, and his spy boy compadres of the Camel Club expose political corruption in bestseller David Baldacci’s new thriller, Stone Cold.
How did you come up with the character of your hero, Oliver Stone?
About 20 years ago, when I moved from Richmond, Va., to Washington, D.C., to practice law, my office was just a couple of blocks away from the White House and Lafayette Park, a very different place from what it is today. Back then it was a gathering place for the “permanent” White House protestors. The first banner I ever saw there said, “Have a nice doomsday.” A lot of people looked mentally unstable—one guy wore no clothes at all, just neckies discreetly placed all over his body. Then my writer’s mentality took over and I thought, what if one of them is more than he appears to be? When I decided to create the Camel Club series an image came back to me, a solitary figure in Lafayette Park with a sign that I said, “I want the truth.”
Why did you choose the name of a well-known film director for your hero’s alias?
Stone the film director has a reputation for taking on controversial subjects. Naming my character after him was an act of homage to a man who isn’t afraid to take unpopular positions.
Do you identify with your lead character?
I do. The older I get, the more cynical I get about how things work or don’t work. I’d like to have the truth. I think we rarely get it. As time goes on, we’re more and more manipulated by an ever smaller group of information sources. It’s ironic. We live in the information age, but it’s very difficult to find the truth.
Oliver’s friend, Annabel Conroy, and Harry Finn, a man out to kill Oliver, both have difficult family backgrouds. Which is harder, writing about dysfunctional families or spies?
Talking about the dysfunctions of family is more difficult. I had the same challenge in my first novel, Absolute Power, with the burglar. If you don’t sympathize with him, the story doesn’t work. I had to work very hard so readers could like someone who stole for a living. Those gray characters, those good/bad types, I love them.
What about the war on terrorism?
What troubles me are how many holes are out there. Even when you have guys like Harry Finn doing a legitimate job plugging them, absolute protection is impossible. We could take away every civil liberty we have, and we’d still not be protected.
Is Stone Cold the last Camel Club adventure?
It might be the end, but they might come back. I’m still pondering that, because I like this group of guys.