PW: Naked Prey has Lucas Davenport squarely embedded in married life, in stark contrast to his womanizing in previous novels. Moreover, your introduction of Letty West solidifies Davenport's paternal image. Can you describe the turnabout in Davenport's image?

John Sandford: You want an element of romance in the book. You want the first meeting of male and female at the first part of a relationship. I think people are very interested in how that happens. The problem is, if you write 15 Davenport books, and there's a new woman and a new relationship in each one, he begins to look less like a womanizer and more like a predator. So I began to worry about that... I will not vouch for Weather's [Davenport's wife] security in the series, but I wanted to show that he is capable of a loving relationship, rather than just nailing as many women as he can, which was his attitude at the beginning.

PW: As descriptions of your various villains unfold throughout the Prey series, the psychological term "shallowness of affect" comes to mind. How do you construct your bad guys in general, and how did you arrive at Naked Prey's in particular?

JS: I have known a lot of bad guys, both as a newspaper reporter and also because I did a lot of research in prisons just before I left the newspaper business. I spent a month in a prison interviewing guys who were mostly murderers. I wanted to know what was going on inside their heads. How do you bring yourself to kill someone, especially someone like your girlfriend? You find a whole range of reasons why they kill. Some of them are absolutely brutal, yet I talked to one guy who couldn't remember doing it at all, and I believed him, because he was so messed up on drugs that he didn't remember that he had killed [her] and hidden the body in his truck, and they only found it when he went to clean out the toolbox with a friend. I covered a guy who was completely crazy, just couldn't stop himself from killing people.

In this particular book, the reason people [villains] are the way they are is, among the killers I have known, some of them are just mundane. They have some kind of violence in their lives, but they're really just like everyday people. They work at the post office or drugstore or drive a truck someplace, and they wind up murdering somebody, and then you realize there's this strangeness about them, but that difference is covered up by the fact that they do stuff that you see every day. People who can cold-bloodedly murder somebody are among us.

PW: Davenport seems to have enjoyed a rising popularity in the U.K. Has this continued between Mortal Prey [2002] and Naked Prey?

JS: I have not sold as well in England as I would have hoped. England is one of my favorite places in the world. If I were to pick out a city to live in besides Minneapolis, it might well be London. But there's a cultural difference in the way the Brits look at their police forces and the way we look at ours. I think the Brits like to trust their cops, and Davenport has always been sort of a rogue cop that you really wouldn't trust. Also, with British police, there seems to be an ethic where the cops are working-class or lower-middle-class people, and they live kind of bleak lives in little apartments and so forth, though I don't know why that is. Davenport is, of course, rich, and maybe the combination just didn't click. Now, the last book sold pretty well, and maybe I'm starting to get some attention. I've had some really nice reviews from British newspapers, so maybe it'll catch on. I've always been puzzled about it, and I worry about it.

PW: Will you be focusing on Prey books, or are you continuing the Kidd series [The Empress File, etc.] as well?

JS: I'm running around like a madman because we're just finishing a Kidd book. I don't know if it's good enough to publish, but we're just trying to finish one now. I like to do sort of a postanalysis of these things. I've written books in the middle of the Davenport series, which we didn't publish because they just weren't good enough. So I'm gonna take another look at this Kidd book. But it seems to be coming together pretty well. I've got two more Davenport books to go on this contract.