PW caught up with thriller writer Eisler, a former CIA operative, by phone in Paris, where he was on the last leg of a European promotional tour.
Are you becoming as much of a globe-trotter as your series hero, Japanese-American assassin John Rain?
You know it's funny, but I'll always be one step ahead of him on the globe-trotting because I always research places before I write about them. John Rain will never see more places than I do.
Your new Rain novel, The Last Assassin (Reviews, Apr. 17), contains some unusual extras, including a section on personal safety tips. Tell us about them.
The most critical asset that any intelligence officer can bring to bear professionally, and also that any citizen can bring to bear in keeping safe, is awareness of your surroundings. When I give a presentation, it always goes over really well because people immediately understand the value of these safety tips. They're all things you can implement right away without having to study with a Zen master or a monk on a mountain top for 10 years.
You also provide information on surveillance.
I want people to understand the way real surveillance and countersurveillance work because in the movies it's almost never done right. And to appreciate my books, I want people to appreciate some of the realistic aspects of the trade craft John Rain uses. For example, it's not easy to follow someone solo. When the old KGB was following a suspected CIA agent in Moscow, you'd have at least 20 agents. The Soviets would do things like let you spot 80, maybe 90%, and then those people would fade away and eventually you'd think you'd got clean. Then you'll do the meeting or the dead drop or whatever, and they've got you.
How long can someone like Rain hope to beat the odds and survive in his line of work? He can't even enter a hotel room to meet a lover without fearing attack.
I'm outlining number six now, and I think that's going to be the appropriate place to close out the series. Not just because Rain is getting older (he's in his mid-50s now), but because with his philosophy, his way of looking at himself and his life, he can't go on forever. If you've done the things that Rain's done, you pay a horrible price. Also, if you have a conscience, and Rain does—he's not a sociopath—you'll be haunted by the things you've done. Rain has to find a way out or something terrible will happen to him.