Deaver’s reward-hunting investigator, Colter Shaw, tackles a creepy cult in The Goodbye Man (Putnam, May.).
Where did the Colter Shaw series come from?
Some years ago, I wrote an Edgar-nominated series featuring a location scout who traveled around the country looking for places for movie studios to shoot films, solving crimes along the way. I loved the idea of an itinerate, modern-day gunslinger. The Hollywood aspect of the books made him a great character, but limited my plots. I’ve always had in mind creating a similar protagonist, but one whose mission—earning rewards by finding missing persons and fugitives—allows me to throw him directly into a pressure cooker and turn the heat to high.
What else does having your lead be a “professional reward seeker,” rather than a standard PI, enable you to do?
I picked his profession for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I believe readers enjoy something different in their fare. I’d never heard of a reward seeker as a protagonist. I liked that uniqueness. Also, people hire private eyes for a fairly limited set of reasons. A reward seeker, though, not only looks for missing persons but interacts with local and federal police in tracking down criminal suspects, terrorists, and fugitives.
What appealed to you about starting a new series character?
I wanted a character who was the opposite of Lincoln Rhyme, a forensic scientist who sticks pretty much to his town house in New York City. Shaw works his cases using a survivalist’s strategies, and—as a private citizen—doesn’t use, or care for, scientific crime solving. I also love the idea of the regional thriller. Shaw is free to travel anywhere.
How is writing Shaw different from writing Lincoln Rhyme?
My writing of the Shaw books is a nod to our new entertainment environment: I use what I call the “streaming style,” as in binge-watching TV series. The books are shorter, with shorter chapters and paragraphs and more dialogue. They’re third-person, but we’re always in Shaw’s POV. The Rhyme books will continue to be in my original style: pure third person, with shifting points of view. I have no preference in style.
How did you go about researching cults for The Goodbye Man?
Most of my research is done online and through books. I did have a personal experience that was one of the reasons I chose the topic. Someone tried to get me to join an organization that turned out to be a cult. It was a troubling experience, and the memory of being in a crowd of glaze-eyed, chanting fanatics has stayed with me.