Wisely taking the advice given to him by legendary mystery writer Mickey Spillane -- "People don't read books to get to the middle. They read to get to the end" -- Jeffery Deaver has earned a reputation for prodigious pacing and slick suspense with his string of bestselling Lincoln Rhyme thrillers.
Born just outside Chicago in 1950 to an advertising copywriter father and stay-at-home mom, Jeffery Deaver was a writer from the start, penning his first book (a brief tome just two chapters in length) at age 11. He went on to edit his high school literary magazine and serve on the staff of the school newspaper, chasing the dream of becoming a crack reporter.
Upon earning his B.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri, Deaver realized that he lacked the necessary background to become a legal correspondent for the high-profile publications he aspired to, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, so he enrolled at Fordham Law School. Being a legal eagle soon grew on Deaver, and rather than continue on as a reporter, he took a job as a corporate lawyer at a top Wall Street firm. Deaver's detour from the writing life wasn't to last, however; ironically, it was his substantial commute to the law office that touched off his third -- and current -- career. He'd fill the long hours on the train scribbling his own renditions of the kind of fiction he enjoyed reading most: suspense.
Voodoo, a supernatural thriller, and Always a Thief, an art-theft caper, were Deaver's first published novels. Produced by the now-defunct Paperjacks paperback original house, the books are no longer in print, but they remain hot items on the collector circuit. His first major outing was the Rune series, which followed the adventures of an aspiring female filmmaker in the power trilogy Manhattan Is My Beat (1988), Death of a Blue Movie Star (1990), and Hard News (1991).
Deaver's next series, this one featuring the adventures of ace movie location scout John Pellam, featured the thrillers Shallow Graves (1992), Bloody River Blues (1993), and Hell's Kitchen (2001). Written under the pen name William Jefferies, the series stands out in Deaver's body of work, primarily because it touched off his talent for focusing more on his vivid characters than on their perilous situations.
In fact, it is his series featuring the intrepid and beloved team of Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs that showcases Deaver at the top of his game. Confronting enormous odds (and always under somewhat gruesome circumstances), the embittered detective and his feisty partner and love interest made their debut in 1991's grisly caper The Bone Collector, and hooked fans for four more books: The Coffin Dancer (1998), The Empty Chair (2000), The Stone Monkey (2002), and The Vanishing Man(2003). Of the series, Kirkus Reviews observed, "Deaver marries forensic work that would do Patricia Cornwell proud to turbocharged plots that put Benzedrine to shame."
On the creation of Rhyme, who happens to be a paraplegic, Deaver explained to Shots magazine, "I wanted to create a Sherlock Holmes-ian kind of character that uses his mind rather than his body. He solves crimes by thinking about the crimes, rather than someone who can shoot straight, run faster, or walk into the bar and trick people into giving away the clues."
As for his reputation for conjuring up some of the most unsavory scenes in pop crime fiction, Deaver admits on his web site, "In general, I think, less is more, and that if a reader stops reading because a book is too icky then I've failed in my obligation to the readers."
Good To Know
Deaver revises his manuscripts "at least 20 or 30 times" before his publishers get to even see a version.
Two of his books have been made into major feature films. The first was A Maiden's Grave (the film adaptation was called Dead Silence), which starred James Garner and Marlee Matlin. The Bone Collector came next, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.
In addition to being a bestselling novelist, Deaver has also been a folksinger, songwriter, music researcher, and professional poet.
Deaver's younger sister, Julie Reece Deaver, is a fellow author who writes novels for young adults.
In our interview with Deaver, he reveals, "My inspiration for writing is the reader. I want to give readers whatever will excite and please them. It's absolutely vital in this business for authors to know their audience and to write with them in mind."