Question: In one sentence can you describe The Vanished Man?
Jeffery Deaver: The Vanished Man pits Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs against a psychotic illusionist (think David Copperfield meets Hannibal Lecter) who commits a series of brilliantly executed crimes in New York using magic, escapist and illusionist techniques. Lincoln and Amelia enlist the aid of a young woman illusionist to help them track down the killer, who’s dubbed “The Conjurer.” Oops, that’s two sentences. Sorry.
Question: The magic elements in the novel are fascinating. What made you decide to feature magic in this book?
Jeff: Readers familiar with my books know that I love to trick my audience with “sleight of hand” in my plots the same way illusionists do in their shows. I thought it would be natural to write a book about the subject of illusion itself, while incorporating even more of my typical plot twists and surprise endings than I normally do.
Magic tricks are made up of the “effect” (the illusion the audience sees) and the “method” (the mechanics of creating that illusion). This whole book is a series of effects—performed by The Conjurer, Lincoln Rhyme . . . and myself. But don’t worry; unlike real illusionists I reveal the methods at the end of the novel.
The actual idea for the story was inspired by a performance of the Big Apple Circus, which I took my business partner’s son to several years ago. We were blown away by the quick-change act and I thought, what a scary thing if a criminal could change appearance and become a whole different person in a matter of seconds.
Question: Are the illusions and tricks described in the book really performed by magicians or did you create them?
Jeff: All of the illusions and tricks described in the book are real though naturally I’ve varied them somewhat since in my book The Conjurer is trying to actually destroy lives and cause havoc while most of the danger in real performances is, of course, illusory.
Question: Which is your favorite illusion? And do you have a favorite magician?
Jeff: There are so many . . . . As much as I enjoy watching some of the spectacular illusionists like David Blaine and David Copperfield, I think I’m most impressed with quick-change artists like Arturo Brachetti and sleight-of-hand artists like Ricky Jay. James Randi, the Amazing Randi, is indeed amazing—not only is he a superb parlor magician and escapist but he’s a famous debunker of fake psychics. I’ve also enjoyed the sick-and-twisted humor of Penn and Teller’s brand of illusion.
Question: How do you think the Conjurer in The Vanished Man stacks up against your other villains, like the Bone Collector and the Coffin Dancer?
Jeff: Villains are very important in suspense fiction not only for the evil element they add but because they bring out the hero’s character. If the bad guy in a book is a superficial caricature, then the hero’s victory against him means little. I also think authors must create villains that, in a small way, readers care about. We don’t want him to succeed, of course, but we have to feel his losses and setbacks. I’ve tried to create multidimensional villains in all my books and I hope The Conjurer is no exception. He has a troubled past, a brilliant mind and an amoral nature and he’s a master of his trade. I think readers will be particularly interested in his curious relationship with his “Revered Audience.”
Question: This is the fifth book in the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs series. What are your expectations for this series?
Jeff: Very simple: I have fans around the world who love Lincoln and Amelia and as long as they want to read books about this duo, I’ll keep writing them—and I’ll keep writing them according to my reader’s expectations. My job is to entertain my own revered audience and not introduce story lines they won’t enjoy.
Question: With each new book in the series you have evolved Lincoln and Amelia’s relationship. How would you define their relationship in The Vanished Man?
Jeff: We’ve seen Lincoln and Amelia go through some tough times—particularly in, say, The Empty Chair. I wanted to make things a bit more stable for them in The Vanished Man with regard to their relationship; the personal challenges they face in this book have to do with Amelia’s advancement in her career and Lincoln’s new approach to confronting his quadriplegic condition.
Question: This will be two series novels in a row for you, with last year’s bestseller, The Stone Monkey. Will you be making it three in a row with your next book or will you be writing a stand-alone novel next?
Jeff: My intent has always been to alternate the Lincoln Rhyme novels with others, largely because I have a number of ideas that I think would make compelling and fun stories and yet that wouldn’t work as Lincoln Rhyme novels. My book for 2004 is a thriller that takes place over two days in Berlin during the 1936 Olympics. I did two Lincoln Rhymes in a row because the Berlin book has taken an extra year to write due to all the research (and, frankly, because I thought the idea for The Vanished Man was so much fun I couldn’t wait to write it.) My book for 2005 will be a Lincoln and Amelia novel.
Question: Do you plan on writing a sequel to The Blue Nowhere?
Jeff: I think I’ve probably mined the vein of Internet crime in The Blue Nowhere but it’s very likely that we’ll see Wyatt Gillette and Frank Bishop make appearances in future books—just like Tobe Geller from A Maiden’s Grave has appeared in several of my later books. (Parker Kincaid, by the way, from The Devil’s Teardrop makes a cameo appearance in The Vanished Man.)
Question: Any final comments on The Vanished Man?
Jeff: I’ve tried to make this one my “twistiest” book yet. I’d love to hear from readers who manage to figure out the ultimate ending (well, endings plural; there are, naturally, several.) A clue: Read those evidence charts—just like Lincoln Rhyme does!