Harlan Coben was the first ever author to win all three major crime awards in the US. He is now a global bestseller with his mix of powerful stand-alone thrillers and Myron Bolitar crime novels. He has appeared in the bestseller lists of The Times, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.
Jeff Abbott is the internationally bestselling author of eleven novels, including the thrillers Panic, Fear, and Run and the Sam Capra novels. He is a three-time nominee for the Edgar Award and in 2012 won the International Thriller Writers Award for his novel The Last Minute.
Harlan Coben: If you could go for drinks (possibly to one of Sam's bars) with only one of the characters from Downfall, who would it be? And it's not allowed to be Sam.
Jeff Abbott: Oh, then Mila. She's one of those characters that I had no idea how people would respond to her--and they love her. I've had people ask if I'd ever do a book with her in the lead, rather than Sam. And I feel we still have so much to learn about her--I remember a reviewer commenting about finding out about her past in The Last Minute, saying, well, she wasn't a mystery any more. I've only begun to tell readers about Mila. Lots of secrets still there. So maybe she'd tell me more of them as we sipped her favourite Glenfiddich.
Harlan: Sam is a very likeable lead character. Is he based on anyone you know?
Jeff: There is obviously a certain amount of me in Sam; but there's a certain amount of me in the villains, as well. No, I haven't really based him on anyone I know.
Harlan: You're obviously a fan of thriller writing, but how about thriller movies? Do you have a favourite three?
Jeff: I love North by Northwest--such a wonderful blend of character-driven story, humour, and intrigue. The Seven Samurai is not only a brilliant action film, but it's also a beautiful movie. And does The Godfather count as a thriller? I'm on the edge of my seat when I watch it, and I've seen it many times. It's a great example of suspense deriving from the promise of violence.
Harlan: Without giving anything away, there is an element of the Faustian 'deal with the devil' in the plot of Downfall. What is it that particularly interests you about this idea?
Jeff: Often we feel we're always bargaining with fate--that's what life is. But the story of Faust has stayed relevant for centuries because it's a hugely dramatic situation--what would you give up to have everything that you wanted? What price for your own personal paradise? It's always an inevitable tragedy--it's the best representation, in story, of living with the consequences of your bad choices. And that's what I wanted to show in Downfall--the consequences of making this 'deal with the devil.' Because it doesn't just affect the person who makes the deal, it affects everyone in his life, his family, and many innocent people.
Harlan: Downfall is obviously an action-packed thriller, but at its heart there are strong themes around how far one would go to protect or help their family. Was there something in particular that triggered this idea in your mind?
Jeff: You and I have both dealt with this in our books before--but I think this time it was more a question asked by the bad guys than Sam. And it's an interesting reversal. I always want the antagonists in my stories to think they're the heroes of the story--that they are in the right, they are doing what's necessary for their own interests, that Sam is the bad guy. And here, the question is what will a bad guy do to secure his family's future? Here the bad guys will destroy anyone, even a stranger, who gets in their way; while Sam is the person who will risk it all to help a stranger in need. They're total opposites. And I love that balance, when the hero and villain are really the opposite sides of the same coin.
Harlan: What are you working on next?
Jeff: I've just finished Sam Capra #4, which will be out in the summer of 2014 in both the UK and the US.