Rules of Deception


1. How did you get the idea for Rules of Deception
The idea first came to me three years ago when I was working on a television pilot called “The Diplomat,” to star the French actor, Christopher Lambert. We had a very famous consultant on the program, General Tommy Franks, with whom I spent a good deal of time. Let me preface by saying that I am a huge history buff, and especially a student of American military history. In fact, my second book, The Runner, takes place at the end of the Second World War, and features General George Patton as one of the characters. Patton might be dead, his spirit is alive in Tommy Franks, who I view as a true leader of men, and worthy of all Americans’ deepest respect.

One of the subjects General Franks covered was the work done behind enemy lines by special operations troops, men (and women) he referred to as “operators.” General Franks didn’t divulge details of their operations. He can’t. These are clandestine ops, the blackest of the black. But he had a gleam in his eye when he talked about the quality of their character, their training, and their dedication to mission. I wanted to know more about these men and women. What would it be like if you were married or attached to one of these “operators,” and you didn’t even know it? They couldn’t let you know it. The idea fascinated me to no end….and I knew right there I had the idea for a book.

By the way, “The Diplomat” was never filmed. Great script. Great actor. It’s still sitting there on the shelf.

2. Are you working on a sequel to Rules of Deception
Actually, I’m working on multiple sequels. Rules will be an ongoing series starring Dr. Jonathan Ransom. The second book, Rules of Vengeance, opens in London with Jonathan witnessing a car bomb attack aimed at the visiting Russian Minister of Defense. Barely escaping with his life, he is forced to run for his life. If he wants to remain a free man, he must uncover who was behind the bombing and what their ultimate plans truly are.

3. Your books often take place in exotic locales. Critics have praised your ability to transport the reader to far away places. Do you visit these places before writing about them?
As often as possible, I do. To get the true feel of a place, there is no substitute for standing on the ground and getting your shoes dirty, so to speak. To research The Runner, I spent a month traveling across Germany, from Munich to Berlin, tracing my hero’s journey. At one point, I found myself enjoying an afternoon pastry with a man named Dr. Gunther Weber, a former SS stormtrooper, who showed me his Hitler Youth dagger and took me through his family photo albums. That’s how you get detail!!

Before writing The First Billion, I spent a week in Moscow, talking with journalists about the scourge of corruption and the rise of the oligarchs. Don’t ask me what happened at Moscow Airport! I was mugged…or maybe conned is a better word…by a team of Chechen pavement artists. So much for being a hero, myself!

I really enjoyed myself researching Rules of Deception. The hero, Jonathan Ransom, is a world class climber, so I decided to see what that was like. I spent a few months training back home in California, before trying the real thing in Zermatt, Switzerland. My goal was the Matterhorn. I made it up all the surrounding peaks, but my guide, Beat Julen, sternly informed me that I needed a lot more practice “up high” before attempting the Matterhorn. I’m going back this summer! Stay tuned for photographs!

4. Speaking of writing, what do you consider the most difficult part of crafting your stories? 
The research is the fun part. That’s where you get your inspiration. Then you sit down for the next nine to ten months and write the book. That’s your bread and butter. The hard part comes last: rewriting. I think John Irving said that “anyone can write a book; only a novelist can rewrite one.”

5. What do you do for fun?
I love playing golf. Recently, I’ve made a commitment to improve my game. I’m currently a struggling 15 handicap, and I’d like to get down in the single digits. The game requires time and discipline, not unlike writing. Besides golf, I go to the gym at least twice a week with my trainer, Mike Barbanti, at the Body Refinery in Encinitas, Ca. You can find me there at six AM a couple times a week. It’s a credit to Mike that he can inflict so much pain, and yet make it so much fun! I run to keep my mind clear. But my favorite activity by far is to play with two daughters, Noelle and Katja.

6. Any plans to branch out from writing thrillers?
Yes. I love writing thrillers, but I think I have more inside of me. I’m currently working on a heartwarming family saga based on the true life of one our close friends. It’s one of those “stranger-than-fiction” stories that leaves me crying and joyful every time I hear it. I hope that it will be published in 2009 or 2010. It’s really lovely.

7. Who are your favorite authors? 
I have a bunch. Let’s start with Irwin Shaw. He’s an old school guy, but his stories are as fresh and vibrant today as they ever were. I love “The Young Lions,” “Rich Man Poor Man,” and a later, lighter work of his, “Nightwork.” He also wrote some wonderful short stories.

Then there’s James Clavell. “Shogun” and “Noble House” are two of my all time favorites. Anything by Frederick Forsyth, Len Deighton, Thomas Harris, Robert Harris, Ken Follett, and Anton Myrer. In particular, I’d like to single out “Fatherland” by Robert Harris as my favorite thriller, and “Eye of the Needle”, as a close second. I never hesitate to recommend “Once an Eagle,” by Anton Myrer as one of the truly great novels about war ever written, and as the Brits say, “a thumping good read.”

Number one in the Reich Pantheon of Great Authors is, without doubt, John Le Carre. I often say that he taught me how to write. Strangely, my favorite of his isn’t “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” though I do love it. For personal reasons, I rank “The Night Manager” as his best work. It’s very modern, and not so mired in all that stuffy, English schoolboy stuff. No other author manages to use character so well to drive plot. His creations literally leap off the page. By the end of his books, it is hard to imagine they are not real people. Magnus Pym, Alec Leamas, Jerry Westerby, Jonathan Pine, Leonard Burr….these are flesh and blood individuals. Enough said…I guess you can tell I’m a fan.