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Jeffery Deaver wrote his first 'novel' at 11, a four page manuscript that is still unpublished. But seven subsequent books have been; and much to his surprise, the sixth, The Bone Collector, has been made into a big budget thriller, directed by Australia's Phil Noyce (and photographed by another Aussie, Oscar winning Dean Semler). ANDREW L. URBAN talks to Deaver.

[The Bone Collector - Leading forensics expert and New York City detective, Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington), is bed bound after a backbone crushing accident, able to talk and move one finger, with which he controls his technological world, from the computers to the angle of recline of his bed. But his carer, Thelma (Queen Latifah), does the real work. Rhyme, subject to fits, any one of which could leave him a vegetable, is ready to 'make the transition' with the help of the doctor on his case, Dr Barry Lehman (John Benjamin Hickey). A brilliant, published forensics expert, Rhyme's eternal exit is interrupted by a request he can't refuse, to help a singular new case. This follows the discovery of a savage slaying, and young female policewoman Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) impresses Rhyme with her sharp instincts and procedures at the crime scene. She reluctantly becomes Rhyme's body in the search for a vicious serial killer whose murders continue and whose clues taunt and frustrate the team. ]

ALU: In your book, The Bone Collector, you make several references to Amelia's lips, describing them variously as 'gorgeous' or her as someone with 'Julia Roberts' lips' or 'very expressive lips' - then we see Angelina Jolie's extraordinary, full lips….is this a case of casting by lips?

JD: Ha ha…yes, well, I like to give my characters quirks, individual details that we can relate to throughout the story. It doesn't necessarily have to be beauty . . . Amelia also scratches a bit, chews her nails, all indicative of her edginess, her drive. And someone commented after seeing Angelina Jolie in Pushing Tin, 'she's your Amelia…'

ALU: Would you recommend audiences see the film first or read the book first?

JD: I'll have to hedge on that question - but I hedge for a reason: I feel that books and movies are two entirely different mediums. They both try for the same effect, that is to achieve an emotional response, at least in this type of story. I write thrillers; Phillip Noyce makes a thriller and we strive for the same thing but we do it in different ways. I've always loved books and I've always loved films; I've never had a problem of going to a movie of a book I've read and keeping it separate. It's like two different carnival rides and I enjoy both kinds. In this case I can't say which would be better to do.

ALU: Is there anything in the movie that of necessity has been left out that you wish hadn't been?

JD: When I knew that this was going ahead, I wondered how they were going to shift the conversion because I felt it was very difficult book to make into a movie. In fact of all of my books it was the most difficult because there was a great deal of internal material. There was a large back story, going back a hundred years, with the character of the villain and his obsession. Although I had read an early draft of the script, I didn't really know how it would end up on screen. When I saw the film for the first time the other day, I was astonished at how closely the movie adhered to my story line and how well Phillip and Jeremey (Iacone, screenplay writer) had worked in the subtleties and included all the crime scenes - I think I had one more crime scene in the book that the characetrs had to investigate, but that wasn't really necessary for the film. Even the peregrine hawks that sit on the ledge of Rhyme's window were worked in, and I was sure they'd be left out. For me they were a very important motif - rather heavy handed I think. . . he a hunter and immobile, and the birds hunters and being completely mobile, multi dimensionally mobile.

ALU: What about the tone?

JD: Oh, the tone is identical to my tone. Underground is very important. . . those scenes of Amelia in the slaughterhouse with her flashlight, the steam scene - they really did a superb job on the production design.

ALU: The tone, and our emotional response to the film are, I thought, superbly reflected in Craig Armstrong's score.

JD: Oh, the score is amazing. As the 19th century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorn put it, when it comes to writing style the author's words should evaporate and leave us with pure meaning. I was very conscious of the score because it was so unobtrusive yet completed the tone of the movie very well. The reason I am concentrating on the score is because when I get back to Washington, my business manager and I are arranging a mini premiere (since I missed the big one) for 40 or 50 friends and we're trying to get our hands on the CD of the soundtrack.

ALU: In the process of writing something as scary as this, does any of it ever affect you?

JD: I cringe when there is a sudden noise - but only because it's an interruption. No, I'm quite distanced from my work. For me the books are very calculated. I have an elaborate outline which I spend eight months preparing, then I sit down and write it. For me, there are no surprises. I don't know where it's going at first, so I hammer out the plots and subplots and develop all the characters. In some ways it's similar to scriptwriting because I imagine it scene by scene. It's very organised, very left brain process. But when I saw The Sixth Sense the other day, I was terrified! I mean, I do get scared!

ALU: Does character lead this process for you?

JD: No. Just the opposite. The story is paramount. But let me define story: for my purposes, story is realistic characters in extreme conflict which conflict is then resolved. For good or for bad. That's all there is to my books. But that bit about realistic characters is extremely important, because for the emotional payoff at the end, after all the twists and turns, we have to care about all of the characters. And that's why, for instance, the bad guy has a tragedy in his life that motivates him. Bad guys have to be three dimensional - if they aren't our hero's victory means less.

ALU: Can you give us a glimpse of your next book?

JD: Oh sure, The Empty Chair will be published here in Australia probably mid 2000. It features Lincoln and Amelia again, and they go down to North Carolina to very advanced medical centre where Lincoln wants to try some experimental surgery to try to improve his condition. So he's risking a great deal to have this surgery so he can move a bit closer to Amelia. She doesn't want him to have surgery because she loves him the way he is. That's the initial story. But there has been a series of murders and rapes down there and Lincoln reluctantly postpones the operation to assist the local sheriff in finding a young girl before she's murdered. They find the kidnapper, but Amelia becomes convinced that the young boy is innocent and she breaks him out jail. Now Lincoln has to use his skills to find Amelia before the boy kills her because he knows the boy is the murderer, and Amelia has to use the skills she's learned from Lincoln to evade him. And of course there is more to it than that. I love the idea of the two of them going against each other now, against the backdrop of this relationship of theirs.

ALU: Do you write purely for the novel or do you have at the back of your mind the idea of a movie?

JD: No I don't have a movie at the back of my mind. But - I've been so influenced by film, my books include a great deal of cinematic techniques, from cross cutting to ending scenes on a high note, to try not to give things away, so on. The books tend to be three acts building to a crescendo in the final act, and then we relax a little bit and have an epilogue or coda. But you can not look over your shoulder as you write. I was very surprised The Bone Collector was picked up - and very surprised that The Devil's Teardrop (the latest novel, published by Hodder Headline, November 1999) was not.

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Jeffery Deaver


His writing career, he admits with a smile, is somewhat ego driven, triggered by seeing shelves full of books and the author's name on the spine. He wrote "two very bad novels before writing the best ever," but it was the fourth one that was published first. From then, he has written one a year and regards it as a manufacturing business. "I am not an artist but a craftsman, a manufacturer. I gear it for a market and make an entertaining product. The easiest part is writing it. The hardest part is getting it into the hands of those who want to read it. So, if it weren't for my publishers (Hodder Headline), my mother and my girlfriend would be the only ones to read my books."

Deaver's latest novel, The Devil's Teardrop, is published in Australia, November 1999.


The Bone Collector -Australian release, November 18, 1999.

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with

Read the text from the Phil Noyce


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