Anthrax, the FBI and Bestsellers; BOOKS Thriller Writer David Baldacci Enjoys a Rare Relationship with Secret Service Agents but Sometimes the Two Worlds Threaten to Overlap. He Tells Hannah Stephenson about Some Hair Raising Moments. PROFILE

The Birmingham Post (England), May 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Anthrax, the FBI and Bestsellers; BOOKS Thriller Writer David Baldacci Enjoys a Rare Relationship with Secret Service Agents but Sometimes the Two Worlds Threaten to Overlap. He Tells Hannah Stephenson about Some Hair Raising Moments. PROFILE


Byline: Hannah Stephenson

THERE aren't many authors whose debut novels become blockbusters almost overnight, but David Baldacci is one of them.

Since his first book, Absolute Power, made him a fortune and spawned the hit film adaptation starring Clint Eastwood in 1997, his novels have sold in their millions in more than 80 countries and have been translated into more than 45 languages.

The clean-cut, fresh-faced former Washington lawyer is currently in London promoting his 26th offering, The Hit, a riveting cat-and-mouse thriller which sees a government hitman assigned to kill one of his own, a female assassin, who is bumping off senior intelligence staff. But nothing is quite as it seems.

Baldacci, 52, enjoys a rare relationship with the FBI and Secret Service agents, who give him some of the ideas for his stories.

The intelligence agencies aren't always painted in a positive light in the books, with all the double-crossing, back-stabbing and treachery going on, but Baldacci says they accept their shortcomings.

"They say, 'We understand, we make mistakes, but at least you're fair and accurate in the way you portray what we do'."

His thrillers have attracted the attention of a number of weirdos over the years.

"I get a lot of interesting mail, some of which I turn over to the FBI. I've never had people threaten me physically, but I take it seriously.

"Years ago, when we had the anthrax scare, I received an envelope filled with white powder, which we opened in the office. Everybody got very scared and we had to be tested, but it wasn't anthrax, just a harmless powder."

The Hit brings back the government assassin Will Robie, who featured in previous novel, The Innocent, and Baldacci hopes he'll write at least one more book featuring the two protagonists.

He'd like to see The Hit made into a movie, but celluloid has been a much slower burn to success for the author.

However, 16 years after Absolute Power the movie was released, Baldacci has found himself back on a film set for the second time, for the adaptation of his novel Wish You Well, starring Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn and Mackenzie Foy, who appeared in The Twilight Saga.

While he remained uninvolved with the Absolute Power movie - about a thief who witnesses a murder involving the US president - he has been hands-on with Wish You Well, a fictional story of a 12-year-old girl set in the mountains of Virginia.

As screenwriter and producer, Baldacci was on set in West Virginia, spending 20-hour days with cast and crew, ensuring the film remained true to his work.

"It's a very personal story based on some of my own family history and was the first non-thriller I'd written.

"With film production, there's a crisis every day and you're re-writing the script as you're filming. It was both exhausting and exhilarating. It's not something I'd want to do every year but it was different and exciting."

Baldacci put up some of his own money to finance the film and the rest was raised by independent sponsors. But he admits it's been a long haul to bring a second novel to the screen.

"Having a successful movie made, whether it's adapted from a book or not, is really challenging. …

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