A graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, David Baldacci first worked as a trial lawyer, and later a corporate lawyer in Washington, D.C.
But he was a writer long before that, starting at age 8 when his mother gave him a notebook so he could write down his stories. He credits her with providing the spark that led him to become a New York Times best-selling author. Baldacci’s 40 adult novels have sold more than 130 million copies, are available in 45 languages and in 180 countries. Several have also been adapted for TV and movies.
Besides that, he’s found time to pen seven children’s novels. And if that isn’t impressive enough, consider this: he’s not yet 60. That means, in addition to writing all those trial briefs when he worked as an attorney, Baldacci has turned out about two books a book a year since his first, “Absolute Power,” was published in 1996. (Clint Eastwood later directed and starred in the film adaptation.)
As for Baldacci’s mother, well, she confessed that she gave him that notebook not to set him on a career as an author but to keep him quiet.
Baldacci’s latest book, Walk the Wire, continues the story of Amos Decker, a former football player whose injuries have rewired his brain so that he has some very strange abilities, including remembering everything, even stuff he wants to forget. Oh, and he sees the recently dead in electrifying shades of blue.
Now an FBI agent, Decker and his partner, Alex Jamison, find themselves trying to solve a gruesome murder in a small North Dakota town gone explosively big because of fracking.
“The body of a woman has been found,” said Baldacci, giving a brief overview of his sixth novel in the Decker series. “The only thing is, she’s already been autopsied. The oil boom town is full of danger on a number of levels for Decker.”
Baldacci has had an interest in boom-and-bust towns for awhile.
“They’re as close as we’re going to get to the wild, wild west again, at least hopefully,” he said. “And it was a way to take Decker out of his comfort zone and see what he could do under really dire situations.”
Decker’s total recall is actually a real, if exceedingly rare, syndrome called hyperthymesia. As for that blue body thing, well, it does exist, but maybe not in the way Decker experiences it.
“Synesthesia is the term, and it refers to a comingling of sensory pathways in the brain,” said Baldacci. “Decker seeing electric blue around death was one manifestation I came up with. The more common ones are seeing numbers in color or sounds in color.”
Besides the Amos Decker series, Baldacci has nine other series going, as well as numerous stand-alone books. When I ask him if he ever gets confused — he often is penning at least two books at one time — his answer is no.
“I created them all, so it’s as easy as remembering your kids. They’re all unique to me, ” he said, noting that he is currently writing two books — the next Atlee Pine thriller, and then, going back in time to 1949, the sequel to “One Good Deed.”
If they’re like his kids, then maybe it’s not fair to ask if he has a favorite. After all, you wouldn’t ask a parent that. But I do anyway.
“I like all of my characters, or else I wouldn’t spend time with them,” he responded. “Decker is probably the most fun one to write about. It’s hard to predict what he’s going to say or do, and I like that about him. No parameters.”
That statement brings us to another fascinating aspect of Baldacci’s writing. He really doesn’t do more than mini outlines for his books.
“I like to let the plot and characters grow organically,” he said. “I like revelations and epiphanies along the way, those aha moments. If I surprise myself while writing the story, I’m going to knock readers on their butts.”