Jeff Abbott is the award-winning author of ten mystery and suspense novels, including the latest thriller, Trust Me.
It's an honor to have him as guest blogger today, with his comments about the ordinary person as hero. Thank you, Jeff, for taking time to write.
By Jeff Abbott
I am one of those people who marches into life with a limited skill set. I can change a flat tire, and check my oil, but I can’t fix my car’s engine. I can haul my laptop to the Apple store when it freaks but I can’t diagnose it myself. I can cook eggs but not eggs Benedict.
I’m ordinary. Which I why I love writing about ordinary people.
An interviewer made an interesting comment about my novels this past week. She said, “Your books are like a Bourne film or a season of 24, but the difference is you put a regular person in the middle of the action.” And that was a very apt comment. (Interestingly, the same interviewer said she thought this was why my thrillers are popular with women and book clubs.) But there are serious challenges in writing a book with “Mr. Ordinary” as a hero. We know that Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer have the survival skills necessary to navigate a dark world of intrigue and danger. When you have an ordinary person put into extraordinary danger, you make every mountain much taller for them to climb. How do they survive when they don’t have survival skills? I always have to consider these elements in writing an ordinary hero.
Fighting. The heroes in my thrillers—a documentary film maker in Panic, a business consultant in Collision, a psychology grad student in Trust Me—are not trained ninjas. They are often up against experienced killers. So it is a challenge to find ways for them to physically outmaneuver much tougher and more brutal opponents. My heroes have to be smarter, more clever, than an enemy who simply swings fists or opens fire with a gun. I carefully choreograph the action scenes, trying to find new and original, yet plausible, ways for them to triumph. It’s great fun and it forces me, I hope, to be inventive.
Courage. My feeling is that most of us have vast resources of bravery that life never demands that we tap. So much of the emotional texture in my books are my heroes and heroines finding those undiscovered reservoirs of courage. What they confront in my pages is the worst situation in their lives, and they have to stare it in the face. No blinking, no retreat. They are scared to death, but they battle on. I think we have to remember, as a society, that there are worse things than fear.
Adaptability. My heroes don’t have training to help them survive. But what they do have are a set of real-world skills to help them outfight their enemies. In Panic, Evan Casher’s work as a story teller gives him the ability to create a fiction that outwits a fearsome killer. In Collision, Ben Forsberg’s business expertise helps him unravel a murderous conspiracy that threatens our nation’s security—and reveals to him his wife’s killer. In Trust Me, Luke Dantry’s studies in psychology help him deceive and manipulate an entire network of extremists determined to destroy society. They fight differently than typical thriller heroes because they rely on their life experiences for an unexpected edge over their opponents.
I love writing about ordinary heroes, because they are us. They share our fears, our worries, our strengths, our weaknesses. Regular folks can make a difference in the face of real evil. They remind us all, I hope, that our everyday lives are actually very special and extraordinary.
Thank you, Jeff, for making us take another look at ourselves. Jeff Abbott's website is www.jeffabbott.com.
Trust Me by Jeff Abbott. Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780525951216 (hardcover), 384p.