Talking with Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
"Reading out loud is the purest and most ancient form of storytelling," says Douglas Preston, half of the Preston-Child team that has so far created nine novels. Their books cross the boundaries from thriller to horror to science fiction to mystery, creating a challenge for booksellers to pigeonhole them into a single genre. Co-author Lincoln Child explains, "In difficult times people seem to frequently turn away from real horrors to invented ones--horrors they can switch off when they feel like it. Our books aren't horror; they're techno-thrillers with a frisson of the supernatural."
The two men began their long collaboration while Preston was working as manager of publications at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and Child was working at St. Martin's Press, editing a book about dinosaur fossils for the museum. Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. rex, Child turned to Preston and said: "This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!" That thriller was RELIC (1996), which introduced the mysterious FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast and launched the Lincoln-Child collaboration.
Doug Preston says, "A good story must have at its heart a mystery, and it must surprise. It has to stretch the boundaries of human experience and take me to a place or a situation I've never been in before." A fan of Homer's Odyssey, Preston admits, "When I'm reading it, I imagine myself in an ancient palace on the Aegean coast, before a huge fire, surf sounding in the background, with a bard reciting the lines to an audience--children running around and dogs barking in the background. That's how literature should ideally be consumed, as a public activity, spoken out loud.
"It's always instructive to hear a good reader read your work," continues Preston, whose books have been narrated by David Birney, Scott Brick, David Colacci, and René Auberjonois. "It points out hidden strengths and weaknesses, and it helps you hear the music (or lack thereof) of your prose." Other readers have included Eric Stoltz, who read Child's solo novel, UTOPIA, and Scott Sowers, who read Preston's two recent solo novels, THE CODEX and TYRANNOSAUR CANYON.
Preston recalls how Eric Stoltz made several guest appearances during a recent book tour. "The audience loved it. It was fascinating to hear how the reader captures the characters' vocal inflections. More authors should meet their audio narrators."
Child adds, "We've been lucky in that all those who have read our books for the audio edition have been exceptionally empathetic with the kind of story we try to write." "Pendergast is a special challenge," Preston told us. "René Auberjonois handles him beautifully. The Audie that Dance of Death won I largely ascribe to his brilliant reading."
Next up will be BOOK OF THE DEAD, to be published in June, which Lincoln Child told us "is the culmination of the Pendergast trilogy that began with Brimstone and continued with DANCE OF DEATH. Doug and I are also planning joint and solo projects for 2006 and beyond. My next solo thriller, DEEP STORM, is scheduled for publication in March 2007."
Preston says, "Linc and I haven't decided whether to give Pendergast a well-earned vacation or to feature him in a completely different kind of mystery. Stay tuned."--Steven Steinbock
DEC 05/ JAN 06
© AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine
Photo © Christine Preston, Kramer Photographers