The Preston-Child Brand: A Symbiosis

Lincoln Child is a writer. A good one who has written several solo bestsellers–only one of which I have read: Terminal Freeze (2009). Douglas Preston is a writer. A good one who has written several solo bestsellers, both fiction and non-fiction. His most famous is the Monster of Florence (2008), a true-crime story written with Italian journalist Mario Spezi. Monster is currently being translated for the big screen, starring George Clooney.

So, Child is chocolate and Preston is peanut butter. Whoops! What happens when you put the two together? A whole new treat. This happened in the mid-90s when the two collaborated on The Relic (1995), which was later made into a motion picture. That was just the beginning. Together, in a new symbiosis, Preston and Child have produced 18 novels, not one of which I have missed. Together, these two men have collaborated on books that involve the readers in ways that many writers aspire to but few actually succeed.

In the process, they have introduced us to unforgettable characters like ethereal special agent Aloysius Pendergast and the hardcore Vincent D’Agosto.

Their latest novel features the newest of their characters, a nuclear scientist named Gideon Crew. Crew was first introduced in their 2011 novel Gideon’s Sword. As you can imagine, Crew is damaged goods. As a child he saw his father shot down by federal agents for a crime he did not commit, and spent his life trying to salvage his family name.

Gideon’s Corpse (Grand Central Publishing, 2012) , finds Crew–a man under a death sentence due to an inoperable aneurysm–in the middle of a plot that can’t help resonating with readers today: a terrorist attempt to detonate a nuclear device located–somewhere. Where? Well, that’s one of the problems. Nobody knows for sure.

Preston and Child take their cues from Hollywood, and from action films like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Narrow escapes, relentless chases, and suspenseful physical confrontations abound in the pages of their books and this latest is no exception. There is also an unlikely love affair between Crew and a much-younger woman who is the daughter of a suspect. Of course, as is the case in fiction, the sex is “spectacular,” and it is amazing how quickly the young woman goes from being furious over her kidnapping by Crew to clawing at his clothing.

The story line–excepting perhaps the “spectacular” sex which never happens for guys in real life–is plausible, and its plausibility is what kept me turning pages. It is a very real concern these days that some rogue terrorists might get their hands on a nuclear device, whether small enough to put in a suitcase or so big it has to go in a minivan–and set it off somewhere in this country. Preston and Child keep the reader engaged with the preparations made by the military, the CIA, Homeland Security, and a host of other agencies who work to identify possible targets, evacuate heavily populated areas, and work tirelessly to find out who the culprits are before the device is detonated.

Tension is something that Preston and Child have honed to a fine edge. In Gideon’s Corpse, there is tension between Crew and the FBI Agent Fordyce (he trusts him, then he doesn’t, then he does); between Crew and the federal agencies who use him but fear his “lone wolf” tactics; between Crew and his new lover (she hates him, then she ravishes him, then she doesn’t trust him); and her father (he’s not a suspect, then he is a suspect). It’s Exhausting. It’s Exhilarating. It’s so damned much fun!

Preston and Child have scored another hit with Gideon’s Corpse. If history is any indicator, you may be seeing this in a movie theater near you in a very few years.

Copyright March 2, 2012 Isaac Morris

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