Thursday, September 15, 2011

Barry Eisler and The Detachment

You've seen blog tours. You've seen book excerpts on authors' sites. But have you ever seen first five chapters of a to-die-for thriller on five separate blogs? With commentary, interviews and essays?

No you, haven't. It's never been done before.

Our guest today specializes in "never been done before." Barry Eisler has been a CIA operative, a technology lawyer, and a Silicon Valley start-up exec. After his John Rain series achieved critical and commercial success, Barry shocked the literary world by turning down a major contract with one of the Big Six publishers in favor of self publishing. Then he set New York buzzing again when he teamed with Amazon for their groundbreaking digital publishing venture. Smart people in the industry keep an eye on what Barry's doing. Smart readers keep an eye on what he's writing. If you haven't read one of his icy-hot thrillers yet, you're in for a great ride.

JRW: Barry, it's a treat to have you here with an excerpt from The Detachment on the day it goes on sale.

Barry: My pleasure, guys, and thanks for having me.

JRW: A lot of people are excited about the return of your series character, the half-Japanese, half-American assassin John Rain. What made you decide to bring Rain out of retirement? And to combine him with your black ops guy, Ben Treven, and the other characters from the Treven series?

Barry: Well, I never felt like Rain retired exactly. It was more that, at the end of the sixth Rain book, Requiem For An Assassin, it felt like he was going to get a break for a while -- a chance to work things out in Paris with his lover, Mossad agent Delilah. Of course, that romance didn't end happily (for the break-up itself, there's my short story, Paris Is A Bitch), so I imagined Rain back in action in a general sense. And then, as I closed in on the end of my previous book -- Inside Out, a Treven book -- and started thinking about the plot of the next one, I realized my antagonist, JSOC Col. Scott Horton, would need several high-security, high-profile targets to die of what looked like natural causes. Which meant he would need someone like Rainso why not Rain himself?

And once I started thinking about putting into the same mix all the Rain characters and all the Treven characters, I fell in love with the idea. I mean, these guys are all so dangerous, and also so lone-wolf… what would happen if they were forced to work together? They'd barely be able to avoid killing each other. And what would happen if everything went south (because, of course, it's going to), and they're betrayed by their employers, and the entirety of America's metastasized national security state is targeting them… will they turn on each other? Will they be able to avoid that? And if so, how?

So overall, the book became a continuation of the Inside Out plot (though it also works perfectly fine as a standalone) but with Rain as the central character. And I got to drop him into the biggest canvas I've painted to date: rolling terror attacks across America; an attempted coup; presidential hit-teams, secret prisons, White House backstabbing… everything. All as real and timely as I could make it, and quite a challenge for my unlikely team of lone-wolf killers.

Here’s Chapter 4 of Barry’s new thriller, The Detachment, available today exclusively from the Amazon Kindle Store (and in paper in bookstores everywhere on October 18). You can read other chapters, and Q&A with Barry on other topics, at the following blogs:

Chapter 1 – Truthout: The Politics of The Detachment

Chapter 2 – A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing: The book’s unusual path to publication

Chapter 3 – Buzz, Balls & Hype: The book’s image system

Chapter 5 – A Newbie’s Guide to Writing: Publishing a book with Amazon

Chapter 4

Larison stood just beyond the ambit of a streetlight, watching the silent images on the handheld video feed. One second, an empty street; the next, a crazy montage of kaleidoscopic images: limbs/grimaces/a car/a building/the sky flashing past. Darkness. Then the sky again, and glimpses of Rain, apparently going through Beckley’s pockets. Rain’s face in close-up, peering with dawning recognition directly into the button lens on Beckley’s cooling torso. A flash of static, then, finally, darkness.

He heard rapid footfalls from the direction of the Jinbocho subway station and looked up to see Treven come tearing around the corner. Larison pocketed the video monitor and stepped into the street with his arms forward, palms out.

Stop,” he said. “It’s already over.”

Treven slowed, his face registering confusion. Probably he’d been expecting Larison to be riding to the rescue, too, no matter how futile a rescue attempt would be at this point. Meaning he hadn’t absorbed what Larison had told him about the contractors not being part of the team.

Go!” Treven said, moving to go around. “Didn’t you see the video? Rain ambushed them!”

Larison moved with him and shoved him back. Treven’s face darkened and he dropped his weight like a bull about to charge.

Larison held up his hands again. “Don’t make a scene,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do. They’re already dead.”

We don’t know that. Rain’s gone, okay, but—”

They. Are. Dead.”

Treven straightened and some of the tension went out of his body. “What about the cell phones?” he said. “The equipment. We need to retrieve it.”

Rain took it all.”

How the hell do you—”

Wouldn’t you have? But it doesn’t matter. I watched him, over the video feed. He took the equipment and he’s gone.”

Treven watched him silently for a moment. Then he said, “You were close enough. You could have done something, if you’d wanted to.”

Larison glanced at the street behind him, then back at Treven. In some ways, he sympathized with Treven, who Larison understood was grappling with his recent first contact with the real world in the same way Larison once had. On the other hand, he didn’t care for Treven’s stubborn patriotism, which he found sanctimonious and na├»ve. And he hated that Treven knew his secret, having discovered Nico, Larison’s other life, when he’d tracked Larison to Costa Rica, looking for the torture tapes Larison had stolen.

You manipulated them,” Treven said. “All that talk about taking the point… you goaded them. Because you knew what would happen.”

Larison shrugged. “What did I owe them? They were sent over here to spy on me. On both of us.”

Treven’s expression was incredulous bordering on disgusted. “They were Americans.”

Larison blew out a long breath. The contractors had been a hindrance, and he had gotten rid of them. It was no more complicated than that. He tried to remember a time when such a thing would have been a problem, when he might have paused beforehand and maybe even felt a pang of conscience after. He couldn’t. It had been too long ago, and too much had happened since.

What does that have to do with anything?” he said.

Treven shook his head. “You’re a burnout.”

Larison didn’t respond. He didn’t know what to do. Kill Treven? But he needed him to get to Hort, and anyway Hort knew about Nico, too.

But once Hort was dead…

Once Hort was dead, the only person who would even know Larison was alive, let alone about his other life, would be Treven. Plus Rain, soon enough, and this other guy they were supposed to find. Larison needed them for now, he knew that. But once Hort was dead, all they’d represent would be downside.

Use the others to finish Hort, then finish them, too. Walk away with the diamonds, and silence everyone who posed a threat.

It was perfect. It could be done. All he had to do was bait the hook. The rest would take care of itself.

He tried not to smile. “Let’s just call Rain,” he said.


  1. The marketing approach seems different, certainly. Not going to start at Chapter 4, so I traveled to the site for One, but couldn't easily find the chapter. I did see a whole lot of political stories, some headlines for which I found offensively stupid. I must not be Barry's target audience.

  2. Hi Barry, so pleased to have you on JRW! and we can't wait to host you at the Crimebake:).


  3. I'd love to try this one! What a first chapter!

  4. Hi Barry. Good to see you here.
    This is a great marketing approach--I may just steal it.
    Good luck with the new book

  5. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone, and Lucy, Rhys and everyone else at JRW, thanks for having me here!

    Austin, Chapter 1 is up on Truthout now with some Q&A on the politics of the book. Have a look and see what you think, and no worries if the politics put you off. All political thrillers are political (by definition); when they mesh with our worldview, though, they seem apolitical, and it's only those that are at odds with our beliefs that strike us as "political." That might be the case here.

    Thanks, Harvee, and hope you enjoy!

  6. Thanks for the personal invite and the explanation. I enjoyed the first chapter -- my first ever taste of Rain. I also think you're right about the news and one's personal world view. It's the only explanation I can come up with for what passes as journalism these days.

    Thanks, Barry. And good luck on your very bold venture!

  7. I just downloaded "Paris is a Bitch" for my Kindle. I love short stories.

    Guess you'll be acquiring a new fan.

  8. Excellent read. I highly recommend. However if you're not familiar with John Rain, may I suggest that you read the entire series from the beginning starting with Rain Fall and then move onto Fault Line and Inside Out. Barry's engine doesn't run out of steam.