Can’t we just find something that we can agree upon?
Thrown into a silly unnecessary bathroom dispute that has brought unwelcome international attention, good North Carolinians of all ideological, religious, and political persuasions would like to have something that brings them together.
It happens on May 3 with the release of John Hart’s latest literary thriller, “Redemption Road.” Residents of Hart’s hometown get the jump on the rest of us this Saturday (April 30) when he returns to Salisbury to talk about his book and distribute copies to old friends.
Hart flashed onto the literary scene about 10 years ago, writing four bestselling thrillers in four years, “The King of Lies,” “Down River,” “The Last Child” and “Iron House.” He was the first author to win back-to-back Edgar Awards for Best Novel. He sold more than two million copies of his books.
Then Hart moved his family to Virginia and took a long break. That left his giant fan base missing his bestselling, award-winning literary thrillers. Now he is back with “Redemption Road,” a book that has already drawn widespread praise. Kirkus Reviews says, “Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house – and leave spectators from the orchestra to the balcony moved and misty-eyed.”
And plenty enough, I think, to get our minds off the “Bathroom Bill” at least for a few hours.
When I talked to Hart recently about “Redemption Road,” I wanted to know why it had taken so long and how his writing process differs from those of other writers. The book’s central character, Elizabeth, is a police detective with a complicated background. She holds a firm belief that her mentor in law enforcement, Adam, now being released after serving a long sentence, was wrongfully convicted of a brutal murder of an attractive young mother. Her search for the real killer is the story line that holds Hart’s complex set of plots together.
Hart’s stories are based on characters rather than complicated plots charted in advance. “For me,” he said, “the books always begin with an idea of who the main character is. I have to see this person very, very clearly and know two or three emotional drivers that are going to shape that person throughout the book. Before I know the plot, I always see the character first.
“I’ve met so many novelists through the course of these years and what I’ve discovered is that there’s a large group that outlines everything. They know exactly what they’re going to do before they write the first word of prose. Then there are those like myself who grope and hope. We make it up as we go and we go to bed every night fearful that we’re going to wake up with nothing the next morning, and if you, God forbid, wake up at three in the morning, you’re never getting back to sleep, but I think that’s the most exciting way to write because the outliners, once they’ve got that document, they’re basically building widgets. I mean all the excitement goes out of it. For me, the excitement of the job is getting up every day just eager to see where the story goes.”
Hart’s method works well unless the central character does not click or deliver the kind of story he wanted. When this happened midway through the first version of his current book, he tossed his manuscript and began anew with a different central character, Elizabeth.
The resulting character and story took much longer to write.
It took a long, long time, but “Redemption Road” is worth the wait.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.