It’s probably true of most authors, but Daniel Silva freely admits it.“I’m something of a selfish writer,” he says. “I write about subjects I find interesting, whether it’s the history of the Middle East, history of the Second World War, history of the Holocaust, art or travel.”Silva’s series of bestselling espionage novels featuring Israeli spy, assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon satisfies all of those selfish needs and more.“Gabriel is a vessel I pour all of my passions into,” Silva says.But he writes so beautifully, so engagingly, that his passions become ours.Silva’s latest, The English Girl (Harper, $27.99, in stores Tuesday), is one of his best.Gabriel is asked by higher-ups in the British government to look into the kidnapping of a young woman in Corsica. The victim is a rising star on the British political scene; she also had an affair with the prime minister. If her recovery isn’t delicately handled, there’s sure to be an embarrassing scandal.Mind you, this being a Daniel Silva novel, it’s going to get much more complicated than merely delivering the ransom and rescuing the girl.Gabriel and his team of operatives, along with unlikely help from a British Special Forces officer-turned-hired killer, will put their espionage talents to good use before the twisty-turny story is resolved.We talked last week with Silva about the book, the 13th in a series that began in 2000 with The Kill Artist. Unlike many authors in your genre, very little blood is spilled onto the pages of your books. There are murders and violent deaths, that’s true, but the reader is spared most of the gory details. Two scenes in The English Girl , however, are significantly grittier than your norm. What changed?It is important to remind readers now and then that Gabriel does have an edge. He’s a good guy, but if you get him riled, especially if you pick on an innocent woman, he’s going to get angry. And while there are two violent scenes, as you’ve noted, they’re not overly gory.The deaths and the bloodshed take place in real time on the page, but I tried to do it as tastefully and as artfully and — this word might sound strange in this context — as elegantly as possible. You’ve brought back Christopher Keller, a British soldier-turned-Corsican hit man, from one of your early novels, The English Assassin , in which he was hired to kill Gabriel. He’s a rich and complicated character. Are you ever tempted to abandon the Gabriel Allon series, if only for a book or two, to write about somebody like Keller?Sure, I am. Then I sit down with my publisher and look at the numbers. As one person in the trade recently told me, it would be “perverse” to freeze the series when it’s working and, more importantly, growing. Because I get more and more readers with each book.You can’t make decisions about art only in terms of dollars and cents. But I have a very loyal fan base and I am very loyal to my loyal fan base. I don’t want to disappoint that loyal fan base.So even though I am tempted, and even though I suspect I’m going to write other books, I fully expect that the next book I produce will be a Gabriel Allon book. In the book, you describe a Russia that is ruthlessly trying to become a global power again, both politically and economically. This isn’t a plot device that you merely imagined, is it?It’s very real. I guess you can’t blame the Russians for wanting to be powerful again. But my point is let’s not pretend anymore, please, that they’re some sort of ally. I would argue that we’ve been in another cold war for some time.They’re profoundly anti-democratic. They’re oppressing political speech and political thought inside the country. And yet they’re still part of the G8. Let’s just not pretend anymore that the Russians are our friends, because they’re not. Is it true that you write your books longhand in pencil on yellow legal pads?It is. I have a stack of legal pads right now, about 2 feet high, that is the next novel. Obviously I produce my books on a computer. What I write on a legal pad, I’m the one who sits at a computer and enters it. I was a journalist and I worked in television, so I am comfortable with technology.But I like lying on the floor and working in pencil. I have a different universe going on in my head. Sometimes it’s better not to interrupt that with the clatter of a keyboard.
The English Girl
by Daniel Silva