David Baldacci talks his flawed detective and his latest yarn, ‘The Fix’

The man who wasn’t all there

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Photo: Alexander James

Amos Decker, the former professional football player and ex-cop-turned-private detective in best-selling author David Baldacci’s most popular series, is flawed.

Decker is a former professional football player who was blindsided on his first regular-season play. When he wakes up — after dying twice on the field before the team’s head trainer successfully revived him — his brain has rewired itself. Decker now has hyperthymesia, a condition that gives him an extraordinary memory, and synesthesia, a mixing of the senses. After his family is murdered, he ends up homeless. Eventually, he becomes a PI. Today, he’s got a bad knee and a belly, and all of those memories that just won’t go away.

“I love Amos Decker,” Baldacci said. “He has so many flaws. He crashes and burns a lot. He’s got this superpower that lifts him above other people in a narrow way.”

Baldacci uses Decker’s conditions to his advantage.

“With Decker’s perfect memory, I can take the plot in a new direction and turn it on a dime,” he said. “For three-quarters of the book, readers have no idea where the plot is going.”

That’s good, because the lawyer-turned-author whose books have sold more than 110 million copies and have been adapted for feature films and television doesn’t outline the whole story when he starts writing a new book. “It evolves day by day. I never know the ending before I write it,” he said. “I try to get a feel for a character.”

In “The Fix,” the third and latest book in the series that will be released April 18, Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters, where a man shoots a woman execution-style on a crowded sidewalk before turning the gun on himself. The killing baffles Decker, who cannot find a connection between the shooter and the victim.

Decker and his team are ordered to back off the case by an agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who believes solving the murder is a matter of national security because critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government or an international terrorist group. An attack may be imminent.

Baldacci, who will be in Greenville on the release date for a talk and signing at the Thornblade Club, uses Decker’s unusual memory to go back in time — and the series — to humanize his character and the struggles he faces.

“It has to be judicious,” he said. “His life is like a rollercoaster ride. You can’t have the entire story being plunging down the scary mountain. In past books, I use his memories as a way to take a deep breath, to take a rest,” he said.

Baldacci, who is authoring several series, said the creative process is difficult, and although he’s a global success, he sometimes thinks he can’t do it again. “Fear is the antidote to complacency. There’s the fear that you’re not going to be able to do this again and I think that gives you an edge.”

Baldacci said passion is the reason he’s been successful.

“You’ve got to get passion in the pages. Young writers oftentimes will chase what’s hot or what’s trendy. You do that and halfway through writing the book, you have no interest in it,” he said. “If you write about something that you would love to do one to three years of research on, that passion translates to the pages. That’s what lifts you out of the slush pile.”

David Baldacci book talk and signing
April 18, 6 p.m.
Thornblade Club, 1275 Thornblade Blvd., Greer
$55, includes copy of “The Fix”
864-675-0540 // fiction-addiction.com

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