The most recent entry in the Pendergast series of thrillers by Round Pond author Douglas Preston and his longtime writing partner already has their many fans impatiently awaiting the next.
“Crimson Shore,” the 15th installment in the series by Preston and Lincoln Child, arrived at bookstores in November 2015.
Preston discussed the new book, the collaborative writing process, his other projects, and the status of his relationship with Amazon during a phone interview from his winter home of Santa Fe, N.M., on Jan. 19.
“Crimson Shore” follows FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast as he accepts a seemingly low-key private job: investigating the burglary of a wine cellar and the theft of its contents.
Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, travel to the seaside town of Exmouth, Mass., where their burglary investigation turns into a complex and dangerous case involving a 19th century mass murder, a pair of present-day killings, and rumors of a supernatural evil in the islands off Exmouth.
The end of “Crimson Shore” has fans eagerly awaiting a follow-up, judging by many comments on the duo’s Facebook page.
“We sometimes do end our books with cliffhangers like that,” Preston said. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to sell us the next book,’ but we actually have a long story we want to tell.”
The sequel will arrive a year after the publication of “Crimson Shore,” continuing the rate of a book a year in the Pendergast series since 2009. “It’s about three-quarters written,” Preston said. “It’s due on April 1 and they’ll publish it in November.”
Preston describes the protagonist of his and Child’s bestsellers – “Crimson Shore” debuted at third and sixth place on The New York Times e-book fiction and hardcover fiction lists, respectively – as “a man out of his time.”
“He’s a fish out of water,” Preston said. “He’s a gentleman from the Old South … He has kind of a 19th century sense of courtesy and manners and graciousness that doesn’t exist in the modern world, so he sticks out like a sore thumb.”
The brilliant and resourceful investigator often relies on his wits to escape a jam or outsmart an enemy, although he has a bit of action hero in him as well.
“He was involved in special forces as a younger man, so he brings to his FBI career a lot of skills in fighting and martial arts,” Preston said.
In “Crimson Shore,” Pendergast receives assistance from his ward, Constance Greene.
Greene is “a very eccentric, strange person to begin with, and she herself has anger management problems, to put it mildly,” Preston said. Greene first appeared as a minor character in “The Cabinet of Curiosities” before growing in importance.
Beyond the Pendergast series, Preston and Child have co-authored seven other books.
As they work on each book, Preston and Child each write several chapters from a different character’s point of view, then swap chapters and rewrite the other’s work, which Preston calls “a very difficult process, because we get very angry at each other.”
Twenty-two books in, however, the process seems to work.
“The end result, I think, is better than what we could have accomplished individually,” Preston said.
The Pendergast series started in 1995 with the publication of “Relic,” which was made into a movie.
Preston has at least one more movie in the works, an adaptation of “The Monster of Florence” by Preston and the Italian journalist Mario Spezi. The book is a true story, an account of Preston and Spezi’s experience investigating the serial killer of the title.
Preston and Spezi’s search landed the pair on the wrong side of the often corrupt authorities in Italy. “I can never return to Italy,” Preston wrote in an account of their investigation. Preston was the lucky one – Spezi was jailed for three weeks.
George Clooney has long been attached to the film in the starring role as Preston.
“That’s moving along, slowly, but I think it’s about to pick up here,” Preston said. “They say they’re going to start shooting in late 2016-early 2017,” although some uncertainty remains.
“It’s hard to get a film made these days,” Preston said. “They’ve already spent a lot of money on this film and they’ve gone through several scripts and they’re still working on it, trying to get it right.”
Preston and Spezi are consulting on the project, with the filmmakers seeking their advice about changes from the book.
“You can’t just film the book, so in making those changes, the screenwriter and the director have been talking to us about various ideas they have,” Preston said.
Preston has other projects to keep busy with. In addition to the sequel to “Crimson Shore,” he is working on a nonfiction book about “the discovery of a lost city in Honduras – an ancient Columbian city.”
Preston had recently returned from a trip to Honduras at the time of the interview.
Preston has been writing about the discovery for National Geographic and The New Yorker. He regularly writes about archaeology for both publications, and the subject also crops up in many of his books, fiction or nonfiction.
Preston himself was making national headlines last year, not for a bestseller or a movie, but for mounting a challenge to the negotiating tactics of bookselling giant Amazon.com Inc.
Preston was the spokesman for a group of more than 900 writers who protested Amazon’s ploy of blocking sales of their books in order to gain leverage in negotiations over e-book prices with publishers.
Preston and Child’s publisher, Hachette, resolved its standoff with Amazon prior to the publication of “Crimson Shore.”
“Our publisher and Amazon came to an agreement, and Amazon did come to an agreement with all the New York publishers, so right now there’s kind of an uneasy truce,” Preston said. “When we come up for renegotiation there might be more difficulty, but for now, everything’s calm.”