Nightmare in North Korea

  • Lifestyle
  • Sunday, 18 May 2014

FOR ONLINE USE ONLY: Former legal eagle David Baldacci has been releasing bestselling thrillers for adults and young adults for almost two decades now, and isn't sowing any signs of slowing down. -- Photo by Mariel Kolmschot

Government agents Will Robie and Jessica Reel embark on a deadly mission in David Baldacci's latest novel, The Target.

Bestselling novelist David Baldacci has been called “the master of the thriller”, having enthralled readers with his pulse-pounding plots for almost two decades.

In his latest novel, The Target, Baldacci transports his readers into one of the most enigmatic and most dangerous places on the planet: North Korea.

“North Korea is a threat to us all with its rogue nature and nukes. For that reason I have been interested in them,” writes Baldacci in an e-mail interview.

“It is fascinating to me that such a country could exist in the world, in 2014. Even Iranians are connected to the Internet and use Facebook and Twitter. Not so the North Koreans!”

The Target is the third book in the author’s bestselling Will Robie series, following The Innocent (2012) and The Hit (2013).


Thriller fans probably need no introduction to Baldacci. If you’re meeting him for the first time, here’s some information: He is a native of the state of Virginia in the United States, and a lawyer who first appeared on the literary scene in 1996 with Absolute Power, an acclaimed novel eventually turned into a film in 1997, with Clint Eastwood starring and directing. Baldacci has since published 27 bestselling novels for adults (including The Simple Truth in 1998, Wish You Well in 2001 and, beginning in 2004, the King and Maxwell series) as well as four novels for younger readers. His novels have been translated into over 45 languages, with over 110 million copies of his books in print worldwide.

In The Target, government hitman Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel, find themselves on what may be their toughest mission yet. The US President discovers an opportunity to take down a global menace once and for all – but if the mission fails, he faces certain impeachment, and the threats against America would multiply. With all that riding on their shoulders, the situation gets more complicated with Reel suffering a personal crisis, one that could lead old enemies right to her doorstep, bringing stark danger to all those close to her.

In his e-mail, Baldacci reveals that readers will get an in-depth history of Reel’s past in this book, including some sordid matters she had once been involved in. Was he ever afraid of making his character unlikable?

“Reel was in danger of being unlikable in the last book, The Hit, where she was, in essence, murdering fellow agents. In The Target we really see why Reel is who she is. And I think it will make the readers sympathise with and really respect her more,” Baldacci says.

According to early reviews, some of the most memorable scenes in The Target are its chapters set in a North Korean labour camp. Asked how he created those scenes, Baldacci says it was a matter of research.

“There is a lot of literature available on North Korea and I read a ton of it. I also knew some people with some knowledge of the country and its culture. Then it was up to me to craft fictional characters and choose how much fact I wanted to blend in with the fiction. I think the result is pretty memorable,” the author says.

One of the book’s most discussed points is the character YieChung-Cha, a deadly North Korean female assassin dispatched to take out Robie and Reel.

“I wanted to see if I could take a character who, based on her past, should have not a shred of humanity left and could hardly be blamed for simply being a killing machine, and see if I could find a human being with a beating heart still inside of her. It was a wonderful experience crafting such a character,” Baldacci says.

Apart from The Target, Baldacci also recently published an e-book, Bullseye, which spent eight weeks in the top-selling fiction Kindle e-book singles early this year. This short story is a crossover, featuring Will Robie and Oliver Stone, the protagonist of Baldacci’s bestselling Camel Club novels.

“I’d been wanting to bring the Club back, but hadn’t found the right story. I like when TV shows have crossovers with characters, so I thought why not try it with two of my series? And since Oliver Stone and Will Robie are in the same line of work, it seemed most plausible that I could find a connection between them, which makes the story more plausible,” Baldacci explains.

With all the research he’s done on assassins and US Secret Service agents for his novels, could Baldacci possibly be able to handle such a line of work, we wonder.

“I would have a hard time taking someone’s life unless they were directly threatening me. I get upset when animals are hurt, much less people,” Baldacci replies.

Asked about his future projects, the author says that he is working on a new John Puller thriller entitled The Escape, and the follow-up to his young adult fiction title, The Finisher.

Will there be more crossovers with characters from his different books series?

“I never say never,” Baldacci says.

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