David Baldacci on Absolute Power
Twenty years after he wrote it, bestselling author David Baldacci's reflects on the novel that launched his career as a crime fiction writer.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of David Baldacci's first book, Absolute Power. Set at the heart of political power in Washington DC, Absolute Power was the book which launched David's career as a worldwide bestselling crime thriller writer.
Absolute Power was not the first novel I ever started to write, but it was the first one I ever finished. I was working as a lawyer near the White House. I would see the Secret Service agents, both uniformed and suited, and occasionally I’d see the presidential motorcade, and my imagination began to spin.
I started writing the novel in the wee hours of the night, and three long years later the last page was completed. It was a good thing that I was fascinated with the story I was trying to tell; otherwise, I would not have hung in to finish it. That’s just another way of saying it’s important to draw passion into your writing. It’s a long, hard slog.
The idea of a president, a mistress, a burglar and a cover-up seemed original back in the early 1990s. Although, Washington had seen elements of that before: JFK with the mistress and the cover-ups, and Nixon with the burglars. I just mashed them all together in a way no one had ever done before. My burglar turned out to have the highest morals of anyone in the novel. Back then that was radical; today, it probably seems far more realistic!
I had spent years of my writing life being rejected by an assortment of magazines and movie studios, and thus I was under no delusions that publishing houses would not be added to the list of institutions that deemed me unworthy of professional acceptance.
Happily for me, and I hope for my fans that was not the case. Absolute Power changed my life in many ways, both large and small. What it did not change, is how I approach my writing. With every project, I still fear that I will be unable to bring the literary magic once more. But I believe fear is a wonderful antidote to complacency. It provides an edge, a chip on the shoulder, which is vital if one wants to earn their living by the written word.
Spawned from a mind always more comfortable with imaginary elements than simple facts, Absolute Power was the novel that allowed me to live the writing life I always dreamed of, but was never sure would be anything more than fiction.