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.
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.