The Influences on TRUST ME

by Jeff Abbott on July 22, 2009

I have talked extremism, bad guys, and heroes: but TRUST ME is at heart about a young man who has lost his father.

That is the spine of the story, but let me talk about a bit that influences that helped me shape it. Because I write often of ordinary people put into extraordinary danger, it’s clear one influence on me is Alfred Hitchcock, who is truly the unrivaled master of the form with films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. And I definitely think that books like PANIC and FEAR (which one reviewer called a homage to Vertigo) show my love for Hitchcock.

But with TRUST ME, even though Luke Dantry is “ordinary”, a psychology grad student with no training in fighting bad guys, I was inspired by a different set of films. I mentioned earlier that 1970s classics such as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor tickled the back of my brain while writing. In this case, those films have an extraordinary paranoid feel to them, which seems to suit our time, and to suit the battle against extremists–who come after Luke in such a way that he cannot turn to the police for help. Like the heroes in those films, no one believes him at first and much of the suspense comes from deciding who to trust. There is also that wonderful suffocating sense of being up against something so much bigger than one man that marks these films.
Secondly, we’ve seen the serial killer profiler type of character–who pieces together a mental picture of a serial killer from the forensic evidence he leaves behind–become a revered part of crime fiction. But I think the next wave of criminal psychology is going to revolve around extremist profiling–determining who is the next Timothy McVeigh, who is the next Unabomber, who is the next suicide bomber, who is likely to be drawn into the orbit of a violent group? How do we stop someone from turning from being angry to being violent on such a grand scale? This is a field still in development, and there are rather different approaches to understanding extremist psychology. Two interesting books (which take very different and times opposite approaches) are Jerrold Post’s The Mind of The Terrorist and former undercover FBI agent Mike German’s Thinking Like a Terrorist. Post has studied extremist groups around the world; German has infiltrated and helped identify and bring down groups in America. Their different perspectives are well worth reading.
Finally, I’m not much for books that try to be soap boxes. I have no agenda. My only goal is to entertain you. But at the same time, the Western world is facing a new and probably unappreciated level of danger from extremist groups or networks. Whenever we hear of an attack derailed, or a group discovered, we can all sort of shudder for a moment and then go back to our daily lives and we forget about it, until the next time. I do not think we should live in constant fear. But we should live in awareness. Most people who will read this have really, really good lives. We do, and they’re worth fighting for. 
All of the above influence and color the book. TRUST ME is really, above all else, apart from all research, the story of one young man who, because his heart was broken, wanted to understand why people turn to evil, and in doing so discovered his own enormous capacity for good.

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kristan July 22, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    You know, I always hate the question “What is your book about?” But I think if I had as good an answer as your last sentence here, I probably wouldn’t mind it.

    Maryann Miller July 22, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Wonderful post, Jeff. It was nice to get to know so much more about why you wrote this book. I think that need to explore relationships and all the emotions surrounding events is a big part of why I write, too. Like you, I don’t believe in whapping the reader over the head with a message, but my stories have to be about more than just the plots.

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