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July 29, 2009

Linwood Barclay on Fear the Worst

Fear the Worst hits bookstores in just a couple of weeks, and many
readers are already calling it the best of my thrillers so far. Fast-
moving, loads of suspense, a real page-turner. But something no one
seems to have zeroed in on is the thing that makes this thriller very

The hero is a car salesman.

In most thrillers, our protagonist is, to varying degrees, familiar
with crime and those who practice it. Maybe he or she’s a spy, or ex-
military. A cop or a private detective. An FBI agent. A profiler, maybe.
But the hero is not, generally, someone who sells Honda Accords.
People who sell Hondas are not typically acquainted with the bad guy
element. (I’d like to go out on a limb here and say this is also true
of people who sell Fords, Toyotas, Nissans, and most other makes.) Tim
Blake, who tells the story and sells Hondas for a living, has had his
share of troubles over the years, but none that brought him face to
face with fraud artists, human traffickers and killers. But when his
daughter Sydney goes missing, he finds himself getting introduced to a
whole new class of people.

When I was thinking about what the hero in this book would do for a
living, I knew I didn’t want it to be police work. I had no interest
in having him work for a secret government agency. I didn’t want him
to be a reporter. (That’s my next book.) I wanted him to have a
normal, everyday job. And that’s when “car salesman” popped into my

Let’s face it, car salesmen get kind of a bad rap. And that’s too bad.
I have a couple of good friends who have sold cars their entire
working lives. I’ve bought cars from them, and i’ve been happy with
the deals they gave me. And they both helped me with this book.
But our relationship with car salesmen (and saleswomen) tends to be
somewhat adversarial. We want to get the car for as little as
possible. They want to make the deal, getting as much profit as
possible. We need wheels and they need the commission. We say we can’t
spend that much, they say they can’t do it for that. Finally, they
say, “Let me talk to my manager and see what we can do.”
That, we figure, is when they wander out back of the dealership and
have a smoke.

Anyway, once I’d made up my mind what Tim was going to do for a
living, I invited my retired car salesmen friends Carl and Mike out
for lunch and asked them to tell me their best stories. LIke the one
where the guy took a pickup truck for a test drive and used it to
deliver manure. (That story finds its way into Fear the Worst.) Or
that other test-drive when a new Toyota Celica ended up sitting atop a
fireplug, and the prospective buyer was nowhere to be found. They had
great tales, and what came out was that they’d really enjoyed their
careers. Why? “Because of the people,” they both said.

I like writing about people — regular people. I like writing about
what happens to ordinary folks when extraordinary things happen to
them. Tim Blake is a regular guy about to be plunged into a parent’s
worst nightmare. Nothing in his life has prepared him for what’s about
to happen.

I like that.

I just returned from promoting Fear the Worst in New Zealand, having already spent a few days in Hong Kong and two weeks in Australia. Everyone down here is pumped about Fear the Worst, and I’m hoping North American readers will feel the same when the book comes out Aug. 11.

Comments (1) | Permalink    


July 30, 2009 14:37
Posted by: Karoline

I'm halfway reading on this one and it's a great book so far! I think it's cool that a used everyday car salesman is used. It adds more realism to the plot. I can't wait to finish this book!