Iles to sign books today

Published 6:00 am Saturday, December 9, 2006

A book signing today by best-selling author Greg Iles continues his tradition of remembering where the first seeds of his craft were sown — at Trinity Episcopal School in Natchez.

From noon to 3 p.m., Iles, whose books consistently have made the New York Times and other best-seller lists, will sign “True Evil,” his 11th novel, another thriller and page turner, he said Friday.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books, $30 each, will go directly to the school.

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“People always want to know what made you a writer,” Iles said. “For me, I really give Trinity the most credit, the women who taught me at Trinity.”

The new novel, with a release date of Dec. 12, already has earned a starred review at Publishers Weekly. “It’s a good story and fast moving,” Iles said.

He likened the impact of the book to “Dead Sleep” and “24 Hours,” both popular thrillers but not what Iles called “issue-based,” as was “Blood Memory,” for one.

The name of his latest book came from an e-mail message from a fan. “I came to realize that she puts a quote at the end of all of her e-mails,” Iles said. “This one was, ‘true evil is a face you know and a voice you trust.’”

Iles tried to find the author of the line. “She didn’t know the attribution, and I searched but never found it. I use it as an epigraph and attribute it to ‘anonymous.’”

The idea in the saying is the theme of the new book. “We tend to think of true evil in terms of something like the Holocaust, but in our lives today it’s not the colossal evil that is the true evil; it’s betrayal.”

Even the closest of friends and relatives really do not know each other, he said. “None of us really knows anyone or what anybody is really thinking.”

“True Evil” is another book set in Natchez. “With each successive book on Natchez, I expected negative reaction,” he said. He didn’t get it until “Turning Angel” was released.

“The reaction to that was strikingly harsh,” he said, going on to emphasize that he writes fiction. “Reality is not interesting enough. You have to arrive at a more universal experience as a writer.”

Still, readers will continue to read real people and situations into his books in his hometown, Iles said.

That may happen with “True Evil” as it has with other books “It’s like a blood sport. People will immediately start putting faces to names.”

In the new book, as has been the case with some of the earlier novels, medical technology plays a role.

“A good bit of the story happens at a fictionalized hospital setting in Natchez and then at a fictionalized UMC in Jackson,” Iles said.

The pressure to write is intense, he said.

“My tours are getting shorter and shorter.” His British publisher wanted him to take a two-week tour to Australia and New Zealand, where his work is very popular.

“I don’t have the time,” he said. “I have another 500-page novel due June 30. I have ideas. I have to choose an idea and percolate the idea and then execute it.”

The craft is not an easy one. It is a distillation process, Iles said. “The trick is not knowing what to leave in but what to take out.”

Iles looks forward to the day when he can take two years to write the truly definitive novel based on Natchez. “That day is coming,” he said.

Meanwhile, he lives and works in a field that really is quite small, he said. “Being a commercial novelist is a very special compromise.”

The number of writers whose works consistently appear on the best-seller lists is not a large number. And for most there is a “very limited arc of popularity. It will peak and it will descend,” he said.

“If I stop for two years, am I still going to be the same Greg Iles that I am now?” he said.

The Greg Iles he is now, author of 11 highly successful novels, has seen his work translated into more than a dozen languages in more than 20 countries.

Recently, Barnes & Noble bookstore reported that “Turning Angel” is No. 2 in sales in its paperback fiction category, behind Stephen King’s “Cell,” which was No. 1

The paperback market has been good to Iles. “The bulk of the sales of books are in paperback,” he said.

With each successive novel, he realizes his status as a writer is changing, Iles said. “I used to feel like the young guy in the business. But now I’m in the established category.”