Best-selling author to sign books today in Natchez

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A book signing today by best-selling author Greg Iles continues his tradition of remembering where the first seeds of his craft were sown &8212; 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 &8220;True Evil,&8221; 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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&8220;People always want to know what made you a writer,&8221; Iles said. &8220;For me, I really give Trinity the most credit, the women who taught me at Trinity.&8221;

The new novel, with a release date of Dec. 12, already has earned a starred review at Publishers Weekly. &8220;It&8217;s a good story and fast moving,&8221; Iles said.

He likened the impact of the book to &8220;Dead Sleep&8221; and &8220;24 Hours,&8221; both popular thrillers but not what Iles called &8220;issue-based,&8221; as was &8220;Blood Memory,&8221; for one.

The name of his latest book came from an e-mail message from a fan. &8220;I came to realize that she puts a quote at the end of all of her e-mails,&8221; Iles said. &8220;This one was, &8216;true evil is a face you know and a voice you trust.&8217;&8221;

Iles tried to find the author of the line. &8220;She didn&8217;t know the attribution, and I searched but never found it. I use it as an epigraph and attribute it to &8216;anonymous.&8217;&8221;

The idea in the saying is the theme of the new book. &8220;We tend to think of true evil in terms of something like the Holocaust, but in our lives today it&8217;s not the colossal evil that is the true evil; it&8217;s betrayal.&8221;

Even the closest of friends and relatives really do not know each other, he said. &8220;None of us really knows anyone or what anybody is really thinking.&8221;

&8220;True Evil&8221; is another book set in Natchez. &8220;With each successive book on Natchez, I expected negative reaction,&8221; he said. He didn&8217;t get it until &8220;Turning Angel&8221; was released.

&8220;The reaction to that was strikingly harsh,&8221; he said, going on to emphasize that he writes fiction. &8220;Reality is not interesting enough. You have to arrive at a more universal experience as a writer.&8221;

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

That may happen with &8220;True Evil&8221; as it has with other books &8220;It&8217;s like a blood sport. People will immediately start putting faces to names.&8221;

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

&8220;A good bit of the story happens at a fictionalized hospital setting in Natchez and then at a fictionalized UMC in Jackson,&8221; Iles said.

The pressure to write is intense, he said.

&8220;My tours are getting shorter and shorter.&8221; His British publisher wanted him to take a two-week tour to Australia and New Zealand, where his work is very popular.

&8220;I don&8217;t have the time,&8221; he said. &8220;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.&8221;

The craft is not an easy one. It is a distillation process, Iles said. &8220;The trick is not knowing what to leave in but what to take out.&8221;

Iles looks forward to the day when he can take two years to write the truly definitive novel based on Natchez. &8220;That day is coming,&8221; he said.

Meanwhile, he lives and works in a field that really is quite small, he said. &8220;Being a commercial novelist is a very special compromise.&8221;

The number of writers whose works consistently appear on the best-seller lists is not a large number. And for most there is a &8220;very limited arc of popularity. It will peak and it will descend,&8221; he said.

&8220;If I stop for two years, am I still going to be the same Greg Iles that I am now?&8221; 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 &8220;Turning Angel&8221; is No. 2 in sales in its paperback fiction category, behind Stephen King&8217;s &8220;Cell,&8221; which was No. 1

The paperback market has been good to Iles. &8220;The bulk of the sales of books are in paperback,&8221; he said.

With each successive novel, he realizes his status as a writer is changing, Iles said. &8220;I used to feel like the young guy in the business. But now I&8217;m in the established category.&8221;