Baldacci, David 1960–
Baldacci, David 1960–
(David G. Baldacci, David Ford, David B. Ford, David Baldacci Ford)
Born 1960, in Richmond, VA; married; wife's name Michelle; children: Spencer, Collin. Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, B.A.; University of Virginia, J.D.
Home—Northern VA. Agent—Aaron Priest Literary Agency, 708 3rd Ave., 23rd Fl., New York, NY 10017-4301.
Writer. Former trial and corporate lawyer in Washington, DC. Board member of Virginia Commonwealth University, Library of Virginia, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Virginia Blood Services. Wish You Well Foundation, cofounder, 1999. Ambassador, National Multiple Sclerosis Society; volunteer for literacy and other causes.
W.H. Smith's Thumping Good Read Award for fiction, 1997, for Absolute Power.
Absolute Power, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Total Control, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Winner, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Simple Truth, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Saving Faith, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Last Man Standing, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Christmas Train, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Split Second, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Hour Game, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Camel Club, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Collectors, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Simple Genius, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Stone Cold, Grand Central Pub. (New York, NY), 2007.
Author's works have been translated into over thirty languages. Author uses the pseudonyms David Ford; David B. Ford; and David Baldacci Ford on his books published in Italy.
Wish You Well (young-adult novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Fries Alive! (for children), illustrated by Rudy Baldacci, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
The Mystery of Silas Finklebean (for children), illustrated by Patrick Harrington, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Panorama (Italy), UVA Lawyer, Welt am Sonntag (Germany), Tatler (United Kingdom), New Statesman, and USA Today Magazine. Also author of unproduced screenplays.
Absolute Power was adapted by William Goldman as a film starring Clint Eastwood and produced by Castle Rock, 1997. Rights to Total Controlwere sold to Columbia/TriStar. The 2002 USA cable network pilot McCourt & Stein was based on a novel by Baldacci. Many of Baldacci's novels have been adapted as audiobooks.
Praised by legions of fans for his tantalizing premises and fast action, David Baldacci is the best-selling author of suspense novels such as Absolute Power, Wish You Well, and Last Man Standing. A former lawyer, Baldacci is frequently compared by critics to novelist John Grisham, although his more recent novels have strayed far from the style of his debut, 1996's Absolute Power. While sometimes panned by critics, Baldacci's rise to the best-seller lists has been characterized by many as meteoric, fueled by a screen adaptation of his first novel that starred popular actor Clint Eastwood. An advocate of literacy, Baldacci has also written for younger children, and in 1999 he joined his wife in founding the Wish You Well Foundation as a way of supporting family literacy through developing and helping existing literacy programs throughout the United States.
Beginning to write regularly while in law school, Baldacci first tried his hand at short stories and screenplays, but he did not finish anything for the first five years. He collected numerous rejections and then turned his attention to the novel format. After penning the opening chapter of a thriller, he contacted several agents and received nearly as many offers to represent him. Baldacci spent the next two years writing Absolute Power, working as a lawyer by day and writing from ten p.m. to three a.m. When the manuscript was finished it was sold in just one day. In a Writer's Digest interview with Audrey T. Hingley, Baldacci described his so-called overnight success as taking "eleven years and probably 10,000 discarded pages."
Described by a Kirkus Reviews critic as "the mother of all presidential cover-ups," Absolute Power mixes politics and petty theft. In the novel, veteran thief Luther Whitney is robbing a billionaire's home when he is interrupted by the lady of the house and her lover, the president of the United States. As Whitney watches from a closet, the couples' sexual foreplay turns violent and the woman defends herself against the president with a letter opener. Angered, the president calls in the Secret Service men who have accompanied him to the house; they shoot and kill the woman. Whitney, who has witnessed all, remains undetected until he leaves the house in possession of the letter opener. Now he becomes the focus of a secret manhunt, and while trying to save his own life, he attempts to seek justice for the dead woman, blackmail the president, and otherwise get his revenge. When he fears he may soon be discovered, he involves lawyer Jack Graham, his daughter's former fiancé, to help prove that the president is a ruthless villain.
While some critics identified faults in Absolute Power, the consensus was that the novel was sure to please readers and filmgoers. In Booklist, Gilbert Taylor wrote that, while the book "could stand some polishing in plot and story structure," its adaptability to film "ensures demand for a tale that is all action and no message." A Publishers Weekly critic dubbed the book a "sizzler of a first novel," adding that, while "Baldacci doesn't peer too deeply into his characters' souls … he's … a first-rate storyteller." A Kirkus Reviews contributor was disappointed that, despite the novel's "arresting premise," Absolute Power ultimately distills into "an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins." Jean Hanff Korelitz came to a similar conclusion in the New York Times Book Review but credited the problem to the novelist's relative inexperience. The thriller's "lack of suspense may result from the fact that Jack, its apparent hero, remains at the periphery of the story until it is nearly over," Korelitz maintained, concluding that Baldacci "brings an insider's savvy" to the story but lacks the necessary experience in plotting.
Baldacci's sophomore effort, Total Control, begins when lawyer Sidney Archer learns that her husband, Jason, has died in a plane crash. However, she later discovers that the death may have been a hoax and that Jason has disappeared in possession of high-tech corporate secrets. As the questions mount, Sidney loses her job and soon finds herself pursued by a group of assassins seeking an encrypted computer disk Jason presumably mailed to himself. Aided by an FBI agent who is her only trustworthy form of help, Sidney attempts to protect herself and her young daughter from a variety of evil competitors.
Total Control received the inevitable comparisons with Baldacci's blockbuster Absolute Power, a Publishers Weekly reviewer writing that the author's "windy thriller shows a slack authorial hand and generates only a fraction of the chills in Baldacci's bombastically effective debut." Kathy Piehl, reviewing Total Control for Library Journal, wrote that the novelist "writes strictly for action, not wasting time developing characters or setting." In Booklist, critic Donna Seaman praised Total Control as more suspenseful than Absolute Power, and "also far more interesting in terms of the questions it raises about how much technology controls us."
Other thrillers have followed from Baldacci's pen, among them The Winner, The Simple Truth, Last Man Standing, and Saving Faith. In The Winner, unwed mother Luann Tyler is offered the opportunity to share in a rigged one-hundred-million-dollar national lottery jackpot by a mysterious man named Jackson. Although she first declines, after she witnesses the murder of her drug-addict boyfriend and then kills the assailant in self-defense, she eventually takes Jackson's offer as a way of evading a murder charge. Although Luann agrees to leave the country permanently, she returns ten years later and becomes a target for murder. A man's wish to overturn his murder conviction is at the core of The Simple Truth, when felon Rufus Harms learns he was drugged at the time he supposedly murdered a young girl. When Harms's appeal to the Supreme Court is purloined by do-gooder law clerk Michael Fiske, the clerk becomes the target of the murderous conspirators that originally orchestrated Harms's imprisonment. Saving Faith finds whistleblower Faith Lockhart targeted by a hit man after she decides to reveal all she knows to the FBI, aided in her efforts to stay alive by a local private investigator who may or may not be trustworthy. The massacre of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team takes center stage in Last Man Standing, when lone team survivor Web London joins forces with psychiatrist Claire Daniels to find out why he alone survived the deadly ambush. Not surprisingly, Web's investigation sparks further murders as his search takes him from the nation's capital to rural Virginia.
Characteristically, despite his continued position at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, Baldacci has earned mixed reviews for his work. In his New York Times review of The Winner, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt complained that while the novel's text is "full of mixed metaphors and malapropisms," Baldacci's ending is full of the effective surprises that will make it an "inevitable" best seller. Reviewing the same novel, a Publishers Weekly critic cited the story's "suspense, excitement and bankability," adding that although Baldacci reuses plot elements from earlier books, "his strong characters and sheer Grishamlike exuberance … will … thrust the novel toward the top of the charts." While a Kirkus Reviews contributor dismissed The Simple Truth as "a tiresome potboiler" and "just another big, silly book about lawyers," a Publishers Weekly writer maintained that, "for foxy plotting, [Baldaccci] is easily Grisham's peer." While The Simple Truth "isn't Baldacci's most original book," the critic added, "it's his most generously textured, distinguished by delvings into family psychodramatics." Reviewing Saving Faith, a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that while the plotting is somewhat overwrought, the storyline "moves fast … and its players and suspense are strong."
The nation's capital is the setting of The Camel Club, which introduces a cabal of four middle-aged men who have a shared suspicion of those who wield political power. Known by the pseudonyms Stone, Reuben, Caleb, and Milton, the members of the Camel Club keep pace with the news outside the mainstream, including conspiracy theories and back-room rumors. When members witness a murder on remote Roosevelt Island, they find themselves at the center of one of the most threatening intrigues they could imagine, and ultimately call on Secret Service agent Alex Ford to stop an apocalyptic event of international proportions. As The Collectors opens, the Camel Club has failed in its efforts to avert a national tragedy. Now the club's members are determined to stop further violence and plug a leak of information that compromises the safety of the nation. The murder of the director of the Library of Congress provides another clue to the puzzle, while the added help of a sexy con artist named Annabelle Conroy puts a potential wrinkle in the Camel Club's ongoing efforts. Calling the novelist "a master at building suspense," Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley predicted that the high-octane ending of The Camel Club "will leave readers breathless," and Library Journal contributor Ken Bolton wrote that the novel's "terrifyingly vivid plot has more twists and turns than any conspiracy theorist could ever conceive." Reviewing The Collectors, Booklist contributor Allison Block cited Baldacci's "crisp, economical prose" and wrote that the novel's "cast of spies, misfits, and assassins" will prompt "even the most patriotic citizen [to] question the American political system."
Baldacci turns to murder in Split Second and its sequels Hour Game and Simple Genius, all of which feature former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. Retired from the service and working as an attorney, King returns to sleuthing when a colleague is found dead. Active agent Maxwell is drawn into the hunt when the man she is assigned to guard goes missing, the target of kidnappers. As more victims surface, the two team up on a mystery that grows more complex with every new clue. In Hour Game King and Maxwell join forces to track down a serial killer with a timely signature: each victim is found wearing a wristwatch on which time has stopped. As the murders continue, the trail leads to the Battle family, a small-town, Virginia clan whose mysterious past is unearthed by the sleuths as they close in on the fastidious killer. In a Booklist review of Split Second, Huntley wrote that the "thriller is sustained by the pulse-pounding suspense … [Baldacci's] fans have come to expect," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer dubbed the sequel an "utterly absorbing, complex mystery-thriller that spins in unexpected directions." Noting that the villain's identity remains hidden until the novel's final pages, the Publishers Weekly reviewer added that Hour Game rewards readers with a "snappy surprise ending will have Baldacci's many fans remembering why they love this author so much."
King and Maxwell again team up in Simple Genius. First, however, Maxwell must get King out of the mental hospital to which he has been admitted after picking a suicidal fight in a bar. They subsequently investigate a murder in a think tank, Babbage Town, very near the CIA training area known as Camp Peary in Virginia. Soon, however, the two are in over their heads in a deadly race for the control of information worldwide. Financial Times contributor Melissa McClements was unimpressed with this novel, terming it an "uninspiring political thriller." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic called the work "lamer than usual," and wondered, "Has the formula at last run thin enough to keep Baldacci off the bestseller list?" A Publishers Weekly reviewer also found the novel wanting, noting that it is "run of the mill, lacking the sharp twists and expert pacing that characterize Baldacci's fiction at its best."
A more favorable critical reception, however, greeted Baldacci's 2007 thriller, Stone Cold, which reprises the group of sleuths from The Camel Club. Here the con artist Annabel Conroy has cheated casino owner Jerry Bagger out of a bundle of money, and he wants revenge. Meanwhile, Oliver Stone discovers someone has been murdering friends and associates and he might be next. Reviewing the novel in Booklist, David Pitt noted, "When Baldacci is on fire, nobody can touch him, and this is an exhilarating thriller." Pitt commended the "engaging characters, a couple of mind-wrenching plot twists, and a general air of derring-do." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called Stone Cold an "exciting adventure," as well as "gripping, chilling and full of surprises." A critic for Kirkus Reviews concluded: "Baldacci … can do this stuff in his sleep now, but it's still entertaining enough." A higher assessment came from Library Journal contributor Susan O. Moritz, who praised the author's "intricately woven plotlines, well-developed characters, fast-paced action, and surprise ending."
With Wish You Well Baldacci jumps genres by writing a coming-of-age novel that takes place in the 1940s. The story involves twelve-year-old Lou Cardinal and her younger brother Oz, who are sent from their home in New York City to live with an elderly relative on a farm in rural Virginia after their parents are injured in an automobile accident. After their father dies and the mother is rendered incapacitated, Lou and Oz struggle to adapt both to their family's tragedy and to the strange habits of their eccentric and single-minded great grandmother Louisa. Reviewing the novel for Publishers Weekly, a critic wrote that "Baldacci triumphs with his best novel yet," calling Wish You Well "an utterly captivating drama" that "has a huge heart." In Kliatt, Judith H. Silverman dubbed the novel "an excellent portrait of race and class distinction of the time and place," while Kathy Piehl predicted in Library Journal that "readers of historical fiction will welcome [Baldacci's] … debut in the genre."
Baldacci has also written a duo of juvenile books, Fries Alive! and The Mystery of Silas Finklebean. Both titles are humorous tales focused at the middle school audience and featuring the chaotic inventions of nine-year-old Freddy Funkhauser.
When not writing, Baldacci dedicates much of his time to his family, as well as to literacy and other social causes, and serves as an ambassador to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of a sister who suffers from the debilitating illness. As the author explained to Publishers Weekly interviewer Jeff Zaleski, his writing habit is somewhat erratic. "I think about it, [down to] the smallest minutiae," Baldacci explained. "When I've got all the pieces together in my head, then I sit down and write. I can write on a plane, on a train, in a car with a screaming kid on my lap."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Africa News Service, August 27, 2007, review of Stone Cold.
ASHA Leader, October 16, 2007, Marat Moore, "A Passion for Literacy: David Baldacci," p. 22.
Booklist, November 1, 1995, review of Absolute Power, p. 434; November 15, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Absolute Power, p. 548; October 15, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of Total Control, p. 362; September 1, 1998, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Simple Truth, p. 5; October 1, 1999, Emily Melton and Gilbert Taylor, review of Saving Faith, p. 307; June 1, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Wish You Well, p. 1908; November 1, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of Last Man Standing, p. 442; November 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of The Christmas Train, p. 450; September 1, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Hour Game, p. 4; August, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of Split Second, p. 1924; September 1, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Camel Club, p. 5; July, 2006, Kay Weisman, review of Fries Alive!, p. 1924; September 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of The Collectors, p. 6; October 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Stone Cold, p. 6.
Bookseller, July 20, 2007, "Pan Mac Builds Baldacci," p. 12.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2005, Hope Morrison, review of Fries Alive!, p. 6.
Business North Carolina, April, 2007, review of The Camel Club, p. 18.
Entertainment Weekly, October 20, 2006, Lindsay Soll, review of The Collectors, p. 85; April 27, 2007, Gilbert Cruz, review of Simple Genius, p. 144; May 18, 2007, "The Charts," p. 71.
Financial Times, July 21, 2007, Melissa McClements, review of Simple Genius, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1995, review of Absolute Power, p. 1444; September 15, 1998, review of The Simple Truth, p. 1302; October 1, 2002, review of The Christmas Train, p. 1411; July 15, 2003, review of Split Second, p. 921; August 15, 2004, review of Hour Game, p. 756; May 15, 2005, review of Fries Alive!, p. 584; September 1, 2005, review of The Camel Club, p. 929; July 15, 2006, review of The Collectors, p. 687; April 1, 2007, review of Simple Genius; October 1, 2007, review of Stone Cold.
Kliatt, January, 2002, Judith H. Silverman, review of Wish You Well, p. 8.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Kathy Piehl, review of Total Control, p. 142; November 15, 1997, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of Total Control, p. 88; April 1, 1998, review of The Simple Truth, p. 143; May 1, 2000, Michael Adams, review of Saving Faith, p. 170; September 1, 2000, Kathy Piehl, review of Wish You Well, p. 248; October 1, 2005, Ken Bolton, review of The Camel Club, p. 64; October 15, 2004, Ken Bolton, review of Hour Game, p. 52; January 1, 2007, Jeff Ayers, review of The Collectors, p. 51; October 15, 2007, Susan O. Moritz, review of Stone Cold, p. 51.
Nation, March 17, 1997, review of Total Control, p. 43.
New Republic, March 17, 1997, review of Total Control, p. 28.
New York Times, December 11, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "The Lottery as Thriller: Hey, You Never Know," p. E12.
New York Times Book Review, February 25, 1996, Jean Hanff Korelitz, review of Absolute Power, p. 21.
Phi Kappa Phi Forum, fall, 2006, "Wish You Well Foundation"; summer, 2007, "Virginia Commonwealth Chapter Awards David Baldacci a Distinguished Membership."
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 1995, review of Absolute Power, p. 42; December 2, 1996, review of Absolute Power, p. 41; April 14, 1997, review of Total Control, p. 261; October 6, 1997, review of The Winner, p. 73; March 2, 1998, review of The Winner, p. 30; October 5, 1998, review of The Simple Truth, p. 78; November 8, 1999, review of Saving Faith, p. 16; July 17, 2000, review of Wish You Well, p. 171; November 5, 2001, review of Last Man Standing, p. 42; December 10, 2001, Jeff Zaleski, interview with Baldacci, p. 47; August 18, 2003, review of Split Second, p. 58; September 20, 2004, review of Hour Game, p. 46; November 8, 2004, Daisy Maryles, "He Got Game," p. 14; May 30, 2005, review of Fries Alive!, p. 61; August 22, 2005, review of The Camel Club, p. 35; March 26, 2007, review of Simple Genius, p. 68; December 11, 2006, "Baldacci Looks to Expand Donation Program," p. 12; August 27, 2007, review of Stone Cold, p. 59; September 3, 2007, "PW Talks with David Baldacci: Seeking the Stone Cold Truth," p. 36; October 1, 2007, "Paperback Bestsellers/Mass Market," p. 17.
Revolution, July 9, 2007, "Pan Macmillan Gets Users to Hunt the Tube," p. 6.
School Library Journal, April, 2006, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Mystery of Silas Finklebean, p. 133; June, 2006, Elizabeth Bird, review of Fries Alive!, p. 148.
Swiss News, July, 2007, review of Simple Genius, p. 60.
Times Literary Supplement, June 25, 1999, review of The Simple Truth, p. 37.
USA Today, May 3, 2007, "Book Buzz," p. 8.
Writer, June, 1997, Lewis Burke Frumkes, interview with Baldacci, p. 11.
Writer's Digest, January, 1997, Audrey T. Hingley, interview with Baldacci, p. 30.
David Baldacci Home Page,http://www.davidbaldacci.com (November 6, 2007).
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (November 6, 2007), reviews of Fries Alive!, The Mystery of Silas Finklebean, and Stone Cold.
Gather.com,http://www.gather.com/ (October 25, 2007), "Interview with David Baldacci, Bestselling Author."
Genre Go Round Reviews,http://www.genregoroundreviews.blogspot.com/ (October 21, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Stone Cold.
Hachette Book Group USA Web site,http://www.hachettebookgroupusa.com/ (November 6, 2007), "David Baldacci."
Keppler Speakers Web site,http://www.kepplerspeakers.com/ (November 6, 2007), "David Baldacci."