Obsessed with accuracy, Barry Eisler lay down on a wrestling mat, stun gun in hand. He took aim and fired.
“In one of my books, I had someone get shot with a stun gun and it didn’t leave any marks,” said the best-selling author of the John Rain series who has a dedicated page on his website chronicling mistakes in his books. “So I got a stun gun and shot myself. It did leave marks — and it did hurt. But at least it was over, unlike getting tazed where you flop around like fish on a hook.”
Barry is one of the authors appearing at the Menlo Park-based Peninsula Volunteers 20th Annual Authors Salon on Sunday, April 10, an event that raises money to support the organization’s various senior services. (Ticket information is available on the PV website.) While he shares a panel with other notable authors, none can match his background — covert CIA operative, attorney with international experience, executive at Silicon Valley startup, in addition to award-winning writer of mystery thrillers.
Inspiration for first book came while living in Tokyo
It was while working in Tokyo in 1993 that he got the idea for his first novel, Rain Fall, which introduced the John Rain character, described as a “man struggling with his own divided nature: Japanese/American; soldier/assassin; samurai/ronin” and a “contract killer with a conscience.” The book was published in 2002 and is currently in its fifteenth printing.
He continues to get to Tokyo at least once a year and has been in touch with friends there since the earthquake and tsunami. “Everybody is ok,” he says. On his Facebook page, he suggests donating to the Tokyo Red Cross, for those interested in contributing to disaster relief efforts.
Barry uses Facebook to connect with fans, which he views as big plus from a business if not a writer’s perspective. “It’s great to have direct connections with readers,” he said. “Social media is a powerful tool that provides me a lot of flexibility. On the flip side, it is time consuming and takes me away from writing.”
Seventh John Rain book due later this year
Currently, Barry is finishing up the seventh book in the Rain series. (He’s also authored a stand-alone thriller, Fault Line: A Novel and its sequel, Inside Out: A Novel as well as a new short story, The Lost Coast.) He’s optimistic that The Detachment will be published before the end of the year and commented, “Having a character to come back to has worked out well for me.”
Barry landed in Menlo Park while he was working as an attorney. Having lived on the East Coast all his life before then, he found moving to Japan seemed more familiar than California. “It seemed even more a foreign country,” he recalled. But like many other transplants, he stayed.
Later this month, he’ll be dipping back into his past life, moderating a discussion with former CIA agents Dayna and Robert Baer, an event sponsored by the Commonwealth Club that takes place on March 29 at Cubberly Community Theater. Given that most of Barry’s appearances are out of the area, locals have two excellent opportunities to hear him in person — first, Barry the spy, and then Barry the author of thrillers.
Photo by Scott R. Kline
UPDATE: As Jersey Jack notes in his comment, on the same day this post ran, Barry Eisler announced that he was turning down a previously-agreed two book, $500,000 contract to self-publish. He talks in detail about that decision with Jason Pinter of The Daily Beast.