Sunday, December 18, 2011

Author Spotlight: Raymond Khoury

Internationally best-selling author Raymond Khoury is a gifted storyteller, and a very talented writer. Each of his first four thrillers have ridden high on bestseller lists round the world. I know his next one, The Devil's Elixir, will do the same when it's released on December 22. In addition to writing fantastic novels, Raymond is generous and supportive of all his comrades in the wordsmithing community. He was instrumental in encouraging me to pursue my own authorial dreams during some protracted intercontinental phone calls between us a few years back. Yet as accomplished an author as the redoubtable Mr. Khoury is, what matters most to me is that he has been my one of my closest friends for more than four decades across three continents. We met in Beirut, Lebanon, when we were both seven years old. It's both delightful and frightful that was such a long, long time ago.

The Devil's Elixir is Khoury's fifth novel. The pre-release reviews are stellar. Booklist calls it “A fast-paced thrill-ride.” Publisher's Weekly says it's “An exciting thriller with a paranormal twist.” If that's not sufficiently compelling for you, Library Journal calls it "Big-time fun," and Kirkus Reviews raves, "Vivid, energetic scenes ensure that Khoury’s tale never falters or bores." Wow. All this for the guy I used to wreak havoc with when we were deeply errant children with gleaming futures in juvenile detention. Kind of makes you wonder...

So a few weeks ago when Raymond and I were trading missives about his latest book's release, I told him it would be a good and brave thing for him to squirm a bit under the searing lights of Gazalapalooza's occasionally recurring feature, Author Spotlight. To his credit, the man never hesitated, never faltered.

As in Spotlights past, I’ve chosen a fairly open-ended interview format permitting our target to riff freely in his replies, so you readers can get to know something about Raymond and his latest book that might not shine as brightly in other interviews. Without further ado, let’s get this spotlight fired up and trained squarely on Mr. Khoury.

Gazala:      In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Khoury.     What, no Kindle (with the solar recharger option)? Harsh. Okay, let's start with fiction. There are so many lofty titles one could give here (The Brothers Karamasov, anyone?). I'd be tempted to take the Lord of the Rings one-volume edition. Yes, there is one, and it's only 1178 pages long. That would kill a few hours. But I'd probably end up choosing the collected writings of Woody Allen. All his nutty essays from the New Yorker magazine and others, since the 1960s, in one handy paperback. That one alone might make me avoid the first rescue ship or two. Non-fiction... Is there an Idiot's Guide to surviving on a desert island? Either that or a book about "the making of" any of the Pixar movies. I could read and re-read something like that forever.

Gazala.      Your latest novel is an excellent and gripping thriller titled The Devil's Elixir. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about The Devil's Elixir, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Khoury.     Quite simply, because it's just spectacularly magnificent. Reading it will be akin to a religious enlightenment, and any reader who dares venture into its pages will be hopelessly addicted to reading all my novels and left wandering the streets aimlessly in between books, pleading with anyone he encounters for another hit of wondrous words. Then again, I do love a damn good thriller. But seriously--I'm tremendously proud of it. It's mostly set in San Diego, it doesn't have any Templars in it (it's all present day, not a historical thriller apart from its prologue), it's the first time I've written in first person (from Reilly's point-of-view, which was such a blast to write that I'm doing it again for at least the next two books), it's got a biker gang called the Babylon Eagles and a really creepy bad guy (a drug kingpin called "El Brujo", i.e. the Sorcerer) and all kinds of weird hallucinogens, and its plot is going to be really hard for me to beat in future books...

Gazala.      What are books for?

Khoury.     I use them to build big mazes in our basement where I banish the kids when they're being too noisy. Hours of fun to be had by all. Maybe not so much the kids.

Gazala.     W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Khoury.     One of my three rules in life is never to comment on anything W. Somerset Maugham says. It's gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years and I think some things are better left unsaid.

Gazala.      I have to take this call. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Khoury.     What's the recipe for the perfect mojito? No, wait. How about--who's the writer whose career you most admire? (Don't know where that came from, but I'll run with it). I'd have to say, Stephen King or Michael Crichton. King, for obvious reasons. But maybe even more so, Crichton. He was always coming up with these incredible high-concept stories, always cutting edge, an incredible imagination, just awesome fiction in terms of creating hugely memorable conceits and pulling them off with great believability. You never knew what he was going to do next, and that's a really great place to be, as a writer.

Starting Tuesday, December 22, you can find The Devil's Elixir all over the place. For more information about Khoury, his books, and where to get them, clicking on this link is a great idea:

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