Dancing on Graves with Preston & Child, Pt. 1 [INTERVIEW]

An Interview with Agent Pendergast’s
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child from Novel, Two Graves Rear Cover Art

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child from the novel “Two Graves.” Photo credit: Deborah Feingold.

If you’ve been following DGM’s coverage of the Pendergast saga, then you’ve doubtless read our article: The Goth Detective. Co-Authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child were gracious enough to honor us with an interview in the month’s before the release of their next book in the Pendergast series, White Fire, which we will be reviewing here at DGM at the end of October.

DGM: If my math isn’t failing, I believe White Fire is in fact the 13th novel in the Pendergast series. So tell us a bit about it, if you don’t mind?

Doug: The story opens with an [actual] historic event: A fateful dinner that took place in London in 1889 at the Langham Hotel. In this dinner, for the first and last time, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde met each other. They had a very, very unusual conversation. The next chapter brings the book to the present day, and launches the reader into Pendergast’s most unusual investigation to date.

Linc: The moment I read about that fateful dinner I knew it was destined to be the idea-germ for a new Pendergast novel. I immediately called up Doug up and, within fifteen minutes of brainstorming, we’d laid the foundation for WHITE FIRE.

DGM: That’s awesome, Linc. Some of the best ideas seem to come about in those flashes of inspiration when we’re first exposed to an actual historical event.

So, what do you think fans are going to most appreciate about the new
Pendergast book?

D: The mixture of history, Sherlock Holmes, and present-day horror.

L: Exactly. It’s always fun (albeit tricky) when your protagonist needs to solve a very old case in order to solve a new and ongoing one. And involving Sherlock Holmes in the story is just the icing on the cake.

DGM: I know this is sort of like asking the two of you to pick a favorite child—unless you happen to have the sense of humor of Silas McBane, of course, who makes no bones about his favorite children—what’s your favorite part of the new book?

D: I can’t say without spoiling the book. I can tell you, however, that my least favorite part of the book is Chapter 11. Linc wrote it and I still haven’t been able to read it. And I never will. It is too awful.

The cover of Preston & Child's newest Pendergast book, due in November.

The cover of Preston & Child’s newest Pendergast book, due in November.

DGM: Wow. Truly cruel and unusually tantalizing comment, Doug, to drop in front of
us who haven’t been able to read it yet! Linc, you had something to add?

L: I’m not trying to be coy, but there is a certain story-within-a-story that was a true challenge to write but that, I think, really renders this novel unique among thrillers.

DGM: Linc, just as enigmatic, but slightly less cruel! Still, if the goal is to make us want to read the book all the more, you both succeed!

With Two Graves, we’ve concluded the Helen Cycle, which is the second of your trilogy cycles based on Pendergast’s dark past. While both trilogies have sported some of the best sequences in Pendergast lore, I personally do like the accessibility options of the standalone books, as well.

With that said, where do you see the series headed in terms of percentage of standalone books vs. multi-volume sets?

D: WHITE FIRE is a stand-alone book, and the next one we are working on is also stand-alone. I think we will continue to do both.

L: The two trilogies we’ve done have both really centered on Pendergast’s personal life and family history. While we think they’ve gone a long way toward deepening his character and backstory, we’re planning to let that aspect of our storytelling lie fallow for a while.

DGM: While Pendergast and everybody’s favorite Victorian researcher, Constance, are a Gothic treat, obviously Pendergast’s young protégé, Corrie, is the official Goth in the mix. While you’ve essentially primed her to be Pendergast’s pupil, we’ve also seen her more often as a weakness that has to be shielded than a true “padawan.”

Are we going to see more exploration of Corrie in a truly support oriented role in the next book or is she going the way of the impetuous Bill Smithback?

D: Corrie Swanson figures prominently in WHITE FIRE. I can’t say anything more about whether she will appear in future books or not. As for her facing death, all I can say is, no one is safe in our books. Not even Pendergast.

DGM: So long as you don’t go complete Game of Thrones, I think your fan base has come to expect that of the two of you. (Granted, Pendergast dying might be an unsurvivable blow to the Pendergast series…although, the death of the name character didn’t stop Stephen R. Donaldson, so maybe not.)

I notice you seem rather quiet on the subject, Linc. Thoughts?

L: No comment.

DGM: Fair enough.

So now, this next question is based on a question from one of our readers. Pendergast has dealt with many seemingly supernatural cases but, as far as truly paranormal, we really only have Wheel of Darkness. Any plans to delve into the more truly supernatural ones in the future?

D: No.

DGM: Really, Doug? That’s the sort of answer I expect from Linc.

With that said, Linc, now you’re just going to have to be the chatty one on this.

L: Even at their most outré, our stories always—or almost always—end up having some kind of rational or scientific explanation. That’s a trademark of our novels, and I don’t see us straying from it.

DGM: Thank you, Linc. An excellent breakdown. (Although, you are stretching it for me a
bit on
Wheel of Darkness!)

Now we’ll give Doug a chance to redeem himself with a longer response to my next question.

Any plans for Eli Glinn to cross back into the Pendergast universe?

D: No.

DGM: Really, Doug? Again? Just “No?” Alright, Linc, show him how it’s done, please.

L: Maybe.

DGM: See, Doug. Linc’s showing you how to get elected. Wait until someone has a problem with your first response and then answer with “maybe” and there’s no telling how high you could go.

You guys have been wonderful sports in all of this, but we’re going to need to break for now.

We’ll be back with the second part of our three part interview with Pendergast’s Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child next month. And, if you’re interested in pre-ordering their upcoming book, White Fire, you can do so at a discount through our Amazon link. White Fire comes out November 12th!

(We'd also like to give a special thank you at DGM to the Pendergast readers who supplied questions, especially Thom Jankowski who provided multiple questions and thoughts as we prepared for this interview!)
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Author: JT Hanke

J.T. Hanke is the founder and former editor of DarkestGoth Magazine. Stepping down as editor in 2019, he currently serves as its technical adviser and a contributing writer.

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