Please welcome William Bernhardt, author of the stunning new thriller, Dark Eye!!
(See below for a complete list of Bernhardt's many exciting thrillers!)
Review and synopsis Dark Eye by William Bernhardt
Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 034547015X
Bernhardt, master of several outstanding legal thrillers, takes an extreme left turn in his latest, and where he goes and how he does it will have you squirming and terrified out of your wits. But with this dazzling and highly engaging cast of characters, it's a fear most welcomed.
We immediately meet Susan Pulaski, a Las Vegas behaviorist or, in other words, a woman who knows how to figure out the deviant drives and motivations of a killer. Only thing is, when the latest brutal serial killer strikes the City of Sin, she's caught up in an alcoholic maelstrom of grief and loss. Still reeling from her husband's death, she's taken up the bottle and, as a result, has lost her home, the niece left in her care, and her job with the department. But when the bodies of young girls start turning up, all with a mysterious note attached that will soon be related to the works of Edgar Allen Poe, she's summoned to assist. And so her only hope out of this hell she's created for herself is to catch this latest madman. Fortunately, she will have the help of a brilliant young man who sees more than most, but who just happens to be autistic, and the son of the chief. But the two will have to work fast as the killer has his sights on Susan, and has already decided that she will make his next perfect victim.
Fans of Bernhardt's legal thrillers will undoubtedly be shocked by this dark and sweeping turn he takes into madness and malevolence. While this is a novel packed with intelligence and disquieting notions, along with characters filled with both spirit and a propensity for peril, it is perhaps its shocking dose of uninhibited malice that will touch most of all. It is petrifying and immediate and, under Bernhardt's accomplished touch, almost more than one can handle without a safety net nearby. Highly recommended for both the delicious chills it creates as well as for its insightful and perceptive portrayal of the many forms of madness; this is one you won't to miss.
William Bernhardt Interview:
1. This latest is quite a departure from your previous titles; why the change?
I usually write something else between the Ben Kincaid novels; the only real change this time is that I’ve created a set of characters I hope will support a series of novels. Susan and Darcy make the perfect “odd couple” team. Darcy, being autistic, has many unique skills and talents, but does not understand people at all. Susan, on the other hand, while not really a detective, specializes in understanding people. They complete each other.
2. This is a decidedly dark and graphic tale; what was it like for you to go down that road, especially considering that you frequently wrote from the killer's point of view?
“Edgar” was a fascinating character to create and write. I did a great deal of research into the common backgrounds of serial killers, read behaviorist studies, added a literary element, and created an antagonist who I think is unlike any other that has previously appeared in crime fiction. What I like most about Edgar is that, even when he is doing the most horrible things, he doesn’t think of himself as a bad person. He sees everything he does as an act of kindness; he thinks he’s saving the world.
3. Is this your first time to also write from a woman's perspective, and if so, what was the most difficult adjustment in this regard?
No, The Midnight Before Christmas also had a female protagonist, and it’s one of my favorites of my books. Dark Eye, however, is a much longer, more complex novel.
4. You've given Susan quite a load of trials and tribulations to deal with, why did you decide to add alcoholism to the mix (besides the obvious answer that this is why she has so many issues)?
Without giving anything away, Susan has been through a very tough year, and the attempt to “self-medicate” through alcohol is unfortunately not uncommon for people in the law enforcement community or, for that matter, any other profession. It was important that Susan hit rock bottom—before she begins to put her life back together again—because that’s really what the book is all about.
5. Susan is what some might call a "profiler", but to be more precise in this instance, a "behaviorist", which is quite fascinating. Yet one has to note that this field seems to be in constant flux, with ideas regarding the make-up of serial killers constantly changing. Do you think this is because the killers are changing, or is it instead our knowledge of what makes them tick that is changing?
We have barely begun to scratch the surface of understanding what drives people to commit these heinous crimes, over and over again. The work of people like John Douglas and others at the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit has been instrumental, but we still have much to learn.
6. One of my favorite characters is Darcy, the brilliant autistic young man; tell us how he became a part of the story.
Darcy is the reason the book exists. What I wanted to show with Darcy is that regardless of what disorders or handicaps a person may have, they can still be useful if others will only give them a chance. The truth is, Darcy is the greatest detective they’ve ever seen; they just don’t know it because his poor social interaction skills have prevented him from making his skills apparent. Darcy’s enormous gifts come with enormous obstacles; with Susan’s help, he must learn to overcome one to utilize the other.
7. I was surprised to read in your acknowledgement area that autism is drastically rising, can you tell us a bit more about this?
All I can tell you is that it is happening and no one knows why. The only benefit of this epidemic is that much more research on this disorder is now being conducted as a result. Perhaps in time we will come at least a little closer to understanding what causes it and how best to deal with it.
8. Difficult question, I know, but which of these characters was your favorite?
Not difficult—Darcy. I firmly believe that when God makes people different, He does it for a reason. Darcy (and the wonderful autistic people upon whom I based the character) are the walking embodiments of that principle.
9. It seems that in your previous novels of legal conundrums, you've always had a message, or at the very least, a question for readers to consider. What would you like your readers to think about after this latest?
When the book begins, Susan quite literally thinks her life is over. She does all kinds of horrible things she would never have done before, until finally as a result of the intervention of friends, Darcy, and her own strength of will, she begins to turn her life around. I’m sick to death of so-called literary novels that preach hopeless and despair, glorify dysfunctional families, promote a nihilistic view of the world. The message of Dark Eye is that, even when the world has kicked you pretty hard and you think you can’t go on—you can. You can. It’s never to late to turn the page and start a new chapter.
10. And finally, any hints of what your fans can expect next?
Ben Kincaid, of course. I’ve already written the next adventure for Ben and Christina and expect it to be released about this time next year. Ben is going to Washington, D.C. where he gets mixed up with politicians and vampires. Write your own joke.
William Bernhardt is the author or editor of twenty books with more than ten million copies in print worldwide, including his internationally bestselling series of courtroom novels featuring attorney Ben Kincaid which inspired Library Journal to name Bernhardt the “master of the courtroom drama.” His most recent novel is Dark Eye, a psychological thriller “that will chill you while its two unique and endearing protagonists steal your heart.” On the publication of his New York Times bestselling novel, Murder One, The Vancouver Sun dubbed him “the American equivalent of P.G. Wodehouse and John Mortimer.” Bernhardt's novels are renowned for their unexpected twists, legal realism, breathless pace, and for examining trends and issues in American society that later come to national prominence. In addition to his novels exploring the American legal system, he is also the author of The Code of Buddyhood, a literary coming-of-age novel described by The West Coast Review of Books as “a powerful and sophisticated novel about the nature of friendship.” Bernhardt has also written a holiday novel, The Midnight Before Christmas, and has edited an anthology of original short stories and a multi-author fundraising novel for The Nature Conservancy (Natural Suspect).
Bernhardt's books have been translated and published in more than two dozen countries. He has twice received the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, in 1995 and 1999. In 2000, he received OSU's H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award, which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.” That same year, he was presented with a Career Achievement Award at the 2000 Booklovers Convention in Houston. He has also been inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame, the youngest author ever so honored.
In addition to his work as a writer, Bernhardt is also the founder and owner of HAWK Publishing Group, an independent publishing house headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although HAWK focuses on discovering new writers, particularly those in the Southwest, it has also published books by acclaimed authors including Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian, PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, comic Barry Friedman, suspense author Jodie Larsen, and many others.
Mr. Bernhardt obtained his law degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where he was a member of the 1985 National Championship Moot Court team and was personally named Best Speaker at the national finals in New York. He worked as a trial lawyer at a large law firm for nine years and was repeatedly recognized for his pro bono work for the underprivileged and for his work with teenagers interested in law. The Oklahoma Bar Association presented him with a special award for Outstanding Service to the Public, and in 1994 he was named one of the top twenty young lawyers in the nation by the American Bar Association's Barrister magazine.
In 1995, Bernhardt served as President of Novelists Inc., a national
coalition of professional writers, and later was the Chairman of the Selection
Committee for the Peggy V. Helmerich Literary Prize. He also serves on the Board
of Directors for Gilcrease Museum, the Board of Directors of the Tulsa Arts and
Humanities Council, the Advisory Panel for the Oklahoma Arts Institute, and the
Advisory Council for “Nimrod: The International Journal of Poetry and Prose.”
Bernhardt's many activities within and beyond the world of literature led OSU to
dub him “Oklahoma's Renaissance Man.” Other recent Bernhardt projects have
include writing a musical (he wrote the music, lyrics, and the script), creating
a board game, producing two music CDs, skydiving, and constructing crossword
puzzles for The New York Times.
WILLIAM BERNHARDT BIBLIOGRAPHY
The Ben Kincaid Legal Thrillers:
Capitol Offense – (Ballantine – scheduled for February 2006)
Hate Crime – (Ballantine – February 2004)
Death Row – (Ballantine – July 2003)
Criminal Intent – (Ballantine – September 2002)
Murder One - (Ballantine - April 2001)
Silent Justice - (Ballantine - February 2000)
Dark Justice - (Ballantine - January 1999)
Extreme Justice - (Ballantine - February 1998)
Naked Justice - (Ballantine - February 1997)
Cruel Justice - (Ballantine - January 1996)
Perfect Justice - (Ballantine - January 1994)
Deadly Justice - (Ballantine - June 1993)
Blind Justice - (Ballantine - October 1992)
Primary Justice - (Ballantine - January 1992)
Dark Eye – (Ballantine – February 2004)
Final Round – (Ballantine – March 2002)
Natural Suspect - (Ballantine - December 2001)
The Midnight Before Christmas - (Ballantine –
Legal Briefs: Stories By Today's Best Thriller Writers
- (Doubleday - May 1998) (editor)
Double Jeopardy - (Ballantine - March 1995)
The Code of Buddyhood - (Ballantine – December