Thrillers are like drugs but safer, ripping us towards a climax where the barely believable is terrifyingly real. Thrillers seduce us into worlds where the news that hasn’t happened yet unfolds right before our startled eyes.
North Korea plunges America into collapse by frying its computers and vaporising its power grid. Cyber-terrorists sabotage the global financial system. Scenarios that could never happen. Or could they? My job as a thriller writer is to convince you they can.
So thriller writers are part magician, masters of deceit – don’t tell my wife – and part new age chef, foraging for tasty titbits of everyday detail to sprinkle onto our deceit, to make it enticingly plausible, scary. Thrilling.
Thriller writers are never off-duty. Every moment of every day we’re foraging inside our research library. Even during a colonoscopy, which happened while I was writing my latest novel, The Tao Deception.
On my stomach on an operating table, my hospital gown wide open at the back, the anaesthetist is about to send me under. Glancing at the syringe he’s about to plunge into my vein, I ask, ‘What drug is that?’
He sneers at me like I’m daring to challenge his judgment so I start to explain, ‘I’m a thriller writer and—’
‘Bravo, Stephen King,’ he yawns, ‘but in my O.R. I treat all a*seholes the same.’
I adjust my gown. ‘It’s research for my next novel,’ I tell him. ‘My hero Tori Swyft is in Iran on a honey trap. Her mission is to seduce the head of Iran’s nuclear agency so she can access his security codes. She drugs him to buy time, and I’ve been thinking Rohypnol. But is that stuff you’re about to give me a better option?’
A smile curled his lips. ‘Jacko juice?’ he said, waving his syringe. He saw I was perplexed, so added, “Jacko juice is what we in the trade call Propofol, what Michael Jackson got addicted to. But no, it’s too short-acting. She might use Rohypnol, but she’d be safer with something that delivers stronger retrograde amnesia …’
‘So the Iranian won’t remember her afterwards.’
‘Right, so I’m thinking Midazolam,’ he says, finally pumping the Jacko juice into me. ‘Count backwards from ten.’
Opening my eyes, I’m counting three, two, one and I see I’m in a different ward.
A nurse rushes over. ‘Mr Green, while you were under you were constantly mumbling about Iran and drugs and terrorists. Do you work for ASIO?’