Double the pleasure, double the intrigue—two authors took to the stage at the Mad Art Gallery last evening making for an enjoyable event—debut novelist Terry Hayes and St. Louis’s own crime writer Scott Phillips.
The gallery, a former police station with some of its cells still intact, is located in the shadows of Anheuser Busch Brewery, a charming venue for a book presentation. The event was hosted by Meet Me St. Louis.
Phillips kicked off the author talk with his take on Hayes' new book, “I Am Pilgrim,” a 600-page thriller, just released, a blockbuster set to stake its claim on bestseller lists.
To prepare himself for the event, Phillips needed to read Hayes’ book. He approached it with a bit of trepidation because of its length. Phillips admitted he’s a slow reader—didn’t think he’d be able to finish it quickly enough.
“I carved out a chunk of time each day and committed to reading 100 pages at a stretch,” Phillips said.
He found himself reading more at a sitting, not because he had to, but because he was hooked. “I just loved this book,” he said, repeating the statement before feeding questions to Hayes in a mock “interrogation-style” presentation.
Well-known for his screenwriting skills, Hayes started on “Pilgrim” five years ago, but “actually worked on it for three. I learned a lot along the way—the book kept growing. It was never supposed to be this long,” the writer said lightly, drawing laughs from the audience.
Hayes thought he’d write his own novel and have it turned into a screenplay; “Then at least it would be just me. I got very frustrated rewriting other people’s work and having my writing rewritten. Screenwriting has become a ‘team sport,’ ” Hayes said. But writing the book was harder than he ever imagined, Hayes added.
The first book in a trilogy, “I am Pilgrim” features a retired spy, turned novelist, drawn back into a world of intrigue and mayhem by Saracen, a former Saudi with a tragic past, a terrorist seeking revenge on the Western World.
Though the book has “lots of narrative threads, it’s not hard to follow,” Phillips interjected, adding that he found the characters fascinating and well drawn. “I learned a lot from the novel, but I was a little jumpy in parts of it.”
Hayes said his villain Saracen is chilling because he wants to “wipe out the U.S. in its entirety.” His father was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States, for criticizing the royal family. “Saracen comes from an emotional state and it radicalizes him. He turns to the dark side.”
If he had his choice about an actor to play Pilgrim, Hayes would opt for “Daniel Day-Lewis or Brad Pitt, but that’s not going to happen,” Hayes said. “The most important thing is to get a good director and then you’ll get a good actor.”
Following the book talk, Hayes signed copies of “Pilgrim” while Phillips signed his newest, “Hop Alley,” released last month, a follow-up to “Cottonwood,” a Western that’s supposed to be a real page-turner.