VJ Books Blog

(journalgazette.net, Kelly Soderlund)

Explore life, tackle literacy, says creator of “Absolute Power’

If best-selling author David Baldacci had his way, Clint Eastwood would have died.

Not for real, of course. But Eastwood’s character in the movie “Absolute Power” would have died halfway through, just as he did in the book, which Baldacci wrote.

But when Clint Eastwood wants his character to live, he does. William Goldman, the 1997 movie’s screenwriter, called Baldacci one day and said he had good news and bad news. Good news first: Clint Eastwood signed on to star, direct and produce “Absolute Power.”

The bad news: Clint Eastwood signed on to star, direct and produce “Absolute Power,” and Baldacci’s book plot was essentially gone.

“Because Clint was a hero, and Clint was not going to die in a movie,” Baldacci said during an interview Friday at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He was in town for a Friday night lecture as part of the university’s Omnibus Lecture Series at the John and Ruth Rhinehart Music Center.

So Goldman was tasked with eliminating the young hero character and keeping Eastwood’s character alive.

“Clint said, ‘You don’t need a young hero, you’ve got me,’ ” Baldacci said. “Bill called me up one day and … he said ‘I can’t figure out a way to keep Clint Eastwood alive in this movie.’ And he said, ‘Can you think of a way to do it?’ I said, ‘Bill, I spent three years of my life killing the guy, so no, I can’t find a way to keep him alive.’ ”

In the end, Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter behind “The Bourne Identity,” was brought in to polish the script and defy Eastwood’s mortality.

It was this type of story Baldacci planned to share during his lecture, along with anecdotes about how he began writing and information about his literacy foundation. Four years ago, Baldacci and his wife founded the Wish You Well foundation, which collects books throughout the country and ships them to food banks for needy people to take along with food.

“The reason that they can’t support themselves is they have low job skills, low literacy skills, so if you attack the literacy issue, they can become self-sustaining,” Baldacci said.

Baldacci, 48, is originally from Richmond, Va., and started his career as a trial lawyer, which he pursued for 10 years before he began writing full time. “Absolute Power” was the first novel he published, and he has gone on to write 15 more books.

“I think if I told any aspiring writer what they needed to do, it would be you need to be ever curious about life, because even though you’re writing about fiction, you’re really writing about life, and you’ve got to get up from behind your desk and explore things,” said Baldacci, who researches all of his books by visiting the places he writes about and doing many of the activities documented in his books.

It was his love for reading – his favorite books being “The Cider House Rules” and “Sophie’s Choice” – that led him to begin writing as a child.

“I’m a writer because I was a reader,” Baldacci said. “I loved to read, and I wanted to have the same effect other writers had over me when I picked up one of their books.”