Over the last two decades, Daniel Silva has become a favorite among lovers of spy thrillers. The author of 20 novels—16 featuring the art restorer/Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon—Silva has been lauded for his cinematic descriptions of the world’s cosmopolitan playgrounds, rapid-clip plots and taut prose laced with humor. Nearly all the Gabriel Allon novels have landed at the top spot on the Times Best Seller List, but last year’s The Black Widow caused a sensation with its eerie rendering of Paris as a terrorist target.
This month, Silva’s back with the 17th novel in the Allon series, House of Spies (Harper Collins; on sale July 11), which finds Gabriel again pulled to the corners of the Earth, hunting ISIS and charting new territory as the chief of the Israeli secret service. The author makes two Houston appearances on July 16: one at Murder by the Book and another at the Evelyn R. Rubenstein Jewish Community Center.
Houstonia spoke to Silva about how Gabriel Allon has changed his life, the sadness of having his fiction so closely resemble reality and what comes next for the long-running series.
How strange is it for you that you are writing things and people are reading them, and it almost seems that these acts of terrorism are happening in real time?
Well, since almost the day I finished House of Spies, events started unraveling and that began the series of attacks we’ve had. I chose Britain as a target and a backdrop for much of the story because I felt that Britain was next. It was quite obvious to me that Britain was next, that ISIS desperately wanted to carry out attacks in the British mainland; they said as much. It’s just terribly upsetting to see something that you imagined in effect come true in life. And in such a horrible way. Even I would never think or want to write about terrorists running through London attacking people with knives. The depravity is really shocking.
How has Gabriel changed your life?
When you write a character as long as I’ve written him, I think a certain Stockholm Syndrome sets in. We’re stuck with each other, you start to empathize with your captor, and you know, I tried to explain it to my wife that I spend more time each day in their world than my own, so I’ve necessarily had to see the world through a very Israeli lens and imagine someone who’s trying to protect Israel for a living.
One big thing that’s happened to you, in addition to the publishing of this novel, is that you and MGM TV signed a deal to bring Gabriel to the screen. What else can you tell us about that? I know it’s still relatively new news.
No, we’re moving forward at a very rapid clip. The show is in development. Writers and producers are being interviewed as we speak. This is not something that’s going to sit around on the shelf; the plan is to move forward very quickly and get it on the air. I mean, the way we view movies these days is changing and I decided television was probably a better route for the material. I am an executive producer of the program, and I’ve given them my thoughts on overall tone and aesthetic and plot, and I want to give them the freedom they need to turn it into a successful television show and a show that stands on its own two feet.
I know you make it a policy not to comment on books you haven’t written yet. But where do your characters go from here do you think? Are you approaching a sort of place where you feel you have to step back and let Gabriel and his wife Chiara, and Ari and everybody just live out their lives, or are we going to be reading about Gabriel when he’s 85?
Look, I’m maybe at the halfway point of my career. This is my 20th novel. At some point I’m going to be writing other material—I’m just not sure what that’s going to be. The Black Widow jump in sales was astonishing, so there’s a lot of life left in Gabriel on the market and creatively. With that said, I’ve written more Gabriel Allon novels than Fleming ever wrote Bond novels. More Gabriel Allon novels than Tom Clancy ever wrote Jack Ryan novels. At a certain point, I will write something else. I’m just not sure when.
Signing at Sunday, July 16 at 2 p.m. Murder by the Book. 2342 Bissonnet St. 713-524-8597. More info at murderbooks.com.
Signing on Sunday, July 16 at 5 p.m. Tickets $30 (includes book). Evelyn R. Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. 5601 S. Braeswood. 713-595-8162. More info at erjcchouston.org.