Joël Dicker: "If it were so easy to write 'best sellers', there would be more"

He is not yet 40 years old and Joël Dicker is already an established best-selling author. He achieved worldwide success with his novel The Truth About the Harry Quebert Case eleven years ago and now he has just published with Alfaguara its sequel entitled The Alaska Sanders Case, translated by María Teresa Gallego Urrutia and Amaya García Gallego. It is part of the trilogy that is completed with The Baltimore Book, although each volume can be read independently as it constantly plays with the time jumps that link one book to another. All three star Marcus Goldman, a writer who loves to solve crimes.

Dicker, who was born in Geneva in 1985, is the spitting image of Swiss correctness. Impeccable in appearance and with a friendly demeanor, he is battle-hardened in answering questions from the press. He has been on a world tour for four months promoting his latest novel, has done dozens of interviews and has signed hundreds of books for his huge number of readers. Sitting at a table on the eighth floor of his publishing house in Barcelona, ​​he comments that success has changed the perception that others have of him. His life may seem like an adventure that takes him around the world, but the time he spends alone in airports does not appear in the story that has been created around him. "I'm not sure everyone who thinks this life is cool would put up with it," he says.

Although he strives to separate his person from the character that has made him famous, the truth is that his novels make this task complicated. Marcus Goldman is also a young author whose book about his friend and fellow writer Harry Quebert – after whom Dicker's first novel is named – has made him world famous. The parallelism is evident although, according to him, the triumph of his character is something definitive and "necessary for the novel to advance", he says. In his own case, that success is not guaranteed in the long term. "There are always many doubts, whether you are a writer, a musician or a football player. A bad season can end up erasing an extraordinary past. So success is a bit of something that comes and goes. In this sense, Marcus's story is a less than ideal," he explains.

The Alaska Sanders case presents common clichés in crime novels in which the ones in charge of solving the crime are men – in this case, Marcus Goldman and Sergeant Perry Gahalowood – and the victim is a stunningly beautiful young woman. But he balances the scales with two active female characters who are also involved in solving the mystery: agent Lauren Donovan and attorney Patricia Widsmith. In recent years, writers such as Gillian Flynn, Rene Denfeld or Alicia Giménez-Bartlett herself, with her Petra Delicado, have worked to put an end to the predominant archetypes of women in the noir genre, which relegate them to the figures of assassins or villains .

Joël Dicker explains that it was not something he did consciously, but the fact that the victim is a woman is simply a reflection of reality: "Every day there are women killed by their husbands, by their partners or by a stranger. Violence against women is still one of the great scourges of our society and the modern world we live in. And I think this story shows it." In fact, for him crime novels have so many followers because "we need to tell stories to ourselves. And we are all curious, we are all researchers. We want to know what happens when there is a hit-and-run or when many people gather in the street. This genre stimulates that desire because, when an event occurs, we get out of our routine".

Bernard de Fallois was the publisher who made Joël Dicker an internationally successful author. He bet on the writer – who had been rejected by several publishers before – after reading the manuscript of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, sure that he had a real bombshell on his hands. They had a very close relationship and, when the publisher passed away in 2018, the Swiss author was left without a label. He created his own publishing company Rosie & Wolfe because he felt that going to another company would be a betrayal of his discoverer and now publishes his own books. In addition, he prepares a catalog with other authors with whom he hopes to lead the readers of his novels – who are the first to be interested in the publisher – towards another type of literature.

As a true fan of parallelism, now that he has created his own publishing house, Dicker has also rescued Marcus Goldman's editor for The Alaska Sanders Affair, an unpleasant and speculative character who only thinks of the money he can get from the author. A statement of what he would not like to become? "Of course I wouldn't like it. Although I don't really know if that kind of editor really exists either. He's a funny character, who has a bit of extreme traits, but usually editors have to have a sense of what an editor is." quality text," he replies.

The writer's books are usually around 600 pages, but his most avid readers are able to read them in three days. In that sense, they work like the series on streaming platforms, which are seen in record time like a marathon. In fact, in 2018, Jean-Jacques Annaud turned The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair into a television miniseries starring Patrick Dempsey (the legendary neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd from Grey's Anatomy).

For Dicker, this compulsive way of consuming culture is not something new. It is a matter of desire that is now easier to satisfy. "The television series have not invented anything because what they do is recover the codes of the great writers. For example, Alejandro Dumas and the Count of Monte Cristo, which was a serial that was published in parts. They are like the series of today, but in the past. Before, one chapter a week of the series was broadcast on television and now as we have all the episodes we can see them quickly, "he says.

In principle, The Alaska Sanders case will be the last to be resolved by Marcus Goldman, although its creator does not close any doors. He is not sad about saying goodbye to his character –possibly his readers feel it more– because he does not rule out rescuing him in the future to turn the trilogy into a tetralogy or who knows if a pentalogy: "If I don't return to this character it means that it's over and If I feel like getting it back I can just write about it again." He doesn't like to think about the long term future of his career and he says that now he himself doesn't know if he will write 15 more books or just one. "The idea is to write one book after another. Then we'll see," he says.

Basically, it's what he does when he's not promoting. When asked what he does in his day to day, he laconically answers "write". With the correction that characterizes him, he avoids deeper questions about his daily life and only drops that he likes to play sports and when he is not writing or traveling he spends his time with family life. He is not too fond of social networks: he has a Twitter account that has not been updated since 2020 and an Instagram profile that does have movement, but is focused on his image as a writer, not on his private life: "I don't like Twitter. It's a very aggressive, unpleasant world, I don't feel like being there. Instagram is much more appropriate, people follow me because they are interested in my work. It's not a place of fighting or disagreement and that's why I'm still there. "

He considers that the label of 'best-selling writer' is not pejorative at all, quite the contrary. "Being a widely read writer is a positive thing. For me, best sellers are not a bad thing. If it were that easy to write them, there would be even more. I think it's proof that many readers trust me," he declares. In fact, he is a best-selling reader: "A novel that I have loved recently is 1793, by the Swedish author Niklas Natt Och Dag. It is a fascinating novel that has become a trilogy 1793, 1794 and 1795 and tells us about Stockholm of that time. He has a very captivating way of writing and has marked me a lot in these last two years, he has impressed me".

His famous trilogy takes place in the United States, but his own city surely hides secrets that could be the material for a whole saga of police novels. In fact, his previous book, The Enigma of Room 622, written in honor of its former publisher, takes place in Geneva. The town is one of the largest financial centers in the world and where there is money, there are criminal plots. "I set The Alaska Sanders Affair in the United States because the trilogy takes place there, but with Room 622 I loved setting foot in Geneva again. Not only because there are dark affairs or banks, but because I also like to explain that city. Without a doubt, I'll be back," he promises.

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