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First Daughter, Eric Van Lustbader – Review and Interview

When Alli Carson, the president-elect Edward Carson’s daughter, is kidnapped, her parents are frantic to do anything to get her back.  They call on agent Jack McClure, Carson’s old friend, to rescue Alli.  Jack has recently lost his daughter Emma in a car accident – and Alli Carson was Emma’s best friend, making him even more determined to save her.  As Jack attempts to solve the case, he can’t escape memories from his past as they combine with his current situation to make his mission urgent and his reconciliations emotional and compelling.

This is definitely a thriller.  The opening prologue is intense, and reveals to the reader some of the outcome, but then ends on a cliffhanger that left me wanting the answers.  Instead, we get a trip into the past, both Jack’s personal past and the origins of the case that he is set to solve.  At first this is frustrating, but then the storylines pick up and the book races by.  The clues all come together and the outcome is very satisfying.  In the process, I found myself getting very attached to Jack.  He is dyslexic and so is one of my closest friends; I could recognize their joint frustration and that made me feel for him even more.  Beyond that, I could recognize his distress at his lost daughter from my own observations, and his determination that his friends not suffer the same pain.  If he couldn’t save Emma, he’d do his best to save her best friend.  He’s both skilled and dedicated, which makes for a very powerful story and does lift this book above the range of the typical thriller, adding in a human element.  His recollections of the past both touch the reader and power the main narrative along, as one couldn’t do without the other.

Another thread that intrigued me in this narrative was Lustbader’s alternate future, where the government has become entirely conservative Christian and is determined to stay that way.  As a result, underground atheist factions have popped up, ready to show the world that those who don’t follow organized religions aren’t bad people and in fact are logical, not crazed killers like the government has claimed.  Unfortunately, these men are blamed for Alli’s kidnapping, which results in some interesting political manuevering as well.

I enjoyed this book.  It has a solid, exciting narrative, relatable characters, and diverse settings.  I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a great read, not just those who already enjoy political thrillers.  I’m not normally a reader of them, but I’m very glad I read this book.  It will be released on August 19th, 2008.


1. First of all, I know you probably get this question a lot, but how would you summarize your book, First Daughter?  Anything my readers should know about why it’s great that I might not have mentioned in my review?

One of the reasons I decided to write “First Daughter” was to explore the relationship between fathers and daughters, which is complicated and often fraught with a great deal of confused emotion.  In the beginning I had thought the focus of the novel would be Jack bonding with Alli as a kind of surrogate father (the kind of relationship I have with two young
women her age).  But as soon as I began to write the first scene with Jack’s daughter, Emma, she wrote herself into the book and I realized that their strained relationship would be another very important thread.

2. Jack’s flashbacks are told in present tense, rather than the past tense used in the rest of the book.  I noticed this interesting stylistic choice as I was reading.  Can you tell us the reasoning behind this?

First of all, I wanted something definitive to set these scenes apart from the present story so the reader could instantly make the transition.  For another, Jack’s past life and the people he meets are so important to the front story I wanted those scenes to appear more immediate.

3. I’m always interested in the process of writing – do you let the story unfold as you write, or do you have the whole plot and resolution laid out before you begin to write anything?

I’m sort of in the middle.  I do write an outline first because I find it helps me develop character arcs.  That said, my outlines are notoriously vague as I get further along because, to me, writing is an organic event.  As the example to your first question reveals, characters do tend to have a live of their own and often dictate the scene to scene nuances of the story.

4. Jack McClure is a great character.  Do you plan to write anything else about him?  Are you working on something now?

I agree with you, Jack is my favorite character along with Nicholas Linner of “The Ninja” series.  I do plan to write another novel with him (and Alli and Emma, as well) as soon as I finish the next Jason Bourne book I’m writing now.  Hopefully, there will be a lot of Jack books to come.

5. Finally, some bookish questions!  What genres do you like to read?

I only read fiction for pleasure, since I’m reading so much non-fiction for research.  I don’t read any contemporary thrillers, but tend to go for literary novels.

Do you have any particular favorite books?

Well, you can go on my Web site (www.ericvanlustbader.com) to view my favorites, but some recent novels I particularly liked are “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano, “Leopard In The Sun” by Laura Restrepo and “Atmospheric Disturbances” by Rivka Galchen.  I’m also currently re-reading the graphic novel, “Watchmen.”


Thanks, Eric, for your answers to my questions and for writing a great book!  Thanks also go out to TJ Dietderich at Planned Television Arts.


1 comment to First Daughter, Eric Van Lustbader – Review and Interview

  • Hi, Meghan. I finished reading and reviewing First Daughter, so I headed over here to read your review, which is excellent. We had many of the same opinions about the book. Definitely a page-turner, no?

    By the way, I tagged you for a fun little meme HERE