Bloody Good 

Research adds authenticity to Alan Jacobson's thrillers.

As the first female agent ever to be promoted into the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, Special Agent Karen Vail has lots to offer — and lots to prove. In Alan Jacobson's latest thriller, The Seventh Victim, Vail puts her profiling skills to the test while tracking the Dead Eyes killer, who despises what he calls "women-slut-whores," so he poses as an FBI agent going door-to-door (using the deliberately ironic pseudonym "Agent Cox") to ingratiate his way into women's homes before slaying them: "Like a master painter inscribing his name at the bottom of a canvas, he brought back the knife and drove it through Melanie Hoffman's left eye socket," writes Jacobson, who will discuss his work at Clayton Books (5433D Clayton Rd., Clayton) on December 2.

When he arrived in Northern California to attend chiropractic school at age 21, Jacobson probably never could have guessed that some twenty years hence he would be the author of national bestsellers featuring graphic descriptions of violence. (Another sample: "The deep burn of a gunshot wound was instantly upon her, and a wide bloody circle spread through the nylon fibers of the stretch fabric of her tan pants.") But looking back, he finds himself "fascinated by how and why things happen — and how chance meetings and random occurrences, years later, can have an enormous impact." For example, "when I was attending junior high school in New York, I was part of a 'forced integration' experiment in which teens from one ethnicity were bused into schools in predominantly other ethnic neighborhoods. It was a volatile situation. Police cars were often parked out front. There were riots, hallway incidents, threats, and beatings. Violence was, it seemed, a daily occurrence. So my junior high experience was not filled with youthful exuberance" but with some of the emotions and experiences now channeled into Jacobson's fiction. Also during those years, he had an excellent English teacher. "Had I not been bused to that school, I never would have had Mr. Brill as my teacher. The busing experiment failed miserably. But without it, it's possible I never would've discovered my love for English." While he was working as a chiropractor, a chance telephone conversation with a US Department of Justice criminalist piqued Jacobson's curiosity. Soon he was learning blood-spatter-pattern analysis, meeting FBI agents — and writing. "One thing is certain: When I look back to that phone call back in 1994 ... it led to this."

Of all his novels — the others are 2000's False Accusations and 2002's The Hunted — "I think it's fair to say I'm most proud of this one. I won't come out and say it's my favorite, because, like children, my books each have their special characteristics. But ... Hollywood has already made its choice: The film rights to The 7th Victim have been sold to an A-list Hollywood producer." 7 p.m.


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