Barry Eisler, 2009.
Barry Eisler (born 1964) is a best-selling American novelist. He is the author of two thriller series, the first featuring anti-hero John Rain, a half-Japanese, half-American former soldier turned freelance assassin, and a second featuring black ops soldier Ben Treven. Eisler also writes about politics and language on his blog "Heart of the Matter", and at the blogs CHUD, Firedoglake, The Huffington Post, MichaelMoore.com, The Smirking Chimp, and Truthout.
After graduating from Cornell Law School in 1989, Eisler joined the CIA, where he held a covert position with the Directorate of Operations. He left the Agency in 1992 and thereafter worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. He started writing full time in 2002 when he sold the rights to his debut novel, Rain Fall, the first of his seven-book series featuring John Rain.
Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for "Best Thriller of the Year," have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages. In April 2009, Sony Pictures Japan released a mostly Japanese language film version of Rain Fall starring Shiina Kippei as Rain and Gary Oldman as Rain's nemesis, CIA Station Chief William Holtzer.
Eisler made news in March 2011 when he walked away from a reported half million dollar advance from St. Martin's Press in order to go the self-publishing route pioneered by his colleague Joe Konrath and others. The move was considered by many as a turning point in an industry challenged by the growing (and some say thriving) digital indie author market.
Eisler made news again in February 2013 when his legacy publishing contracts were amicably terminated and he immediately retitled and self-published his books. His explanation:
A Note On The New Titles
Why have I changed the titles of the Rain books? Simply because I've never thought the titles were right for the stories. The right title matters—if only because the wrong one has the same effect as an inappropriate frame around an otherwise beautiful painting. Not only does the painting not look good in the wrong frame; it will sell for less, as well. And if you're the artist behind the painting, having to see it in the wrong frame, and having to live with the suboptimal commercial results, is aggravating.
The sad story of the original Rain titles began with the moniker Rain Fall for the first in the series. It was a silly play on the protagonist's name, and led to an unfortunate and unimaginative sequence of similar such meaningless, interchangeable titles: Hard Rain, Rain Storm, Killing Rain (the British titles were better, but still not right: Blood from Blood for #2; Choke Point for #3; One Last Kill for #4). By the fifth book, I was desperate for something different, and persuaded my publisher to go with The Last Assassin, instead. In general, I think The Last Assassin is a good title, but in fairness it really has nothing to do with the story in the fifth book beyond the fact that there's an assassin in it. But it was better than more of Rain This and Rain That. The good news is, the fifth book did very well indeed; the bad news is, the book's success persuaded my publisher that assassin was a magic word and that what we needed now was to use the word assassin in every title. And so my publisher told me that although they didn't care for my proposed title for the sixth book—The Killer Ascendant—they were pleased to have come up with something far better. The sixth book, they told me proudly, would be known as The Quiet Assassin.
I tried to explain that while not quite as redundant as, say, The Deadly Assassin or The Lethal Assassin, a title suggesting an assassin might be notable for his quietness was at best uninteresting (as opposed to, say, Margret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which immediately engages the mind because of the connection of two seemingly contradictory qualities). The publisher was adamant. I told them that if they really were hell-bent on using assassin in a title that otherwise had nothing to do with the book, couldn't we at least call the book The Da Vinci Assassin, or The Sudoku Assassin? In the end, we compromised on Requiem for an Assassin, a title I think would be good for some other book but is unrelated to the one I wrote—beyond, again, the bare fact of the presence of an assassin in the story.
Now that I have my rights back and no longer have to make ridiculous compromises about these matters, I've given the books the titles I always wanted them to have--titles that actually have something to do with the stories, that capture some essential aspect of the stories, and that act as both vessel and amplifier for what's most meaningful in the stories. For me, it's like seeing these books for the first time in the frames they always deserved. It's exciting, satisfying, and even liberating. Have a look yourself and I hope you'll enjoy them.
Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
John Rain Novels
- A Clean Kill in Tokyo, previous published as Rain Fall (2002)
- A Lonely Resurrection, previously published as Hard Rain in the US and Blood from Blood in the UK (2003)
- Winner Take All, previously published as Rain Storm in the US and Choke Point in the UK (2004)
- Redemption Games, previously published as Killing Rain in the US and One Last Kill in the UK (2005)
- Extremis, previously published as The Last Assassin (2006)
- The Killer Ascendant, previously published as Requiem for an Assassin (2007)
- The Detachment (2011)
Ben Treven Novels
- The Lost Coast (Larison, 2011)
- Paris is a Bitch (Rain/Delilah, 2011)
- The Khmer Kill (Dox, 2012)
- London Twist (Delilah, 2013)
- Be The Monkey: A Conversation About The New World Of Publishing (with Joe Konrath)
- The Ass Is A Poor Receptacle For The Head: Why Democrats Suck At Communication, And How They Could Improve
- Eisler, Barry. "From the Author". Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Pinter, Jason. "Why I'm Self-Publishing". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- National Public Radio. "Barry Eisler's 'Detachment' From 'Legacy' Publishing". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Barry Eisler Official Website
- Eisler's blog, Heart of the Matter
- Eisler on Truthout
- Article on the John Rain Books by Jeff Riggenbach
- IMDB listing for Rain Fall
- Eisler on GRITtv
- Eisler on The Young Turks
- Works by or about Barry Eisler in libraries (WorldCat catalog)