"When were the men arrested?"
"Alexander Nikitin was arrested in 1996, Grigory Pasko in 1997. Igor Sutyagin received the heaviest penalty. He was arrested in 2001 and remains in prison."
"Do you contribute support?"
"Yes, and sign the letters to the Russian president, protesting, pleading.... So that's who the dedicatees are."
"What is the current state of these cases?"
"The first two men are out: one acquitted, the other released after two and one half years. Both have gotten their passports back; both have won journalism awards. Sutyagin, however, is still jailed, still suffering. Not being a journalist probably doesn't help him to gain attention and support from outside Russia."
"A word is like a sparrow. Once set free, you cannot catch it again. How did you happen upon that for an epigram?"
"It was something a Russian general said. He ran part of Russia's secret biological warfare production. He was interviewed for an academic book entitled Anthrax that reviewed a 1979 outbreak in the Soviet Union. The authorities blamed the outbreak on bad meat sold by black marketers, whom they arrested and dealt with severely. By the way, the dynamic governor of the region who oversaw the cover-up was Boris Yeltsin. But the truth was that someone had failed to replace a filter in a plant producing weaponized anthrax. Inhalational anthrax is rare and terribly deadly (and doesn't originate in spoiled meat). And so the filter wasn't there, and wind carried the lethal microbes out to the population. The carrier, the vector, in that instance was the wind. Sleeping citizens downwind inhaled the organisms, and a great many died. Inhaled anthrax is particularly vile and lethal. We've had one or two cases in the U.S., and if it's not fatal it's utterly debilitating for the rest of one's life."
"When people ask you what makes a book a thriller, what do you tell them?"
"Plot. I think it's primarily story. The thrillers that are enticing, the ones that are real classics, seem to also have some kernel of cosmic truth and a lot of unrecorded history -- things we haven't been told, things that will never be proven. Like LeCarre's novels, Len Deighton's. Theses novels were psychologically and literally very realistic.
"Neville Shute's On the Beach is another exemplary thriller. It's almost perfect. It's so slight and utterly amazing how much it attempts, how efficient it is; what an impact it delivers."
"How long have there been thrillers?"
"Most people say it goes back to the Cold War era, but there are thrillers set before that. For a while the British almost had a monopoly on the great ones. There are thrillers set throughout the Second World War era. Something covert, something hidden, is what a thriller is about.
"Structurally, a thriller has elements you'd also find in mystery or suspense fiction. Plot points, for instance, the bits of business that create a dramatic pace, the twists and turns and revelations -- the dynamics of secrets. But the end isn't finding who done it as much as what the secret is."
Most of The Trudeau Vector takes place within the walls of the Trudeau Research Center. The center is almost Edenic. Everything civilized man or woman might want is there -- laboratory equipment, books, music, comfortable beds, perfect food, and the latest in exercise equipment. However, deep inside this Arctic Eden a bad seed hides.
"The station was inspired by B.F. Skinner's Walden II," Mr. Jurjevics explained. "It was about a utopia. Mine is full of gadgets and researchers and scientists. Amazingly, the Canadians froze a ship into the ice last year that is a floating laboratory, similar in aspirations to Arctic Research Station Trudeau. Fiction come to life."
"As I read The Trudeau Vector, I began to think that you began with a utopia that became an ectopia."
"Yeah, exactly right. It's totally dedicated to good, to knowledge. It has attracted the finest people in their fields, and unbeknownst to them it includes an unknown problem they weren't aware of. It's not of their doing, but it's acting upon them, changing their idealistic paradise, changing their lives."
"The Trudeau Vector is also a Genesis story -- the Fall of Adam, and all that goes with that."
"Right. Yes, it echoes through myths and kid stories we learn about in the course of the book and in the various cultures the story touches on, whether Inuit or Russian or American. It's in the main story too. They've created this perfect and spectacular place in a frozen hell, where they want only to do good.
"Most societies drive toward some ideal. I've always been fascinated with how the Nazis were so idealistic. The communists less so, but the dedicated among them believed as mightily as did the Nazis. Beyond the immediate borders of the Workers' Paradise, their utopia had perhaps an even greater romantic appeal. The democracies have great idealism at their cores as well, even in militaristic times. Idealism is part of every ideology's engine. It's common even to rival ideologies that have been bested and proven bankrupt. Too often, though, it's window dressing that's meant to mesmerize and sell the product. That's the danger in The Trudeau Vector. Because you can, with all the good intention in the world -- as history keeps demonstrating -- wind up producing quite a mess, regardless of sincerity."
The victims of the Trudeau vector have lost the iris in their eyes. I asked how Mr. Jurjevics came up with this.
"I needed something to demonstrate how vicious and effective the killing agent was. As I did my research, I came across an unusual red tide that was found and studied by two scientists who employed microscopes, naturally enough. The organism turned out to be particularly devastating. It attacked their eyes, blinded them first, gained entry that way, and eventually killed them both, slowly. I was very struck by their story and thought a variation on it would be effective in the story. I also wanted it as an example of the risks these scientists run and what they are prepared to sacrifice for their research."