Barry Eisler Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Seldom has the thriller genre featured such a flawed (morally compromised) and yet attractive figure as Barry Eisler’s John Rain. On one hand, he seems amoral; on the other, his sensitivity, especially toward women, is remarkable. Rain also revels in describing the meals he eats and his lovemaking.

Eisler may be Tom Clancy’s only serious rival in the creation of techno-thrillers. Like Clancy, Eisler loves to dwell on his hero’s use of the latest technology, but unlike Clancy’s protagonists, Rain is a more believable human being—conflicted about killing but also aware that governments employ agents just like him, especially when the bureaucracy cannot act quickly. Rain becomes indispensable because the governments who give him assignments cannot go through regular channels.

Unlike the traditional thriller where the hero often does not age (James Bond, for example) or who manages to continue his work without serious internal disturbance, Rain grows increasingly tense about the toll his assassinations have taken on his psyche. Thus the Rain series has a kind of tragic trajectory, and its hero is fast approaching the point where he must leave “the life” and begin a new existence as a law-abiding citizen. Eisler’s contribution to the thriller genre is located in the nexus he explores between the individual’s state of mind and the geopolitical concerns of global terrorism and government-sponsored violence.

Barry Eisler Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Baker, Tom. “’Rain’ Maker Barry Eisler Willing to Suffer for His Art.” The Daily Yomiuri, August 19, 2006, p. 1. Baker notes how Eisler was involved in an accident when checking out an area of Tokyo that he planned to use in his book and that he used a stun gun on himself to test its effects.

Eisler, Barry. Barry Eisler: The Official Website. This is a very comprehensive author Web site. It includes a biography, photo gallery documenting Eisler’s career, access to his blog, descriptions of all his novels, a generous sampling of interviews, a list of awards his books have received, and excerpts from reviews. The author can be contacted directly from this site, and users can sign up for a newsletter.

Eisler, Barry. “PW Talks with Barry Eisler: Paying a Horrible Price.” Interview by Robert C. Hahn. Publishers Weekly 253, no. 18 (May 1, 2006): 32. Eisler, a former CIA operative, talks about terrorism and surveillance, as well as his plans for the Rain series.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, a former inspector general of the CIA, contrasts spy novels with actual espionage cases. Although it does not mention Eisler’s works, it contains a chapter on assassination, which sheds light on Rain’s possible duties.

Pitt, David. Review of The Last Assassin, by Barry Eisler. Booklist 102, no. 17 (May 1, 2006): 27-28. Reviewer notes that this installment in the series does not have the protagonist’s name in the title and starts with the information that Rain is a father, perhaps marking a change in direction on Eisler’s part.

Pitt, David. Review of Requiem for an Assassin, by Barry Eisler. Booklist 103, no. 17 (May 1, 2007): 23. The reviewer wonders about the sustainability of a series in which the hit man wants simply to retire but hopes that Eisler can continue the series for a while.