Arts and Entertainment

Elkins writes about ‘The Worst Thing’

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Sequim Gazette

Aaron Elkins got the inspiration for his latest mystery novel, “The Worst Thing,” while on a boat trip down the Amazon River.


Elkins, an award-winning author and Sequim resident, was traveling by boat on the river through the jungle when he realized he hadn’t packed his anti-anxiety medication. He’d suffered from panic attacks for years, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night screaming.


“A panic attack is just dreadful,” he said. “You feel like you’ve gone crazy and you can’t come back.”

He relied on Xanax, a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication, to calm him down and shorten the duration of these attacks, which could last several hours.


On that eight-night trip he had to face his anxiety head-on. He had no other choice, he said.
And he hasn’t had a panic attack since.

Facing his fears

Enter Bryan Bennett, the main character of “The Worst Thing,” a designer of hostage negotiation programs and a chronic sufferer from panic attacks, due to his abduction and imprisonment in a Turkish dungeon as a young boy.


Like Elkins, it took a trip to a foreign land to make Bennett face his fears. But unlike Elkins, Bennett was kidnapped and taken hostage while in Iceland, which for him was indeed the worst thing.


“It’s as much about a battle with himself as with his kidnappers,” Elkins said.


Bennett is an “amusing” guy with a smart sense of humor, Elkins said. The story is told from his perspective.


Elkins said that while the book


isn’t meant to be therapy for people suffering from panic attacks, the science included is accurate and he hopes it will help people.

Finding writing

Elkins was a physical anthropologist, professor and worked for the federal government as a training director before he wrote his first book, “Fellowship of Fear,” in 1982. The book was the first of 17 about character Gideon Oliver, he said.


“It was kind of a mixed-up life until I found writing,” he said.


Elkins’ books have been published in more than 12 languages, made into a major television series, selected for Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series.


He moved to Sequim in the 1980s but moved often. He and his wife, Charlotte, returned to Sequim about 10 years ago.


“This is the first place we’ve come back to,” he said. “We’ve lived here longer than anywhere else.”

Elkins said Sequim is “stressless,” which is good for writing but also bad for writing.


“It’s bad for input because not a lot happens,” he said.


Elkins will sign copies of “The Worst Thing” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at the Sequim Library.


Reach Amanda Winters at


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