I just got back from Thrillerfest, where much of the discussion centered around what thriller writers do in their outside lives. A lot of thriller writers, I've learned, have a variety of hobbies and skills, everything from stunt flying to cave diving. And many have other jobs as well - cops, firemen, businessmen, CIA operatives. As I overheard one reader comment, "Doesn't anyone just write books anymore?"
I think part of this is the thriller writer's temperment; he likes high stakes and excitement, so is prone to seek it out in his life, or to use research as an excuse for new adventures. And this topic reminded me of one of my favorite quotations, from JFK during a Commencement speech at Harvard. He was discussing how politicians have strayed in their interests from their intellectual predecessors, remarking of Thomas Jefferson that he was, "a gentleman of 32, who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin." While it would be ill-advised to compare even the most sophisticated of thriller writers to Jefferson, the former President and Renaissance man certainly gives us all something to aspire to.