If your idea of a best-selling author, one who has 30 million books in circulation, is a stuffy, pipe-smoking, tweedy poobah, you haven’t met Nelson DeMille.
By Tom McDermott
If your idea of a best-selling author, one who has 30 million books in circulation, is a stuffy, pipe-smoking, tweedy poobah, you haven’t met Nelson DeMille. Anthony Mason, a Rye Free Reading Room Trustee and CBS News’ senior business and economics correspondent, interviewed the popular novelist at the library in front of a packed house January 27.
DeMille is a self-deprecating, witty, regular guy from Long Island, which is the backdrop for a number of his books. His latest novel, “The Panther,” was published by Grand Central in October and is the sixth in the John Corey Anti-Terrorist Task Force series. The action in the new book takes place in Yemen, where Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, have managed to get themselves sent to find the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, an Al Qaeda operative known as, you guessed it, The Panther.
Did DeMille, whom his father named after Lord Nelson, actually go to Yemen? “No!” the author laughed off the question, but he spent over a year researching the story.
DeMille was a decorated Vietnam vet in the mid-70’s, newly armed with a degree from Hofstra, when he began writing paperback NYPD police procedurals. His first major book was “By The Rivers Of Babylon,” which appeared in 1978, “because I knew people in the publishing business, who told me what might sell.” The result was a Book Of The Month Club main selection, and, according to DeMille, “earned $300,000, but it was not only about the money; I was being read!”
The author was asked about his “clairvoyance” regarding events he writes about before they happen in the real world, as he did with “The Lion’s Game” in 2000, which presaged the September 11 tragedy. He answered that clairvoyance has nothing to do with it, and that it’s all about research and having great sources, people who already knew something like that would happen one day.
What would DeMille’s Plan B have been, if his books had not sold? “Maybe archeology. I was always interested in that.”
Those in the audience seemed pleased that his Plan A worked out so well.
The interview followed the Rye Library annual meeting, at which three new trustees – Ted Burdick, Sarah Wise-Miller, and Amee Sheldon – were elected.