By Robin Jovanovich
Mitch Silver leads a double life. His friends and fans have known about it for close to a decade. On February 6, the truth will out when his second thriller, “The Book Worm”, is published.
When not sporting about covering Rye High, Rye Neck, and Rye Country Day school sports, it turns out that Silver is at his desk researching and writing about the dastardly doings of Nazis and other bad actors from World War II all the way up to Russian oligarchs, and the unwitting citizens who get caught up in their evil web.
That research included: how were diplomatic bags closed; how did Noel Coward change the course of the war for the Allies; chess plays; what actually happens at G20 Summit meetings; and how do you get oil from field to pipeline.
In 2010, Silver started off with the premise that Sarah Palin was president, “so I knew I wanted Alaska drilling rights in the story somehow. But then she dropped out of public life.”
But still operating on the notion that life imitates art (remembering that Silver finished writing the book in late 2015), Silver started writing about a “dealmaker president who’s flying to the G20 in Moscow and shaking hands with the Russian president.” He told us: “I’ve never forgotten the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner during which Seth Meyers called Donald Trump a joke.”
What he pulled off so skillfully in his first novel, “In Secret Service”, —interweaving history and fictional mayhem — Silver does even better in “The Book Worm”.
It’s no mystery why his new publisher, Pegasus Books, thinks this novel has wings: “The Book Worm” has the biggest pre-order of any book they’ve published to date.
Silver could also write an entertaining book about the vagaries of getting published.
After his first book met with success — 50,000 hardcover copies sold is something to shout about for a first-time novel —, he had a hard time selling Simon & Schuster, or his literary agent, on his idea for a second book.
His search for a new literary agent took time, and soon after he landed a great one, Wendy Weil, who sadly died of a sudden heart attack in 2012.
A cinephile, Silver reworked the novel as a screenplay. In 2015, he started rewriting the novel in earnest. It was his son Perry, who had gone to University of North Carolina, who suggested he contact another Chapel Hill graduate, Claiborne Hancock, the owner of Pegasus Books.
“After Claiborne bought the book, his team asked me whom I knew who might write a blurb,” recalled Silver. “They sent a copy to James Patterson, actually his assistant. Jim and I worked together at J. Walter Thompson decades ago, on the Absorbine Jr. account. He was the new boy right after me.” He paused before mentioning that Patterson moved up to chairman of the agency before moving on to Chapter 2 of his life: becoming one of the best-selling authors of all time.
What’s Patterson’s take on “The Book Worm”? “It’s that very rare, almost extinct thriller: well-plotted, intelligent as hell, with a truly memorable main character.”
And that main character is a woman. A woman that knows German, has just finished a book, and believes that wars are fought over resources.
Does a man really know how to write about a woman? Surely Henry James did, we agreed.
For Mitch Silver, “Men and women are about 80 percent the same. Characters are always all or parts of the author.” Makes you realize there is a lot more to this author than the smart, creative, quick-witted man you know and hold dear.
With the novel set to be published in England and lots of buzz on our side of the pond, what actor would he like to see play the heroine, Lara Klimt, in the movie — and there will be a movie, say those who have read the book?
“John Cunningham could play all the roles,” he replied with a smile.
<Mitch Silver will be at the Greenwich Library talking about “The Book Worm” on February 22 at 7 p.m. and at the Rye Free Reading Room in the coming weeks.>