An August Afternoon With Nelson DeMille

Nelson DeMille
Nelson DeMille, Photo: Sandy DeMille

Nelson DeMille bent over to look under the table, and I saw his eyes widening with bewilderment. He asked his assistant, “What happened to the books that were stacked here?”

She chanced, “Oh my God. Somebody must’ve stolen them!”

“What kind of people are roaming around in here?” DeMille exclaimed.

They both searched frantically here and there to no avail.

It was a sticky afternoon with sultriness in the air, and DeMille didn’t need another irritant: 60 books seemingly missing at a price of $20 each. He dabbed his moistened brow with a handkerchief and exhaled heavily. At that moment, waving a sheet of paper, his assistant blurted out, “No, no, Nelson. They’re not stolen. I’d been keeping count of the books your fans purchased here, and they’re all accounted for. You sold them all.”

“I did?” DeMille replied.

Under an outdoor tent, people were bustling at this event, the annual East Hampton Library Author’s Night, where 125 published writers sitting at rows of tables chatted with visitors about their newest tomes. The authors who participate usually sell a fair number of books, but few liquidate their entire inventory. For DeMille, though, to exhaust the stacks of books he brought along was an expectation.

That latest masterpiece titled The Panther, is a suspenseful, and at times, nail-biting novel portraying an anti-terrorist task force staffed with a mix of opposing personalities, FBI agents and retired NYPD detectives, a coupling of characters and temperaments that’s explosive in itself. I found it to be a page-turner.

DeMille, one of the top-ranked novelists in the world, brandishes drama and cinematic sequences in his unique writing style. His works feature a nearly extinct distinction; he’s an incisive social satirist who’s invariably on point and doesn’t bow to political correctness. DeMille subtly weaves wit and comedy even into the darkest of themes, buoying levity to an otherwise grim scene.

This author’s literary career spans 40 years while producing 17 novels, three of which were adapted into films, The General’s Daughter, Word of Honor and Mayday. The flawlessness with which he crafts his narratives attests to those journeying decades of writing and entertaining millions of readers. And here I was in East Hampton in the company of Nelson DeMille, lounging lazily outdoors, an August zephyr wafting gently.

I asked him, “What news do you have for your fans?”

He placed a cigarette between his lips and drew a dose of nicotine. “Remember Plum Island, a book I wrote in 1997?”

I instantly recalled it. “Of course. I read it.”

“A production company optioned it for a limited TV series,” DeMille announced, a smirk of pride flashing on his mouth.

“Congratulations,” I offered. “Quite interesting.”

“That’s the beauty of our profession. Once you publish a decent book, when you least expect it, a new project arises from it. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald; he’s dead for 73 years, and his estate continues to earn from his works.”

I pondered that statement, and it struck true. “Come to think of it, you’re right, Nelson. In 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released, a movie based on a short story by Fitzgerald. And last month, a new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby dominated the billboards.”

“By the way,” DeMille said, “My new book, The Quest, will be in bookstores on September 17, 2013.”

“Are you at liberty to unleash a sneak preview of the plot?”

“Sure.” And he narrated, “From archives of the Vatican to the jungles of Ethiopia, a crew of four begins a search for the Holy Grail. They encounter a dying priest who escaped from a bombed-out jungle prison. He reveals to them a secret—the location of Christ’s cup from the Last Supper. Thus begins their quest—a deadly adventure that pits them against murderous tribesmen, fanatical Coptic monks, and ultimately, the powers of the Grail itself.”

“I’d bet it’ll be thrilling,” I raved.

“I hope so,” he said in a modest tone.

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