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Features

Nelson DeMille Unleashes The Panther

Best-selling author weighs in on his latest thriller and much more

When I last had the honor of sitting down with bestselling author and Garden City resident Nelson DeMille, in December 2011, he was nearing completion of his sixth John Corey novel, The Panther. After years of research and long hours holed up in his Garden City office characteristically writing his manuscript in longhand on yellow legal pads, DeMille will see his latest thriller hit bookstore shelves on Oct. 16.

A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, The Panther takes readers on a precarious journey through Yemen with Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, to hunt down the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing. As with all of his books, there is some truth, some fiction. The setting, which is in one of the most dangerous places in the Middle East, is offset with Corey’s nonstop dry and engaging wit. Even better? The dueling wit that ensues between Cory and Paul Brenner. DeMille fans will remember Brenner from The General’s Daughter and Up Country, and will be delighted to see these two characters brought together for the first time.

As I turned each page of my advance copy of The Panther, I was not only spellbound by the action but also continually humored by the exchanges between Corey and Brenner. So, I had to ask: Where does John Corey’s wit come from? Would DeMille’s friends compare him to Corey? “Well maybe in terms of the wit,” DeMille admitted. Those who read his newsletter (www.nelsondemille.net/ content/newsletter.asp) would probably agree.

On a more humble note, DeMille added, “When you write a book, you have time to be witty. Real life is real life, but you can freeze time when you’re writing. John says something, and then Paul has to say something, or vice versa.”

Now that The Panther is complete, what’s next on DeMille’s agenda? For the immediate future, he has several local appearances scheduled. He will speak and sign copies of The Panther at the Book Revue in Huntington on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.; Barnes & Noble in Carle Place on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.; and Forest Books  in Locust Valley on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m.

DeMille will visit independent book stores across Nassau and Suffolk. “The independents have a tough time. I try to do what I can for them. They are going through a change, and I think they are going to come out strong,” he said. For more information on those appearances and additional appearances, visit www.nelsondemille.net/content/appearances.asp.

Separately, DeMille will make an appearance at the Gold Coast International Film Festival at Oheka Castle in Huntington on Wednesday, Oct. 24, where he will receive the festival’s Legend Award.

Looking a bit further down the line, DeMille would like to write a children’s book. He has two adult children and a 5-year-old who entered kindergarten this fall. “The children’s book is what I really want to do,” he said, adding that he will target 5- to 7-year-olds. “I want to get it done while [my son] is in first or second grade. Then I’m done with children’s books,” he quipped.

The author is intent on working closely with an illustrator of his own choosing. Having been approached by various publishers in the past to write a children’s book, DeMille harkened back to his previous attempt at the genre. “I learned about children’s books. You need to give [the publisher] the whole thing. They can’t visualize the way I’m visualizing … kids with weird expressions on their face, you know, funny kids. You have to find an illustrator who [shares] your vision,” he said.

Speaking of children in general, DeMille said, “They need to be challenged … Kids have a lot more capacity than we realize. We used to under teach ... I don’t know if we’ve struck the right balance, but I can see that kids are reading earlier.”

As he did the last time we spoke, DeMille praised the public school system in Garden City. “I think the schools here are still good. My older kids, 32 and 34 now … were prepared for college. Like I said, they both went on to Ivy League schools, and I think they were ready for the challenge of the work. Speaking of his youngest child, he said, “He can’t wait to get on the bus, and he comes home [from school] happy and charges off the bus. It’s a good day for him.”

Moving on, I couldn’t help but ask, as I did last December, if fans will soon see film adaptations of his books, as was done with The General’s Daughter in 1999. “I have a new film agent [who is] interested in serializing the John Corey books. … They want to start with one, and the one they are more interested in is Plum Island.” He added that Ben Affleck is interested in the part. The film company is considering 10 one-hour segments and is currently working on a network.

Until that day comes, fans can enjoy DeMille’s books, including The Panther, in various formats, from hardcover, to e-books to audio downloads.