An Interview with Nelson DeMille
RADIANT ANGEL by Nelson DeMille is the 7th novel in the John Corey series. Mr. DeMille has been writing political thrillers for approximately thirty-five years, but like a fine wine he has gotten better with age. With this new novel he has pivoted from the antagonists of Arab terrorists to the new dangers or a newly resurgent Russia. John Corey has left the Anti-Terrorist Task Force and returned home to New York City, taking a job with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Corey must follow Vasily Petrov, a colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, who poses as a diplomat with the Russian U.N. Mission. After he mysteriously disappears from a Russian oligarch’s party in Southampton, it’s up to Corey to track him down before he endangers America.
Elise Cooper: This book seems out of character with its length. Agree?
Nelson DeMille: I purposely made it short. I could have put more about the ex-Soviet Union and the re-emergence of Russia. But I just wanted to get into the action. I decided to throw a fastball down the middle.
EC: What inspired you for this plot?
ND: A number of things. I regret not writing more on the Cold War. I did write The Talbot Odyssey and The Charm School, but by the time the paperback of The Charm School came out the Soviet Union was imploding. I also was tired of writing about Arab terrorists, which is why I gave John Corey a new job. Finally, I thought the events of this book could happen. In the real world, the Russians are being aggressive in their area of influence in Europe and, to some extent, in Asia, but also they’re hacking into our computers. I took resurgent Russian to an extreme.
EC: Why the Long Island setting?
ND: A lot of my books are set on Long Island because it’s diverse culturally, ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically. For a small land area there’s a lot going on here. I’ve written four books about Long Island and I could write another five or six. I’ve yet to set a book specifically in the Hamptons, but that’s something I’m thinking about.
EC: You had three women protagonists in this story. Can you explain?
ND: I got tired of Kate. I might have broken the rules of series characters, but I think it worked, the implication of her having an affair. I had to make John’s new partner a female to make it interesting. Tess, a State Department official, is a viable character. But the one who definitely knows how to handle John is detective Beth Penrose. Kate will not be a part of the next book, but Beth will be John’s lady. It was time to bring her back, which I did in this novel. I think readers will enjoy Beth’s line to John, “All my friends call me Detective Penrose. Why don’t you do the same?” But a little later when she wanted to find out what was happening she reminded John that he used to confide in her and he responded, “I also used to call you Beth.”
She concurred and told him to “please call me Beth,” and to see her before he leaves.
EC: What do you want readers to get out of this book?
ND: This quote from the book emphasizes the point, “the Cold War was back and no one was paying attention.” The Russian story is still unfolding. It is a huge country. Let’s not forget that during the Cold war they were our military equivalent and that can happen again.
EC: Rumor has it you are thinking of shelving John for the next book. True?
ND: The setting will be in Cuba and Florida. I am hoping to travel to Cuba sometime this fall. This stand-alone book will probably be released a year from October. I am not sure in which direction the plot will go. There are a number of possibilities including having the protagonists searching for millions of dollars of treasure buried by the Batista government; finding six nuclear warheads left behind by the 1962 Russian pullout; and/or finding a convicted police killer, the Black Liberation Army militant. The main character, Mac, is a US veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. After being severely wounded he decides to start a fishing and tour boat business. Because of his expertise a Cuban exile group hires him. The leading lady is a “hot” Cuban female fluent in Spanish. Having a character in the heart of darkness allows for a lot of adventure and suspense. I will definitely weave the backstory of the Cuban Missile Crisis into the plot.
EC: Are you writing about a new setting and character to get out of your comfort zone?
ND: I understand the readers are comfortable with the books and the characters. But after awhile the author gets bored and it shows within the books. The problem with a long running series is how much of the backstory must be told. Old readers might be bored and new readers don’t know the background. Authors have to ponder where to begin, what to tell, and do people really remember the first books details, something that fades from my mind. With this next book, I am definitely excited about the Cuban plot. It is such a part of our history and is so close geographically I think Americans can relate.