New York Times best-selling author Nelson DeMille introduces a new character, U.S. Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, in his new thriller, “The Cuban Affair.”
It’s the first stand-alone novel in over two decades for DeMille, six of whose 20 novels have topped the Times’ best-seller list. He’s also with a new publisher after books such as “Radiant Angel,” “Plum Island,” “The Charm School,” “The Gold Coast” (my favorite), and “The General’s Daughter,” which was made into a major motion picture starring John Travolta. He lives on Long Island with his family.
He will speak at the Marcus Jewish Community Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26., along with Alan Gross, the Jewish businessman/consultant who was imprisoned in Cuba on trumped-up charges for five years.
DeMille’s new central character, Mac, is a charter boat captain who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise yet, from Key West to pre-thaw Cuba. The book is filled with blistering adventure and fascinating facts about Cuba, including a dark, shocking secret that could freeze the thaw.
Mac learns that someone who fled Castro’s revolution hid $60 million in Cuba, and it’s only a matter of time before someone else finds the stash — by accident or on purpose. Mac knows that if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich or not at all.
With his signature humor and heart-pounding pace, DeMille does not disappoint in this brilliantly written novel.
Here’s our chat.
Jaffe: You’re back in Atlanta. How do you view our city?
DeMille: Atlanta is a great book city with enthusiastic crowds. Among authors, Atlanta is cherished.
Jaffe: Are you Jewish?
DeMille: Actually, no, but my first wife was, and I took our daughters to religious school. I am quite comfortable with Judaism.
Jaffe: In your early days, why did you use all the different pen names?
DeMille: For on-the-job training, I was writing paperbacks on police procedures for various publishers at $1,500 a book, one completed every two years. Hard to make a living at that rate!
Jaffe: Share your observations about your visit to Cuba.
DeMille: I expected it to be more of a police state. It’s not recommended to go walking in Moscow after dark. But Cuba at night lights up with culture, dance, drinks and sex — a Caribbean feel. I’d call it “joyful life” vs. a repressive society.
Jaffe: Speaking of a police state, you are appearing here with Alan Gross, who was illegally imprisoned in Cuba for five years. What’s your relationship?
DeMille: He mentioned me in his own interview, and then we connected. I regret how he suffered there. We talk on the phone and are meeting in D.C. for a Politics and Prose conference.
Jaffe: Is it true that you still compose your books in longhand?
DeMille: Yes, and each one takes 16 months. So this is my 20th book over 40 years. Hmm, that’s one every two years.
Jaffe: Do I sniff a movie deal for “The Cuban Affair” a la “The General’s Daughter”?
DeMille: We are in talks with Sony. I think it would make a great stand-alone movie and am avoiding TV offers. By the way, initially I didn’t think Travolta would be good in that lead, but he pulled it off.
Jaffe: You served in the military. Are your main characters autobiographical?
DeMille (laughing): Now that I’m eligible for Social Security and Medicare, I guess I’ll say no.
Jaffe: You are known for linear plots, sarcasm, a suffering hero, writing in the first person with an inconclusive ending. Does “The Cuban Affair” align with that?
DeMille: Writing with twists and turns doesn’t make a book better. That may be a sign of bad writing in trying to be too clever. I read “The Great Gatsby” decades ago and realized that a first-person narrator is my magic.
Jaffe: Have any hobbies?
DeMille: My wife tried to get me to play golf, but I write every day. It’s a very inexpensive hobby. We do travel a lot — London, Paris, Rome and exotic locations. Love that.
Jaffe: You have a beautiful, melodious voice. You should be in broadcasting.
DeMille: It’s just the cigarettes talking.
The Cuban Affair
By Nelson DeMille
Simon & Schuster, 448 pages, $28.99