On the eve of the release of his 19th novel, Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alum and New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille took time to speak with Hofstra. His latest novel, Radiant Angel – scheduled for release on May 26 – takes readers into the heart of a new Cold War.
DeMille’s novels have taken readers all over the world: the North Fork of Long Island, Vietnam, Yemen, and even Russia once before, in 1997’s bestselling thriller, The Charm School. So what inspired the author to revisit Russia in Radiant Angel?
“In a general way, the resurgence of Russia has inspired Radiant Angel,” DeMille said. “And [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is on everybody’s mind – what are these people up to? The events of the book are kind of an extreme Russian aggression. 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.”
The plot is chilling, but recurring character John Corey warms readers with his dry and engaging wit. Corey, an ex-NYPD detective who went on to become an agent for the fictional FBI Anti-Terrorist Task Force, is now part of the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. In his latest role, Corey follows Russian diplomats who work at the U.N. Mission, a move thought to be the twilight of his career until he realizes what the Russians are really up to: a possible nuclear attack on New York.
DeMille’s interest in writing geopolitical novels, such as Radiant Angel, took root during his undergraduate studies at Hofstra as a political science and history major. He spent three years at Hofstra, then joined the Army and attended Officer Candidate School. He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army (1966-69) and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He was decorated with the Air Medal, Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. DeMille returned to the States and to Hofstra, and received his BA in 1970.
“The first three years I was there, it was Hofstra College,” DeMille said. “It was tiny, but it was intimate and everybody knew everybody. Then I came back from the service three years later, and it was now a university.”
Asked how his majors played into his writing, he replied, “Well, it got me reading, it got me writing. When you do political science and history, you’re doing a lot of term papers … It got you thinking. It doesn’t matter what your major is. It’s good to have an English major if you really want to write, but any liberal arts will do because it gets you thinking, it gets you reading, it gets you writing, then the rest is up to you what you want to do with it. Some people want to be writers, others don’t. But when you get out of college, you should know how to write.”
As with all of his novels, DeMille, who also holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra and is a former board member of the University, did extensive research while writing Radiant Angel – another skill he honed as an undergrad.
“In those days, you had to know how to research in the library. Now research is different because it’s online, but in those days you really had to know the library. [I took] a library science course [which] prepared you for many different kinds of careers. I just chose writing — or it chose me, I’m not sure! –because I found it interesting.”
Two of DeMille’s novels have been adapted for film. The General’s Daughter, starring John Travolta, appeared on the big screen in 1999, and Word of Honor, starring Don Johnson, premiered as a television movie on TNT in 2003.
After Radiant Angel’s release on May 26, DeMille will embark on his book-signing tour. Locally, he can be seen at: Book Revue, Huntington, May 28 at 7 p.m.; Quogue Library, Quogue, May 30 at 5 p.m.; 92nd Street Y, New York, June 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Barnes & Noble, Carle Place, June 2 at 7 p.m.; BookHampton, East Hampton, June 13 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Riverhead Free Library, Riverhead, June 13 at 5 p.m.; and Forest Books, Locust Valley, June 15 at 6 p.m. For a complete listing of DeMille’s appearances, visit his website.