New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille stopped by the Sid Jacobson JCC in East Hills last Tuesday on the last leg of a book tour for his new novel, “The Cuban Affair.”
The event was part of the center’s “Spotlight Speaker” series, sponsored by the JCC’s Cultural Arts Committee, and included a private meet and greet and Q&A with the author.
After a 35-year run with his old publishing house, DeMille decided to reinvent himself at 73. His initial thought when he joined Simon & Schuster in 2015 was to continue writing with one of his series characters, like John Corey, to which his editor replied, “Some of your characters are ready for Social Security.”
DeMille said he was then compelled to think, and create new characters, something that he says is rather challenging. At this time, Cuba was much in the news; the Obama Administration was in the process of restoring diplomatic relations with the communist country.
DeMille’s long held fascination with Cuba, and his publisher’s push for a fresh, fictional face, created the perfect storm for the author to pen what is now his seventh number one bestselling novel.
“The Cuban Affair” details charter boat captain Daniel MacCormick’s adventures to retrieve a hidden fortune that was supposedly buried among the beaches after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The author was inspired to write about Cuba since the events leading up to the crisis were a vivid part of his childhood. Upon visiting 50 years later, he described his experience in the country as, “communism with rum and coke.”
“Cuba is one of those places where you think you know what it’s going to be like, but you get there and it’s much different,” he said. “The sites and the smells are different, the people are hardworking and industrious, just like Americans.”
DeMille talked about interesting features of the novel — MacCormick’s entrance into Cuba with a Yale educational group, noting that he always digs at Yale in his novels; the character of Richard Neville, a bestselling author, who DeMille created after himself; and Jack Colby, the Vietnam war vet, who gives new meaning to graphic t-shirts, donning garments that read, “Guantanamo: Come for the sun, stay for the water boarding,” and “Guns don’t kill people, I kill people.”
The author admitted that he added Colby as a way to stay in touch with his writing origins as he crafted more relevant characters. “As an author, you have to know how people speak in different cultures, socioeconomic groups, sexes, age groups,” he said.
“The Cuban Affair” debuted on Sept. 19, 2017, and a week and a half later, it was number one on the New York Times bestsellers list. This was the seventh time DeMille had crowned such an achievement.
“The sales have been very strong, and the reviews have been very good,” he added. “It’s gratifying, having been in the business for 40 years, to have your twentieth book be as good as your first.”
Jodi Rosenthal, the president of the Sid Jacobson JCC and good friend of the author, had asked DeMille to bring a book tour to the center years ago.
“The arts committee works really hard to bring quality programming to the community, and we’re honored Nelson could do this for us,” Rosenthal said.
DeMille’s wife, Sandy, said her husband’s latest novel has brought a new sense of excitement to his career. “We did a national tour over nine days, and we’ve seen the biggest crowds of any book he’s ever written,” she said. “He was pushing himself to write a really good book for the new publisher, so for him to be at number one is very exciting.”
DeMille is a native Long Islander, who attended Elmont High School and Hofstra University. He currently lives in Garden City.
“The Cuban Affair” is available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.