DeMille announces television adaptation of Plum Island in Wilton

Nelson Demille, author of 18 acclaimed novels, and a collection of New York Times best-sellers, was met with a crowd of hundreds at the Wilton Library this Tuesday. The thriller-specialist and Vietnam veteran entertained his fans with glimpses into the life of a best-selling novelist while discussing his new book, The Quest.

Perhaps most exciting for those in the audience was the author’s announcement of two new, and exciting chapters in the “life story” of Mr. Demille’s most well-loved character, John Corey.

During the presentation, the author was not shy in announcing he would soon be signing a contract with Sony Pictures to produce a six-part cable TV mini-series based around his most popular book, Plum Island.

“We don’t have a TV network yet,” he said, “but it will almost certainly be on a channel like TBS, HBO, or AMC.”

Going one step further when answering a guest’s question, Mr. Demille feigned reluctance to answer whether his fans would see another escapade from John Corey. But, eventually he smiled and admitted that he was certainly planning on bringing Mr. Corey back into the fold for his next book.

“The last time you saw John Corey was in Yemen. But this time he’ll be here in the United States,” Mr. Demille said.

The Quest, the author said during a recent interview, was a bit “Indiana Jones, meets The Da Vinci Code. “It had a paperback original version,” Mr. Demille said. “To me, it was a new book. It needed to be rewritten, and hopefully I've learned something about writing in 35 years.”

He was also quick to point out during the presentation that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, was in Middle School when this religious thriller came out for the first time.

“Like religious thrillers myself, and that's how I would describe this book,” he said. “It will debut this Sunday at number two on the New York Times bestseller list. Its not a usual DeMille book, but readers are really responding well to it. The book is set in 1974 and 1975 during Ethiopian revolution. Its got a little bit of a Dr. Zhivago in it.”

While in Vietnam, the author served as a First Lieutenant with the First Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army in 1968. According to an introduction by library staff, it was in the jungles of Vietnam that Mr. Demille first felt worthy of becoming a novelist, when compared to his heroes like Ernest Hemingway.

"I always admired Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck. Unconsciously, I wanted to be those guys,” he said. “A lot of these writers had done something; gone to war, or — like Steinbeck — had suffered through the depression. They had to suffer through something to be a great writer.  After Vietnam, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I didn't feel like such a fraud.”

When he returned to New York City after the war, he got a job writing $1.25 paperback “police procedural.”

“Back then they wanted my novels to be 70,000 words or less so they could put a $1.25 price tag on it,” he said. “Anything more and it would have to be $1.50!”

While speaking to The Bulletin, he explained his pre-novelist life to The Bulletin further.

“When I came out of the Army, I had a year of college to go. Then I was an insurance investigator investigating claims and fraud,” he said. “I always wanted to write a novel about that, because insurance fraud has great plots attached to it. I always took odd jobs, and wasn't really focused. I did some construction work that paid well, but it wasn't until I was 30 years old when I sat down, and wrote a book.”

His job as an insurance investigator, he said, introduced him to the idea of “the con,” or real-life fraudulent behavior. He said it taught him that the people attempting to extort money or services aren’t necessarily evil.

“I had never seen fraud up close. I was a young man reading case histories, and I found that it was amazing what people thought they could get away with,” he said. “I'm sure some are successful. What I found out, though, is that most criminals are stupid. They were regular people trying to scam the insurance company. But, normal people turn to petty crime when they're not doing very well.”

Like some of his greatest inspirations, such as Agatha Christie and Graham Green, Mr. DeMille believes the best thrillers don’t use extraordinary violence.

“With those guys,” he said, “the violence in minimal. There’s more thinking than action. I think that influenced my writing early on. My characters have to be courageous about making a morale choice. They engage the brain before they engage the gun. That's brave, to not go for the gun right away.”

In the audience of his presentation were two Wilton representatives of the American Legion, an organization that Mr. Demille is a long-time member, and supporter of. Those members were Don Boyle, a Silver Springs Road resident who also served as a First Lieutenant in Vietnam in 1970, and Dan Glass, a former Naval Captain who lives on Catalpa Road.

During an interview before the presentation, Mr. Demille told The Bulletin that his novels are appealing to a wide audience because they are based in fact.

“My books are grounded in reality,” he said. “The heroes are super, but not like some of the superheroes today that are just super-human. All of my characters are grounded in who they are and what they do. Their  courage is founded in morale courage rather than physical courage.”