Sunday, November 18, 2012

DeMille's PANTHER Knocks It out of the Park

Imagine a scene near the temple ruins not far from Marib in Yemen. Bulus ibn al-Darwish (his Al Qaeda nom de guerre is al-Numair – The Panther) wearing a ceremonial jambiyah, the curved dagger of Yemen – butchers a bunch of Belgian tourists.

He yells at the bodies, "You have learned that in Yemen death comes!"

Fade to NYC, where smart-mouth John Corey, ex-NYPD, currently on New York's Anti-Terrorist Task Force, takes center stage.

And his mouth does not stop for 625 tense pages!

Remember that curved dagger…

John and his FBI wife Kate are assigned to Yemen, to hunt down the bad guys who bombed the USS Cole in 2000. John knows that everyone who journeys to Yemen doesn't come back!

John and Kate arrive in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. We can smell the danger…

They are met by another spook, a guy we've met before, the hero of The General's Daughter and Up Country, Paul Brenner, now with the Diplomatic Security Service. Paul is one of the few good guys in this tale, in a desert filled with black hats in every cave, on every camel.

The author and I both revel in writing about psychopathic villains who are bigger than life. The Panther has traits we've met in other DeMille thrillers – the killer in The General's Daughter, the sadistic cop in Spencerville, the slimeball vintner in Plum Island, the mass murderer in The Lion's Game and The Lion, the weird oil tycoon in Wild Fire. Even that likable Mafia guy in The Gold Coast.

My theory is that John Corey existed way before his appearance in Plum Island. I saw shades of Corey in other books: as Keith Landry in Spencerville. And John Sutter of The Gold Coast was a John Corey type, in some ways. And Paul Brenner in his earlier roles could have been a twin of John Corey.

None of these appearances detract from the current power of Corey and his ability to keep on center stage for six major novels!

I see him as a kind of Everyman, who began early in the author's career, a man who has a smart mouth habit, yet has a lot of depth and compassion – and even a tender side - and wears very well – for years and years and book after book after book.

His fans love him and accept him as he is – and want to move with him into his future.

I'd like to see a woman take a stronger role in John's life – perhaps a female villain!

Maybe another place on the planet that has the same authenticity of upstate New York, Long Island, Ohio.

American readers are devoted and loyal to their home turfs. Could the gold coast move to the gulf coast? Could John and Kate get assigned to a small town in Texas?

The sites of Yemen and Vietnam were very authentic and carefully researched. But the home turf hits the reader in the gut.

As I came to Page 625, and slowly closed The Panther, very satisfied with the just ending (and you will be too!) I felt, that as exciting and nail-biting as this book is, the prize still goes to the author for his finale that has no equal – in Night Fall!

His finest literary hour in all 17 novels!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave us a comment…

4 comments:

  1. Like you, I love smart-mouth Det. John Corey. Every now and then during my years in the NYPD I'd run into a John Corey, always street-smart detectives. Maybe it's nostalgia that makes him the only DeMille character I remember ('Plum Island,' 'The Lion' and 'Night Fall') although I also read DeMille's first, 'Cathedral', and 'UpCountry'. One helluva writer, and I agree about how good a book is 'Night Fall'.

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  2. In preparation for this essay, I re-read all the early books by DeMille - By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School - and was bored by the protags, except for Charm School. I'm so glad this author finally got the voice of a Corey - I'm all ready for the next book! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

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  3. Now this does sound like a book that I could get into!!! Love your style Thelma!!

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  4. Thelma, you said: "I'd like to see a woman take a stronger role in John's life"

    I was half expecting Susan Weber to turn up with Paul Brenner for the meeting under the clock even though there were a couple hints to the contrary.

    So Brenner never made the house visit after both were eventually back in the States after working together?

    @traintalk

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