Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Knights to conquer New York Times

Sunday, August 31, 2014, 00:01 by
Victor Calleja

Steve Berry

Some say we all have a story to tell – something deep inside us which only needs a tap and it will magically flow out.

Steve Berry had more than one story embedded inside him and, once he managed to tap them out, they flowed on and on.

And people flocked to read his stories – he’s sold more than 18 million copies – all riveting, all page-turners, nearly all bestsellers.

Berry was on the island to write a book about the Knights of Malta. I met him at the Westin Dragonara, St Julian’s, where he was staying while he researched the knights, their history, their ways and how they have changed throughout the centuries.

The novel, which will feature Malta in a big way, will be a modern-day yarn featuring Cotton Malone.

Malone is a former Justice Department operative who can’t stay out of trouble. In various Steve Berry bestsellers Cotton Malone has criss-crossed the globe on electrifying quests.

With the smart and capable Cassiopeia Vitt by his side, Malone faces down the world’s deadliest threats – unravel-ling, along the way, some of history’s most legendary and iconic mysteries.

With his last seven suspense thrillers, Berry has managed to get into the prestigious New York Times bestsellers list.

Actually, if you ask people in the know, this is beyond prestigious –it is the bar by which publishers and anyone involved in the book trade gauge the success, or otherwise, of authors.

While working as a trial lawyer – with all its stress and tough demands – he realised he had innervoices crying out to get on with it and write thrillers.

Finally, after 85 rejections, a publisher accepted a book of his

So he researched and scribbled away in his spare time, penning suspense thrillers which he finalised and sent to publishers.

However, he kept receiving those horrid slips which no author likes to even think of ­– rejection slips. He plodded on and persisted in writing – and sending off – his manuscripts. But that wasn’t enough and he also sought office as one of the county commissioners of Camden in Georgia.

Berry was elected and held office for 14 years, one of five who ran the county which is larger than Malta, as Camden is 35 miles long (Malta is approx. 19 miles) although it only has a population of 50,000.

While all this was going on he was coming up with yarns that make you want to turn the page quicker than you can blink but which required a lot of planning, research time and writing.

Finally, after 85 rejections, a publisher accepted a book of his, The Amber Room, along with two others and success was immediate.

Top books like The Templar Legacy and The Lincoln Myth followed and Berry has had a spiralling of bigger successes.

The world had changed and suspense thrillers were then back in fashion after losing their stellar quality for publishers when the Cold War had ended.

The Da Vinci Code broke new ground and publishers realised this genre of books, which Berry was writing even before Dan Brown had made a name for himself, were hot property and millions of them could be sold.

And hugely sold they were. Berry left his law practice and now concentrates only on writing and churning out good plots.

While discussing plots, books, voices and super success, I ask Berry rather conspiratorially – trying hard to sound like one of his books’ characters – if there is anything wrong with Malta. He bellows a loud “Yes!” in his Georgia twang, as he laughs away.

“There’s one big problem with this country and that is that my time here is limited. I’m loving it here. The level of hospitality at the hotel and throughout Malta is really high. Malta is truly blessed with grand vistas and remarkable heritage and architecture. The story of the knights will be fun to plan and write,” Berry says.

The book is due out in 2018 and Berry tells me he would just love to see its international launch with Fort St Angelo as a backdrop. “It would be just magic,” says Berry, who is also a founder member of the 2,600-member International Thriller Writers.

Malone, the modern-day protagonist of Berry’s latest thrillers, is, however, rather destructive and will surely have a few difficult escapades in Malta and Gozo.

Some places here on the island will witness carnage and mayhem. “Thankfully,” Berry adds, “all this will happen in fiction so Malta’s palaces and art will remain intact and impressive even after the book is finalised.”

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