The Cuban Affair, Nelson DeMille’s twentieth novel, has become an instant bestseller, topping the USA Today list upon its debut. This is DeMille’s second novel to debut at No. 1, and is also a departure from books he’s written in the past, as readers are introduced to a new character. Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is an Afghanistan veteran, returning from active duty and beginning the process of adjusting to civilian life. After serving two tours, Mac has sought out a more peaceful lifestyle in Key West, Florida. Now a charter boat captain of a 42 foot deep-sea fishing vessel, The Maine, Mac’s life consists of taking tourists and fisherman on excursions, until three strangers approach him with an offer he cannot refuse.
A political suspense novel, The Cuban Affair sends Mac on an adventure where he is offered a substantial sum of money to help a Cuban attorney who was involved in the anti-Castro movement, and his clients get to Cuba and find an even larger sum of money that was hidden before anti-Castro activists fled or were exiled to America. With the thawing of American-Cuban relations, the three are desperate to find 6 million in American dollars before someone else does. BookTrib spoke with Nelson DeMille recently about his new book, U.S.-Cuba relations, creating new characters, and if there is a sequel in the works.
BookTrib: The Cuban Affair tackles a time in our history where U.S. relations with Cuba began evolving, as this book was written when we began to make some strides in opening up tourism and lifting sanctions. What made you want to tackle this modern phenomenon?
DeMille: I’ve always had an interest in Cuba, I remember the revolution. We had neighbors who were refugees who lost everything before leaving. I had commanding officers when I was in Vietnam, they were imprisoned during the Bay of Pigs and these things always stuck with me, as did the stories of my friends. A month or so into writing, I visited Cuba and that’s when the story really came alive for me.
BookTrib: Your main character Mac was a military man, like yourself. Did you draw from your own experiences when creating this character?
DeMille: He’s a younger character than my other characters but I understood mentally. He was wounded trying to figure out what to do with his life after returning back to civilian life. I was able to get into his head. My other characters were Vietnam vets, Mac is an Afghanistan veteran, he’s educated. My other characters were in law enforcement and Mac just wants to be a civilian, which is why he gets this boat.
BookTrib: For us, this book is of interest, as we are located in Connecticut, and I grew up in New Haven around Yale, so it was nice to see the character, Sara Ortega, is Cuban-American and a Yalie. Describe this character and how you went about creating her back story, because she is such an interesting character.
DeMille: Sara Ortega is third generation Cuban-American on an educational tour in Cuba. She’s based on Cuban-Americans I knew. Her grandfather, father, who was president of an American bank located in Cuba were very anti-Castro and knew in 1959, the revolution in 1959 was going to be successful. A lot of third generation Cuban-Americans are not as anti-Castro as their parents and grandparents, those who may have suffered personally under that regime. Sara’s not anti regime. Because she had this, sort of, disinterest she was able to operate more freely while in Cuba. She already knew where money was hidden. Those who were anti-Castro couldn’t go back, so because she doesn’t have that history, she doesn’t arouse suspicion. Sara really just wants to get the money and return it to the exiles before it is discovered and then becomes the property of Cuba.
BookTrib: I hear you write yourself into your books. I have done the same in some things I have written myself, as do other authors. Alfred Hitchcock was famous for doing this in his films. How did you write yourself into this book?
DeMille: Richard Neville is a best-selling author with a young wife – anyone who knows me recognizes this about me: best-selling author, beautiful young wife. There’s a scene in the book where main characters were sitting in a bar, in a hotel, and so you have these friends sitting there making fun of me. I also did the same in a book I wrote called Up Country.
BookTrib: I know this book just came out and writers are always writing so, I have to ask: what’s next?
DeMille: When you have a bestseller, it is always a hard act to follow; you look to do one that is bigger than the last. You can do a sequel or do something completely different. With a sequel, you don’t really need to do a backstory, just develop a plot. I will probably do a sequel because readers will see that the story is not complete, there’s more to tell. So I am leaning toward that.
Nelson DeMille is on a book tour to promote The Cuban Affair. He will be in Connecticut on Friday, October 7, 2017 at Mohegan Sun. Additional information, tickets and directions, can be found at Eventbrite.