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Guest Host: Susan Page
Just in time for summer beach reading, best-selling writer Daniel Silva is out with a new spy novel. His loyal readers likely will be thrilled to hear that this novel returns to the dangerous world of the fictional Israeli spy Gabriel Allon. This time, Allon is secretly hired by the British government to help find a beautiful young British woman who vanishes on the island of Corsica. But she is no ordinary woman. Madeline Hart is a rising star in the British government who has a dark secret: she’s the British prime minister’s mistress. Fearful that scandal will destroy his career, the prime minister hires the trustworthy Israeli spy.
Excerpted from “The English Girl” by Daniel Silva. Copyright © 2013 by Daniel Silva. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Novelist Daniel Silva has a knack for foreshadowing major political events in the Middle East. One of his spy novels predicted the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and forecast the Arab Spring.
MS. SUSAN PAGEHis latest book, his 16th novel follows a master Israeli spy who is hired by the British prime minister to track down a kidnapped woman. His mission follows characters from London to Corsica and Russia. The title of the book is "The English Girl" and author Daniel Silva joins me here in the studio. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. DANIEL SILVAThank you for having me.
PAGEWe are inviting our listeners who I'm sure include many of your readers to join us later in this hour. You can call our toll free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. So the title of your book "The English Girl," who is she?
SILVAShe is a woman named Madeline Hart. She works at the headquarters of the British ruling party. I very carefully don't say which party is in power in Britain where the novel is set. And she's a rising young star. She works within the machinery of the party, but everyone is predicting a very bright future for her, a seat in parliament, maybe the Cabinet one day.
SILVAAnd she disappears while on holiday on Corsica and there's a complication involved because Madeline Hart is also the mistress of the British prime minister. He is concerned about going to the police about the ransom note he receives and so he asks my hero, my long-time hero, Gabriel Allon, to help find the girl before she can be executed.
PAGENow one of the characteristics of your books is that it uses current events and I wonder was there something that inspired you to write about a British scandal, a British political scandal?
SILVAWell, British political scandals have a way of being really good, very messy, and very juicy. You have the Profumo scandal that we all know about from the film "Scandal." They have a knack for good political scandals and we've had some too.
SILVAAnd, you know, we've had some examples recently. We don't need to mention names, but about very prominent men who hold very important secrets in their head, doing things they shouldn't be doing. And I guess that sort of set this plot in motion.
SILVAAnd there's some other things that inspired it that, I don't want to give away too much about the book, but I was also inspired by the sleeper spy case that unfolded here in the United States a couple of years ago. The Russian spies who were living here illegally.
PAGENow, your hero, Gabriel Allon appears in most of your novels. You didn't really intend that when you first introduced him. Is that right?
SILVAI didn't. He was supposed to appear in one book, one book only, sail off into the sunset quite literally. And I guess at the time I didn't realize what I had created and as it happened I'd switched publishing houses at that point. I went from Random House over to Penguin Putnam and had my first meeting with my new team over there.
SILVAAnd they asked me, what are you working on? And I said, nothing, you know. What would you like me to work on? And they said, we want another Gabriel Allon book. And I said, you know, you're crazy. It'll never work as a continuing character. I thought there was far too much anti-Israeli sentiment in the world and frankly far too much anti-Semitism to ever allow an Israeli continuing character to succeed in the truly mass market way.
SILVAI wrote the second book. It did better than the first book. I wrote a third book, better. And at that point, I realized that I had a series on my hand.
PAGEWhy do you think he's done so well?
SILVAI think because of the two very distinct sides of his character. He is an Israeli intelligence officer or a sometimes Israeli intelligence officer as I like to call him because he's in and out all the time and he's also a world-class art restorer.
SILVAAnd that allows me to use all kinds of different story lines, different settings. It allows me quite frankly to attract female readers because he's not just a one-dimensional counter-terrorism officer who's out, you know, just murdering or killing terrorists. So he's a different kind of character.
SILVAHe has a large cast of characters around him that I shift from book to book and it has worked, but honestly no one is more surprised by the fact that Gabriel Allon, an Israeli intelligence officer, is now a number one best-seller in America.
PAGEYou know, here's what I wonder about a book like yours, which is pretty substantial. When you start writing the book, is it clear to you what's going to happen? What your characters will do? How the story will unfold? Do your characters sometimes take over the story while you're writing about it?
SILVAUm, usually it is the second case, that I start with a setup, have a vague idea of how it's going to resolve itself and write about a third of it, stop at that point, get the front half in shape and then push through to the end where I, you know, with a clear idea of what's going to happen.
SILVAThis book because of the nature of the twists and the story structure, it really required me to know the ending in a way that I usually don't and so this one was a little different for me.
PAGEI can see. I could visualize like you putting your paper, circling your den or your basement where you write with the plot mapped out and the twists and turns which are considerable, although we don't want to spoil anybody's reading of the book. Is that how you do it? Do you have a visual representation of it...
PAGE...of what's going to happen?
PAGEIt's just in your head?
SILVAIt's all in my head. In fact I've tried unsuccessfully to outline or write it down, you know, and it's usually just a waste of time because I can keep it all in my head straight. Usually, when I've got everything figured out, I sit my wife down, Jamie Gangel of NBC News, a very talented reporter and we have what is known as, the in case I die conversation.
SILVAThen I tell her everything that's going to happen for the rest of the book and how it's going to end and how to finish it in case I die.
PAGEDoes she have like a commitment to finish your book in case...
SILVANo, she doesn't.
SILVANo, she doesn't but it's just something that we've -- it's come to be, over my career, the in-case-I-die conversation. And that's usually means that I've had that eureka moment when I can see the book from beginning to end and I get it laid out for her.
PAGEWell, does she ever say, you know, that doesn't make sense to me? I would like the book to end this other way?
SILVAShe is my primary copy editor. She's the person I bounce all my ideas off of. I think she's listening. I walk around the house muttering to myself a lot. She nods. She says, yes, dear, but she really plays a critical role in creatively and helping me to flesh out my ideas and get my manuscripts repaired but also in the business side of being an author.
PAGEAnd do you ever? Are you ever writing a novel and you're writing, you're trying to make the character do something and they sort of, kind of won't do it, in that it just doesn’t seem right and you have to go in some other direction?
SILVAAh, all the time. But I think at this point after 13 Gabriel Allon books, I know what Gabriel Allon would do and wouldn't do.
PAGESo Gabriel Allon, was he based on a real person?
SILVAHe's not. He is created entirely from whole cloth. But that said, I mean, the more I have spent time around people in the Israeli intelligence business this combination of a very effective and dangerous intelligence officer who also has an artistic or musical side is very true-to-life.
PAGEIs true-to-life in that a lot of...
SILVAWait, wait, wait, that it...
PAGE...intelligence officers have a kind of?
SILVA...in Israeli intelligence.
PAGEIs it just?
SILVAIt's sort of -- maybe it's the gene pool or maybe it's the kind of person that they like to recruit, but usually they are independent-minded guys who can go out in the field and think on the fly and are very creative in the way they go about their operations, much more so than the way we do.
PAGEAnd how do real Israeli intelligence operatives feel about Gabriel Allon?
SILVAI've had contact with people at the highest ranks and in the middle ranks of Israeli intelligence and I have readers up and down the services. A lot of them sit around and, you know, say I'm Gabriel Allon. No. I'm Gabriel Allon, I'm Gabriel Allon. So he does have his admirers inside Israeli intelligence.
PAGENow you say he's not based on any real spy-type character, but you do credit, you do acknowledge and thank a friend of yours who is an art restorer who's played a role in these stories. Who is he?
SILVAHis name is David Bull. He now lives and works in the New York area, but for many years he was here in Washington at the National Gallery of Art. When I was creating Gabriel, as it turned out, I was just looking for that other side of the character. I wanted one other aspect of his character besides what he did for his Israeli intelligence.
SILVAI was looking for, I guess, an overt world job to give him and it just so happened that I was having dinner with David at his house in Georgetown one evening. I just, in a flash, it came to me. And I came to him privately and said, listen, I just had this crazy idea.
SILVAI would like to turn an Israeli assassin into an Italian art restorer. Can you help me? Yes, I can, he said and he took me into the National Gallery labs and showed me how they go about their work. And I knew instantly that I had really stumbled upon something.
PAGEAnd you, in fact, depict him restoring a particular painting. Was the choice of painting meaningful?
SILVAAlways in my books, without question.
PAGEAnd what was the meaning of this particular painting?
SILVAIt showed a woman in distress in this novel.
PAGEWe're talking to Daniel Silva about his new novel "The English Girl," the 16th he's written. We're going to continue our conversation after just a short break and we'll go to the phones. Our phone lines are open, 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email at email@example.com. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in Diane Rehm. We're talking this hour about "The English Girl: A Novel" by Daniel Silva. He's a New York Times best-selling author of 16 spy novels. He previously worked for United Press International and for CNN. His other novels include "The Kill Artist," "The Unlikely Spy" and "The Mark of the Assassin." So you've written 16 novels in 16 years, right?
PAGEAnd have it been steadily 16 novels, 16 years? Same novel a year?
SILVAThere was one point where I get about 15 or 16-month window. But it has been, in effect, a novel a year. In fact, for the past about six or seven years, I've published on the same Tuesday of July every year. And I think that's important and commonplace around the publishing industry of commercial authors. You see that we all have our little slots at various weeks throughout the year.
PAGELike the Supreme Court, the first Monday of this...
SILVAIt is. And mine is the -- it's either the second or third Tuesday of July.
PAGEAnd is that to catch the summer reading market?
PAGEAnd do you ever have trouble, your deadline's looming to get a July publication done and you're just having trouble getting it done.
SILVATrouble is a relative word. I mean, it is very tight deadline with, you know, all the touring and promotional responsibilities that I have as well. And so once the new year ticks over, my deadline for a first draft of my manuscript is March 31st. So I have -- I live a reasonable life in the autumn. But once January 1st comes, I really don't leave my office and it's always a struggle to finish the book on time.
PAGEYou know, it's interesting because you've been a hugely successful author. But I wonder if you felt confident that was going to be what happen when you gave up your day job and decided to write a book.
SILVANo, of course not. And anyone who ever thinks that, even if they've had a successful first book, is, you know, not looking realistically about what a difficult business publishing can be. I feel very, very fortunate that my career unfolded the way it did at the time it did. Because, you know, as we see further consolidation within the industry. You know, we got the news this week that Barnes & Noble, which was this dominant force in book selling is now in serious, serious trouble.
SILVAIt gives you pause for thought about the industry and the way it's going to look in years to come.
PAGELet's have our listeners join our conversation. We've got Michael calling us from Ann Arbor. Michael, hi, you're on the air.
MICHAEL...taking my call. Daniel, it's a pleasure to get to ask you a question. And my question has to do with the kind of a theme I see in your books and that is the subject of the Middle East. And I was wondering if that's just because of, you know, some current events? I guess, notably, 9/11. Or is there something, you know, more (unintelligible) being about the Middle East.
MICHAELAnd I ask that question because as more information comes up about 9/11 (unintelligible) architects and engineers for 9/11 (unintelligible), you know, maybe that focus become more on America.
SILVAMy interest in the Middle East is rather easy to explain. I was a Middle East correspondent for United Press International. I lived in Cairo, around the corner from Tahrir Square. I have traveled extensively throughout the region. I am deeply read of the history of the region. It is a passion of mine as is the Holocaust and the history of the Second World War. And sort of all those things come together in Gabriel Allon.
SILVAThis book has actually nothing to do with the Middle East with the exception that my hero happens to live and come from a country called Israel.
PAGEMichael, thanks for your call. Let's go to Heather calling us from Indianapolis. Heather, thanks for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
HEATHERHello. Thanks so much for taking my call. I have a question for David (sic). Writing about political scandal and all, I just -- I was wondering if, do any of the scandal that you portray in your book, what if they turn out to be true in real life? If they do, how do you or your readers react? Has that ever come to pass?
SILVAYou know, I guess with the -- I kind of predicted -- I always expected something like the Egyptian revolution was going to happen at some point. I didn't know the form it would take, I always thought it would come from the street level up. And I predicted something like that in a book I wrote a few years ago called, "The Secret Servant." I hope that most of the scenarios that I write about do not come true.
SILVAThat is not, you know, and I dealt right necessarily about, you know, things that I have heard are going on and try to tell them in a fictitious sense. And I certainly hope that nothing like is depicted in "The English Girl" ever comes true.
PAGEHeather, thanks for you call. But, you know, without giving away plot points, the story does end up in Russia?
PAGEWhy in Russia?
SILVAWhy Russia? Because -- I'm going to be very careful about how I answer that question. But there is a Russian component to what is happening at the core of the story. And modern Russia is fascinating to me. This whole evolution from the fall of the Soviet Union to the rise of the oligarchs and Boris Yeltsin, and then finally the rise of Vladimir Putin and the creation of, in my opinion, what is a sort of fascist authoritarian regime in modern Russia that I hope we can all agree now after numerous attempts to push that reset button.
SILVAThat Russia is not a friend of the United States and has no intention of being a friend of the United States.
PAGEYou make a point of traveling to many of the places you write about. Did you go to Russia?
SILVAI have been to Russia for a previous book called, "Moscow Rules." It was critical of the Putin regime in a way that I was advised by people who know things about the situation in Russia not to go back again. And I heeded that I advice and, quite frankly, I don't think they would give me a visa to go back in.
PAGEAnd where did you -- did you to places particularly for this story?
SILVAAbsolutely. I traveled for it extensively. And usually when I -- I have a vague idea of what I'm working on and what the book is going to be. And travel really informs and helps and inspires it.
PAGEAnd to many nice places. Corsica plays a big role in this story. Why Corsica? What are you doing there?
SILVABecause it's just a magnificently beautiful and interesting place with the long history of feuding and vendetta and separatism and people who have a fear of outsiders, a pathological fear and resentment of outsiders. And it's just -- it's a wonderful to set a portion of a novel.
PAGEYou quote a Corsican proverb. He who lives an immoral life dies an immoral death.
SILVAYes. And that is the core of the story and what the fate that befalls the ultimate villain in the novel.
PAGESo here's a question that would come up right at the beginning of the story, so it wouldn't give anything away. Why would a British prime minister hire an Israeli spy to find an English girl who has been kidnapped?
SILVABecause readers of the series know that Gabriel Allon has worked for many different individuals, entities and intelligence services over the years. He is, we like to call him, a spy for the world. And I think that's one of the reasons why the series has succeeded in the way that it has. I knew that if I was going to turn him into a truly internationally acceptable mass market character, that I couldn't just write about Israel and the Middle East over and over again.
SILVAThat I had to switch it up. And so, Gabriel has actually spent many years of his life living in the United Kingdom undercover. He has close relationships with British intelligence and he is acquainted with the British prime minister. So he's actually the perfect person to call.
PAGEDo you think of him as a real person?
SILVAOh, without question.
PAGEDo you dream about him?
PAGETalk to him?
SILVAYeah. Well, he's not the most pleasant person to be around, to be honest with you. I think that if he were sitting here in a room with us, he would kind of make us a little bit uneasy. And he's mellowed a little bit over the years, but he's really the most congenial guy in the world.
PAGEWhy isn't he?
SILVAThe -- I did this quite by accident, but he is the child of Holocaust survivors. He was raised in a home where the Holocaust hung over his small little family in Israel like a cloud. His mother and father both had numbers, camp numbers tattooed on their skin. And I gave him attributes, quite instinctively that a psychiatrist once sat down with me. She was an expert on second generation Holocaust survivor syndrome, which is he's the second generation.
SILVAAnd everything that I gave him, that his shyness, his reticence, when he works, he doesn't let people watch him while he works. He always puts a curtain over the painting while he's working and works in private. They are absolute dead-on symptoms of someone who suffers from second generation Holocaust survivor syndrome.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go back to the phones. Gary is calling us from Baltimore. Hi, Gary.
GARYHi. This is such an honor, Daniel Silva. I am such a fan.
GARYI only learned about you less than a year ago from my girlfriend's mother who recommended you. And I've been through 12 of your novels. And the reason I'm so...
SILVAIn one year?
SILVAAre you okay?
GARYWell, it's just -- it's the library system, you know, if they had all 16, I'd have read them all. But what I wanted to say is I'm a second generation holocaust survivor. My mother was a child, born in Vienna, went through the (word?) in Minsk. Survived, became catholic after being separated from her father to preserve her ability to survive. And I was raised catholic. So I didn't really find out about my Jewish roots until I was in high school.
GARYAnd what touches me so much in your books is Vienna, of course, and the Catholic Church and the holocaust and all those facets of Gabriel's personality that I feel so much kinship with. And then also because I have also traveled quite a bit in Europe and in Asia, so when you describe certain city and I've been to that city, it just brings everything back so clearly. I feel like I've traveled with you or with Gabriel, as it were, and I can sort of see some of the things through his eyes.
GARYI don't think I have all the characteristics what you ascribe to Gabriel, but certainly he's the hero, you know, he's the hero's hero for me. And I just -- I'm such a big fan and I heard also that you're going to be interviewed by your wife in a bookstore in Washington, D.C. at the end of July?
SILVAI am. I'm going to be -- it's actually at the Sixth & I Synagogue. So she is preparing some really tough questions for me. It's the first time we've ever done it. I'm a little nervous, to be honest with you.
PAGESo what was the toughest question she could ask you, because I would like to ask it?
SILVAOh, gosh. She's just a little too close to the process, so she sees all the hard stuff and all the suffering and she sees that, you know, once a year at least I'm in the fetal position on the floor, thinking I can't finish this in time. So it's going to be an interesting interview because she just has a little too much insight in all of this.
PAGEGary, let me give you a chance to ask a final question or make a final comment if you wish.
GARYOkay. You know, well, I think you've added a lot to my life by writing these novels and I just feel so rich because of your novels. And then, just completely off subject, I picked up one of your very early novels where you have Shamron, the head of the Israeli service, I think this may be before Gabriel was born or something or came into existence where he was involved with a sort of an Illuminati organization, a world domination organization. Did that theme get carried through in any of the other novels or did that fall off?
SILVANo, that was my second novel. He was just in there as part of that organization. I needed to take that character -- in my universe -- I mean the Gabriel Allon series, in effect, spun off from that brief little two-book CIA series that I wrote, my second and third novels. And I just took him. I needed -- wanted the continuity to exist, but I completely reinvented him. And that is my right as a novelist, so that aspect of his character really doesn't exist anymore.
PAGEGary, thanks so much for your call. I think an author couldn't have a higher tribute than a reader saying he's enriched his life.
SILVAThank you so much. I appreciate that.
PAGELet's go to Janice. She's calling us from Thomasville, NC. Janice, you're on the air.
JANICEGood morning. I just love this show, and I'm so honored to speak with Mr. Silva.
JANICEMy question was, I read all the authors in this genre. The late Vince Flynn, Alex Berenson, Brad Thor, a new author Ben Coast (sp?) . And I was just wondering, as I read them, sometimes it seems like what each of the characters is going through somehow interrelate. And I'm sure you guys don't talk and, you know, plot and all of that together, I'm certain. But I guess my question is, did you read those other authors?
JANICECan you not read them because you don't want them to influence your work? Or how does that work?
SILVAI'm going to answer that question this way, by saying that Vince was actually a very dear friend of mine and we got to know each other and got to spend a fair amount of time together. And our families got to spend some time together. And we had a very good relationship. I think that is unusual because we were both -- I didn't even think of him as a competitor. He was a friend. And his death was -- I knew that he was sick. I knew that he was in trouble and his death came very suddenly.
SILVAAnd it was tough on me. I miss him. And I don't know any of the other writers that you're referring to. I don't -- I really don't read anything else in my genre. My series is very self-contained. I've created my own little universe and other than Vince, I don't really read anything.
PAGEJanice, thanks for your call. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go back to the phones. Give us a call, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio, Daniel Silva, author of "The English Girl," the 16th in a series of spy novels. You know, you have a character Christopher Keller who appears in this book who's appeared in a previous book. Gabriel Allon has a very complicated relationship and history with this guy.
SILVAYeah, I paired a guy who was not quite a villain in the second Gabriel Allon novel. He was actually hired to kill Gabriel. And what I did in this novel is I take those two characters, reunite them and they work together. And I have to tell you, I haven't had so much fun writing scenes in a long time. They were magical together. So you take that past that they have and then you try to make them sort of friends but not quite friends. It was a challenge and it was fun and I just enjoyed every minute of it.
SILVAJust for people who don't remember Christopher Keller from a book that was actually called "The English Assassin," he ended up being the title character in that. He is sort of a renegade SAS officer who deserted the British military and washed ashore in Corsica. And he is a -- works for a man named Don Anton Orsadia (sp?), a Corsican criminal. And he's, in effect, a professional assassin and he works with Gabriel to find Madeline Hart. And it's wonderful.
PAGELet's go to Tony, calling us from Dallas, Texas. Tony, hi.
TONYHi. How you doing?
PAGEThanks for joining us, yeah. Hi.
TONYGood. Listen, I've read a lot of the Silva books and I really appreciate it. I also have a more appreciation for art. In fact I looked at the Red Nude after I -- you mentioned Shiara (sp?) in waking up one day. And I had to go look and see what the Red Nude looked like. So you've given me more sense of appreciation for art.
TONYBut my question comes, where do you get your perception of -- it seems to me that, you know, in the books that I've read, you say things in your book that actually come true eventually. And the last case in point was what you -- you mentioned that the president -- and I think it was in "The Fallen Angel,' you mentioned the president was redefining the war on terror as not a war on terror any longer. And said he kind of backed off on that war and redefined our approach to terrorists.
TONYYou actually mentioned that in your book and I found it kind of eerie and odd that you had anticipated it actually in your book defining that, which a president actually almost said word for word.
SILVAI think that was actually in "Portrait of a Spy," I think. But look, I don't claim any special knowledge on that. It was pretty clear to me from the beginning, just reading the public statements of the president and John Brennan that from the beginning they clearly wanted to sort of recalibrate our approach to what some of us call the global war on terrorism, a term that they're not comfortable with. And that was clear to me from the beginning. And they -- It's a long, slow process.
SILVAIt's evolving still but I have to say that while I have been very critical of some aspects of President Obama and the way he has conducted this global war on terrorism, we -- I actually very much support the idea of trying to put the entire post 9/11 security apparatus and policy on some sort of long term sustainable footing. And he -- it's obviously fallen on his watch and it's an important task.
PAGETony, thanks so much for your call. Here are a couple quick questions from emails. John in Arizona writes, "I've read nearly all your books. Here's a publishing question. Does yesterday Apple eBook judgment play into your thinking?"
SILVAWe should probably give a little background, and that it had to do with a lawsuit -- the decision was anticipated -- long anticipated that publishers had in effect violated the law by colluding and trying to get a publishing agreement that would set eBook prices at a certain level. And no, it doesn't factor into what I do. I try to isolate myself from the business of publishing as much as possible and focus on my work and the words.
SILVAAnd -- but look, eBooks are a -- have had a revolutionary effect on the entire business. And we see, you know, in sort of an ancillary move, you know, Penguin and Random House, these two huge publishing organizations forming what is obviously a much larger single organization. And so the changes are coming. They're going to continue to come and Amazon is obviously a very, very powerful player in all this.
PAGEDo you think the experience of reading a book on traditional paper form is different from the experience of reading a book on an eReader?
SILVAI personally do but we have to recognize the fact that everything is changing.
PAGEAnd you (unintelligible) ...
SILVAWe have a Smart TV in our home where you can sit and watch the internet and programs that are delivered over the internet. I once met a fellow who just said he'd read all my books on a cell phone. And I wanted to -- gosh, you know, how do you have any vision left? I personally like to read a book as a book. I worry that as bookstores disappear that books -- physical books are going to slip from our consciousness a little bit.
SILVAAnd I actually read something interesting in the New York Times today that I had never heard, that when Borders went out of business that it had sort of a negative impact on eBook sales temporarily because people were not able to go into Borders stores, pick up the physical book, flip through it, read it and then make a decision as to whether or not they wanted to download the eBook. Fascinating.
PAGEMary in Germantown writes wondering if your books are available as audio books. She spends the majority of her time in her car.
SILVAYes, they are, unabridged.
PAGEAnd here's another emailer, Kelva from Casanova, Va, "Does Daniel Silva have any plans for another Michael Osborn book?"
SILVADaniel Silva considers another Michael Osborn book all the time. I get emails requesting it every single day and it's something that I've given serious thought to on numerous occasions. For people who don't know, he was a hero of my second and third novels.
PAGEAnd why has he not -- why has there not been another Michael Osborn book?
SILVATwo words, Gabriel Allon.
PAGELet's talk to Daniel. He's calling us from Virginia Beach, Va. Hi, Daniel.
DANIELThank you very much for your books. I only wish you would write at least two a year but...
SILVAYou're not alone.
DANIEL...and I savor them and read them slowly when I get near the end knowing I have a year to wait. But I'd like to know if there is a movie project in the future.
SILVAThis is a question I get asked a lot. And I have entered into agreements at various points over my career. And the films were never made. At this point I retain all the rights to Gabriel Allon. I am in discussions with someone that I cannot name publicly. And if that were to -- the pieces were to fall into place in a way that I'm comfortable with, then I would go forward. That said, I think that I am Hollywood's worse nightmare in that I don't particularly care if a film gets made or doesn't get made. I only want it to be a good movie.
SILVAAnd I don't know if you've been to the movies lately. I was at the movies earlier this week and there's a lot of bad films being made right now. And at this point I'm very reluctant to enter into an agreement with someone. It's complicated by the fact that to make a Gabriel Allon book, I have to sell the entire Gabriel Allon backlist. That has to all be included in the deal. And it's complicated. It makes me nervous. And if I can get the right deal with the right people involved, I would do it. If I can't, then I'm just not going to.
PAGEBut there are some fabulous spy movies.
SILVAThere are. And -- but you've got to get the right players in place committed to the project to make sure that that happens.
PAGEDo you have a vision of what actor says to you, I am Gabriel Allon?
SILVANone whatsoever. And I know that a lot of writers, you know, picture actors in their mind when they're writing their book. But I don't picture anyone for Gabriel Allon. I have a very clear image of how he looks and that's what I think of him.
PAGEWould you have to give up a lot of control if you sell your books to be made into a movie?
PAGEAnd does that bother you that it'll be different from your vision of what story you're trying to tell?
SILVANo, it doesn't actually. I -- because I'm someone who has worked in other media. I know that books are very different from film and that substantial changes would have to be made.
PAGEDaniel, thank you so much for your call. Let's go to Andrew. He's calling us from Cleveland. Andrew, you're on the air.
ANDREWYes. I just finished one of your books and enjoyed it. I think one of the reasons that Gabriel works so well and is so universally liked is that he presents what's a believable superhero. Israeli intelligence is known for their ability to do extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances. So whether you like or hate Israel, when you come across a character like this that can do the things he does, you can almost believe it's real because of the reputation of Israel Intelligence Service.
SILVARight. Look, their reputation has obviously had a carryover effect into the way that readers perceive my character. And I have, you know, studied their operations and learned how they do things. And it is -- I have to be honest, it's a lot of fun for me to pretend that I am in effect a case officer or a spymaster and to create my operations. No one -- I never go to them and ask them, you know, well how would you do this, these operations that Gabriel carries out? Many of which involve the art world are all my creation.
PAGEAndrew, thank you for your call. You know, this novel -- lots of great spy novels were based on the Cold War. Your novel, this new one, makes it seem as though the Cold War has not ended. Is that your view?
SILVAWell, the Cold War as defined by a global confrontation between the United States and its NATO allies and the Soviet Union and its East European vassal states is a thing of the past. But in my opinion, there is a new Cold War. Russia is not a military threat to us obviously but they are a military threat to their weaker neighbors. They do want their old empire back. And people have to realize that they are -- that their intelligence services are spying the daylights out of us. I mean, there's been a lot of attention paid recently to Chinese hacking and Chinese stealing of our secrets. Second place on the list is Russia.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, in the author's note that you write at the end of this book, you talk about Russia wanting to become a Eurasian Saudi Arabia. What would that mean?
SILVAThat would mean that they would hold a dominant or the dominant position in global energy markets. Because Russia is militarily weak, because Russia's economy, despite that boom that they experienced in the mid 2000s when global oil prices spiked, is still very weak and heavily dependent on raw materials. Energy is the only game in town and it is their only way to project power on the world stage. They recognize this. They've said it publicly that they want to use their energy industry, their resources to make them powerful on the world stage. It's all they've got.
PAGEAnd perhaps some of their customers do not understand the leverage that it would give them.
SILVAThey understand it but they've -- look, there are people in the United States and in the Bush Administration at the time that urged countries like Germany and Austria and Switzerland, do not get dependent on Russian gas. It's going to give them too much political leverage in Europe. And they didn't listen to them.
PAGEIn your novel you have a Russian oil company controlled by Russia's foreign intelligence service. Is that a little farfetched or not?
SILVANo, I don't think so at all. I mean, let's just say that the people who run Russia today are all graduates of the KGB. They are known in Russian as the (speaks foreign language) . They are men who come from the security services. Russia is ruled by elements of the KGB and the FSB and that's it. The Kremlin controls the Russian oil industry Ergo (sp?) . Men from the KGB who control the Kremlin control Russia's oil production, oil policy, oil distribution, and gas obviously.
PAGEYou know, you said in response to an earlier caller that you tend not to read in your own genre.
PAGEWhat do you read?
SILVAWhen I have a chance I read what I call the great dead literary fiction. And...
PAGESuch as authors like...
SILVAI just finished reading a couple of books by Hemingway on this little vacation that I had. And the other thing that happens is, you know, for a book like this, you know, I have to do a tremendous amount of book research and book reading. And so while I'm actually writing my book, I'm doing tremendous amounts of research in tandem with that. It's doesn't leave a lot of time for pleasure reading, unfortunately. When I retire I'm going to get a big stack of books and a nice beach chair and sit and catch up on my reading.
PAGEBut of course one of the nice things about being an author is that perhaps you never retire. Perhaps you always -- I mean, can you imagine a life of yours where you stop writing?
SILVANot in the near future but I certainly don't expect to spend my last days on earth hunched over a keyboard, let's put it that way.
PAGESo before that happens, another novel about Gabriel Allon do you think?
SILVAYes. I can say that publicly now that the next book will be a Gabriel Allon book.
SILVAAnd can you tell us anything about it? Picks up where this left off?
SILVANo, no. It's a -- I have a -- it's not even a fully formed idea yet. It's what we call the notion. Soon it will be an idea but right now it's a notion. But it will be a Gabriel Allon book.
PAGEDaniel Silva, author of "The English Girl." Thanks so much for being with us this hour on "The Diane Rehm Show."
SILVAThank you so much for having me.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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