Guest post by New York Times best-selling suspense author Nelson DeMille.
Back in 1997, I wrote a book titled Plum Island that featured a character named John Corey. Corey was NYPD homicide, though when we first meet him, he’s sitting on the back porch of a borrowed house that overlooks the water on the east end of Long Island, convalescing from wounds he’d received in the line of duty.
Corey is thinking about life, and one of his thoughts is, “It occurred to me that the problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you’re finished.” And thus was born the wisecracking but wise about-to-be-ex-cop.
I had never done a series character, and Corey was supposed to retire from the NYPD and retire from my life after I finished the book. But once it was published, I started getting hundreds of letters from readers asking if I was going to do another John Corey book.
Well, I wasn’t, but John Corey looked like he could pay the rent for me. The problem was, I’d retired Corey on a medical disability, which is almost as stupid as authors who kill off their main character.
The solution was to get Corey a job as a contract agent with the Federal Joint Terrorist Task Force (which I renamed the “Anti-Terrorist Task Force” in my books) and put him to work in the city he knew and loved, but this time chasing terrorists.
I learn from my fan letters. Many of them asked if I’d go back in time and show John Corey when he was a city detective. I’m not a fan of prequels, but finally the idea started to sound good.
But before I jumped into that idea with a full novel, I decided to write a short story and see how it played with readers—and with me. The result is The Book Case, a good-length short story showing an earlier John Corey before he got plugged by the bad guys and wound up on that back porch looking at the sea.
It was a challenge to do an earlier version of my successful Corey character, but also fun. And we get to see that the wiseass we know and love in the novels was always a wiseass. But we always suspected that.