It's not every day that readers get invited into the home of a best-selling author such as Daniel Silva. But, in the time of COVID-19, that's exactly what awaits fans of the thriller genre, thanks to a July 14 event in partnership with independent bookstores around the country, including The Twig in San Antonio and Murder by the Book in Houston.
Readers who buy a copy of the New York Times best-selling author's new book, The Order, will receive a special invitation for the virtual event, produced by HarperCollins Publishers. The discussion promises to be a lively exchange, as the author will be interviewed at home by his wife, Jamie Gangel, an award-winning special correspondent for CNN.
The July 14 event coincides with the release date of The Order, the 20th in Silva's Gabriel Allon series.
"It’s just a weird feeling to not be getting on a plane in a couple of days and starting a book tour. So, we’ll make the best of it with these virtual events," Silva says. "I guess the main difference is they’ll see the inside of my house. I’m told I’m supposed to let people into my office. I’m not so sure about that."
What's guaranteed to happen, however, is a fun discussion about The Order, as well as Silva's writing style.
"I really do lie on the floor and write my books in longhand in pencil and have a real monastic existence," he says.
The Order finds Silva's protagonist, the director of Israeli intelligence who is also an art restorer and assassin, on vacation in Venice when he gets a call from his old friend Archbishop Luigi Donati, the pope's private secretary. Pope Paul VII has died, and Donati is not convinced it was under natural circumstances. In the 10 days between the pope's funeral and the conclave to elect a new pope, Allon and Donati race to uncover a sinister plot by a far-right organization.
Silva says he's been mulling over the plot and themes for some time. In addition to the rise of far-right factions across the globe, The Order also takes on anti-Semitism, which has seen alarming spikes over the last few years.
"I have been struck time and time again by how many people, including devout Christians, devout Catholics ... don’t realize and don’t understand that the source of anti-Semitism is the gospel’s account of the suffering and death of Jesus," explains Silva.
"That the way Jesus' death was portrayed in the canonical gospels, that is source of nearly 2,000 years of anti-Semitism. And, with the benefit of modern critical biblical scholarship and modern historical techniques, we’ve been able to have a better understanding of why the gospels were written the way they were ... and why the story was told the way it was."
Silva has wrapped those sentiments around a fast-paced mystery about a secret gospel with contents so explosive it could upend the church. For those who've followed the Gabriel Allon stories, it'll be a welcome addition to the canon, but it's a terrific read without knowing the backstory, an adventure that blends mystery and history and the feel of current events.
For The Twig, an event of this magnitude will be a boon, says manager Claudio Maceo, who is working to increase the number of virtual events the store offers. The Twig has been open throughout the pandemic, and Maceo says they've offered both curbside pickup and delivery and have seen an increase in online sales.
"We've had out patrons tell us, 'We appreciate you.' People realize what an important resource a small business like this is to the community."
Silva, who has long made stops at independent bookstores during his career as a novelist, expressed concern about these stores during the pandemic. "I worry about all the wonderful people I’ve meet over the years who run indie bookstores, and I have gone out of my way, bent over backwards, done everything I can to support independents," he says. "And [I] will continue to do so."
While he wishes he could be on the road, he feels it's better for the safety of all that he isn't. But inviting his readers into his workspace is the next best thing. "It feels weird to be doing an event and speaking into a screen, but we’ll do the best we can," Silva says. "It’s going to be surreal, that’s for sure."