This week, Long Island's hometown favorite publishes "Radiant Angel" (Grand Central Publishing, $28), his seventh novel featuring John Corey, a former NYPD officer and FBI agent with an attitude. The new story line finds Corey spying on Russian diplomats working at the United Nations in New York as a new Cold War takes shape. DeMille invited Newsday's Chris Ware into the study of his Garden City home to discuss his work habits and inspiration.
You're considered the quintessential Long Island author -- not just because you live here, but because you've set some of your books here, too.
A lot of my books are set on Long Island because it's diverse -- it's culturally diverse, ethnically diverse, socioeconomically diverse and geographically diverse. For a small land area there's a lot going on here. I've written four books about Long Island and I could write another five or six. I've yet to set a book specifically in the Hamptons, but that's something I'm thinking about. I'm contemplating a book set at Cold Spring Harbor Labs -- it's a murder mystery.
What keeps you coming back to the John Corey character?
People that read today, according to surveys, read mostly series characters -- they're reading about the character. It wasn't always this way. Hemingway would switch subjects, Steinbeck would, everybody would. You followed the author, and you wanted to read the story that author wrote. Now most fiction that is sold is series fiction. So when you've got your character right, and people love your character, you want to continue it -- but you don't want to continue to the point where the character gets old and you can see it, as happened with Sherlock Holmes.
Where does Corey's sarcasm come from?
A lot of people say to me, "Are you John Corey?" I say, "You have to ask my wife or my ex-wife, they'll tell you if I'm John Corey." Where did it come from? It just came from the streets of Elmont where I grew up. And the army. There's a lot of humor in the army, dark humor, especially in combat situations -- you have to have a dark sense of humor.
And then I have a lot of friends who are policemen. My office is not far from the Mineola courthouse, and I know the bars where everybody hangs out. And when I started to do police books, I started to listen to cops, and I started to listen also to assistant district attorneys, which are also in their own way very interesting and sometimes very sarcastic. You pick up the patois; you pick up the sense of humor -- I think I had it, anyway.