The Westin’s NYT bestseller
Some say we all have a story to tell—something deep inside us which only needs a tap and it will magically flow out. Steve Berry had more than one story embedded inside him and, once he managed to tap them out, they flowed on and on. And people flocked to read his stories—he’s sold more than 18 million copies—all riveting, all page-turners, nearly all bestsellers.
I meet Berry at the Westin Dragonara Lobby and the first thing he tells me is not about any of his star success or about the amount of books he sold. He tells me that the Westin, being one of the luxury hotels in Malta, ticks all the right boxes for relaxation, food and fun.
With his last seven suspense thrillers, Steve Berry has managed to get into the prestigious New York Times Bestsellers list. Actually if you ask people in the know this is beyond prestigious—it is the bar by which publishers and anyone involved in the book trade gauge the success, or otherwise, of authors. As the crooner said—if you make it there you’ll make it anywhere.
Steve Berry is also connected to another bar—not however a place which serves drinks. Before he hit the success trail with his books Berry was a successful lawyer, a litigant at the Georgia court, in the US. Berry, author extraordinaire, has more than his thrillers to relate as his is a truly amazing story.
While working as a trial lawyer—with all its stress and tough demands—he realised he had inner voices crying out to get on with it and write thrillers. So he wrote in his spare time and penned thrillers which he finalised and sent to publishers. However, he kept receiving those horrid slips which no author loves to even think of—rejection slips.
He plodded on and persisted in writing—and sending off— his manuscripts. He finalised eight manuscripts while slogging away in legal wrangling. But that wasn’t enough and he also sought office as one of the County commissioners of Camden in Georgia. He was elected and held office for 14 years, one of five who ran the county which is larger than Malta, as Camden is 35 miles long (Malta is approx. 19 miles) although it only has a population of 50,000.
While all this was going on he was coming up with yarns that make you want to turn the page quicker than you can blink.
Finally a publisher accepted a book of his, “The Amber Room”, along with two others, and success was immediate. Top books like The Templar Legacy and The Lincoln Myth followed and Berry has had a spiralling of bigger successes.
The world has changed and suspense thrillers were then back in fashion after losing their stellar quality for publishers when the Cold War ended.
The Da Vinci Code broke new ground and publishers realised this genre of books, which Steve Berry was writing even before Dan Brown had made a name for himself, were hot property and millions of them could be sold. And sold they were: the Steve Berry books sold hugely besides being translated into over 40 languages. Berry left his law practice and now just concentrates on writing and churning out good plots.
While discussing plots, books, voices and super success I ask Berry rather conspiratorially—trying hard to sound like one of his books’ characters—if there is anything wrong with the Westin Dragonara. He bellows a loud “YES!” in his Georgia twang, as he laughs away.
“There’s one big problem with the Westin and that is that after some days I have to leave this grand place. I’m loving it here. For the first time ever I came to do research and brought my family. My wife and children are just lapping it all up. The Westin Dragonara is great fun, the location is superb and the amenities and food are very good. It lets you relax and allows me time to concentrate on the local sights and meet people connected to the Order of St John. I’m here to research a book using the knights."
“Malta is truly blessed with grand vistas and remarkable heritage and architecture. The story of the Knights will be fun to plan and write,” enthuses Berry.
This thriller about the Knights is due out in 2018 and Berry tells me he would just love to see its international launch with Fort St Angelo, scene of so many epic stories connected to chivalry and the Knights, as a backdrop. “It would be just magic,” says Berry, who is also a founder member of the 2600-member International Thriller Writers.
Berry is also a big believer in art and historic preservation and heads a group which collects money for saving treasures in the US.
Cotton Malone, the modern-day protagonist of the Berry’s latest thrillers, is however rather destructive and will surely have a few difficult escapades in Malta and Gozo and some places here on the island will witness carnage and mayhem—thankfully only in fiction. The book by Berry about the Knights promises to have more fun, more chaos, more rip-yarning to keep the reader riveted.
According to Berry nothing beats fun and it is hard to come close to the Westin Dragonara for the perfect place for a holiday, break or stay with excellent service. This is very important to him as he needs to relax, know that everyone around is relaxed and carry on plotting and planning yet another pot-boiler.