“The Cuban Affair,” prolific author Nelson DeMille’s 20th novel, has the newly-created character Daniel (Mac) MacCormick adjusting to civilian life. After serving two tours in Afghanistan, he has sought out a more peaceful lifestyle in Key West, Fla. He is now a charter boat captain of a 42-feet, deep-sea fishing vessel, The Maine, which takes tourists and fisherman on excursions.
Having made a name for himself and needing his military skills, three Cuban-Americans make him an offer to have the Maine participate in a 10-day fishing tournament to Cuba. But the real reason they need him is to help find and return $60 million left behind by refugees.
The covert plan is to embed Mac and one of the Cuban-Americans, Sara Ortega, into Cuba as part of an educational tour under the auspices of Yale University. The action ratchets up as Mac and Sara are on the run from Cuban authorities and need his gruff first mate, 70-year-old Vietnam veteran Jack Colby, to help in the rescue.
Elise Cooper: Since you wrote a new set of characters can you compare Daniel (Mac) MacCormick to John Corey?
Nelson DeMille: Corey is not a kid anymore. Mac is much younger. He is also an Afghanistan veteran while many of the main characters in earlier books were Vietnam vets.
Mac is more educated and from a different class than Corey. I did not want to create the same character; although in some ways they have the same personality and dry wit. Another difference is that John Corey lives in law enforcement while Mac lives in the civilian world. John fought terrorists while Mac is apolitical and more cautious.
EC: What about the female lead Sara Ortega?
ND: I based her on a number of Cuban Americans who I knew. I patterned her on those I knew around me, third generation Cuban-Americans who are aware of what happened to their parents and grandparents. I tried to make her more American than Cuban, which is why she always corrects people who refer to her as Cuban, and she responds Cuban-American.
EC: There is a character named Richard Neville, a best-selling author. Was he based on anyone in particular?
ND: Sometimes I like to write myself into my books. I also did it in the book “Up Country.” It is similar to what Alfred Hitchcock did with his movies.
EC: Is it hard to write a political thriller?
ND: When you are writing political contemporary fiction, events can change. With this book, from when I wrote it to when it was published, the world changed quickly. For instance, Castro died, Obama left office and Trump was elected. I have to keep my fingers crossed about events.
EC: You have some interesting quotes in the book. One is about the hot water in your hotel. Please explain.
ND: This is true. We only had hot water in our hotel some of the time. I cannot imagine how the Cubans must live. The hot water was in the tub, not the shower, so I decided to write about it. Nothing is readily available.
EC: I doubt Cuban President Raul Castro will read this book. It is not a great endorsement for tourism. Two quotes, in particular, hammer this home: “Once a vibrant city that was suffocating under the weight of a rotting corpse,” and the Ministry of Interior is known as “Ministry of Torture and Repression.”
ND: This is not another Caribbean Island, but a police state. What really stands out is the poverty and that there is no free press. Everything is entirely controlled. There are a lot of human and civil rights violations.
EC: You also speak about the actions of the Castro Brothers?
ND: The system they created does not guarantee property rights. The Cuban regime seized private property and is saying they have no intention of returning Cuban citizens’ property, and we are not pushing them. Most of the people who came to Miami when the Communists seized power left houses, factories and huge businesses. They want their property back, and that’s going to be a big issue as normalization moves forward. It is a repressive regime with a subjugated population that isolates the people.
EC: Is this novel going to be made into a book series?
ND: I really like the characters, but right now the publisher wants it as a stand-alone. I hope this is not set in stone.
EC: What about your next book?
ND: It will be an upscale version of my other series, “Gold Coast.” Regarding John Corey, he is definitely on hold. If there were to be a TV series based on his character, I might think of writing a book to solve some issues.