Plum Island, the New York Times best-selling book by Nelson DeMille, will likely be made into a television series.
Produced by Sony and Lionsgate for a cable TV station, each of the ten episodes will be one hour long. This novel introduced the wisecracking, confident, not politically correct, street-smart character, NYPD John Corey. Although Plum Island was supposed to be a stand-alone book the popularity of Corey convinced DeMille to make him the lead in a series of novels. The dean of political thrillers was kind of enough to take time away from writing his next John Corey book to speak with blackfive.net about this project as well as future projects.
Plum Island’s plot begins with Corey on medical leave, recovering from bullet wounds, when his friend, chief of the Southold Police Department, enlists his aid while looking into the double homicide of Tom and Judy Gordon, also friends of Corey. They happen to be employees of Plum Island, the nearby high-level bio-containment facility located in Long Island, studying deadly diseases such as anthrax and simian Ebola. The investigation originally leads the detectives to suspect the Gordons’ of stealing a vaccine with the motive of peddling it to the pharmaceutical world for billions of dollars. But Corey contemplates a competing theory that the couple might have been involved in selling drugs, or looking for buried treasure. The local murder investigation soon crosses jurisdictional boundaries and draws county, state, and federal investigators with Corey’s nemesis Ted Nash also introduced in this novel.
Although written in 1997 it is still relevant today with the many different issues explored: genetically engineered viruses, bio-terrorism, government cover-ups, and government surveillance. DeMille commented to blackfive.net, “It will be interesting to see how the screenwriters make it into a contemporary piece. Originally, pre-9/11 it was not well guarded and was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. However, today it is under the control of Homeland Security.”
Hopefully the screenwriter, Ron Bass, will be able to capture not only John Corey’s personality but also his partner’s, Beth Penrose. In all of the Corey books the characters dialogue helps to create a plot that has tension, suspense, and humor, including the silly type jokes DeMille is known for as a writer. The female lead plays the perfect “straight man” to Corey matching his wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. As DeMille describes it, “Usually the women in Corey’s life are the voice of reason. In the books he brings in his street smarts and the women bring in the logic. The one thing that was told to me is what they might do with Corey’s romantic interests. They are hinting that possibly he would not ever be married. What they might do is have the male/female lead romantically involved with some sexual tension.”
How much control will DeMille have over the project? DeMille’s short answer was not much. However, he has offered his advice and is hoping that Bass will take him up on it. “I think having the author involved is a good thing because it makes the project more successful. On the other hand I don’t want to meddle since writing for a TV show is such a different format than what I am used to. I sometimes wonder why a book property is bought for the screen considering all the changes made. You wonder if they are buying the story or buying it for the built-in audience of the author. A good TV series allows the viewers to really understand the characters that the novelist has written. One of my other books was made into a screenplay where they missed everything and the screenwriter did not understand that people want to read and watch other people. Without the jokes and sarcasm the characters do not sound like real people. My son interviewed to be a screenwriter for this project since in TV land there is a team of writers. Maybe if he is chosen he will consult with his father.”
If the pilot is successful a TV series will be made with the possibility of a feature film being produced. There is talk that each season will be based on the next Corey book. His favorite book, The Lion’s Game is considered for the second season. “Although I resisted a TV series for a number of years I decided to go with it because of the very good cable shows currently on TV. Also, TV is willing to deal with Islamic terrorism while feature films will not. The reason for this is the need for movies to be distributed overseas. They would have to worry about the movie theatre being blown up, threats, and any backlash, while TV shows are just watched in people’s homes. That is why there is great interest in making my latest book, The Quest, into a feature film. It does not deal with terrorists and is marketed as Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code.”
DeMille also noted the book he is currently working on will be another John Corey novel, A Quiet End. Corey is no longer with the Anti-terrorism Task Force and now works for the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, essentially being demoted. His new duties include following people from the foreign embassies. Assigned to watch the Russian UN mission Corey finds out that one diplomat is a bad guy associated with the KGB. DeMille noted, “This book is about a resurgent Russia which as you know I thought about long before the Ukraine crisis. The theme of this book is that the Cold War has come back with Corey understanding the Russian threat as existential and long range. This book is almost like a stand-alone in the same way as Plum Island.”
He also told blackfive.net, the female lead will not be Corey’s wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield who is off to Washington DC after a promotion. “There will be sexual tension with his new partner. He is having problems with his wife since her promotion. They seem to be drifting apart. Something has to happen with Kate because the backstory has become cumbersome.”
Fans of the John Corey series are looking forward to two new projects, a new book due out sometime later this year, and a TV series probably entitled Corey. With any luck, next fall fans will be able to get their fix of John Corey. Hopefully, the TV series will maintain DeMille’s fingerprint over this great character.