Nelson DeMille’s latest book, The Panther, is a gripping tale about fanatical Muslims. He decided to place John Corey and Kate Mayfield in a hostile environment and chose Yemen. Although seeing what is going on today in that part of the world, he could have substituted many other countries.
DeMille explained to blackfive.net that The Panther parallels what is happening in the headlines today. He used the Yemen setting because “right now it is the center of Al Qaeda activity. I did a lot of research on the American embassy there. I did think about it when I saw the mob storming the American embassy compound.” He joked that being a history major taught him to use what he researched, which is why he included certain aspects: the historical tidbits, such as Noah’s Ark resting place, Arsh Bilqis, and the throne of Sheba, as well as focusing on the backward society of Yemen. In addition he allows the reader to understand the Yemen culture made up of tribal warlords and Bedouin tribes. In the book he summarized that Yemen had “… mostly a history of civil wars, revolutions, and invasions.”
The plot has John Corey, an anti-terrorist Task Force agent, and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, being sent to Yemen to apprehend the Panther, the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. There is also a sub-plot involving a conspiracy theory where Corey sees himself and Mayfield as bait: Corey killed the Lion, a Libyan terrorist which earned him a spot on Al Qaeda’s kill list, and Mayfield killed a rogue CIA official who had plotted to nuke the Middle East. To understand this sub-plot it is not necessary to read the previous books, The Lion, The Lion’s Game, and Wild Fire, although they do make for a very interesting read.
As in all his books DeMille presents interesting, likeable, funny, and powerful characters. He is able to use his dry wit to enhance the dialogue, especially when he teams up Corey with Paul Brenner, the embassy DSS chief and a two-tour Vietnam veteran. He commented, “These are two alpha males that butt heads. It is a tricky thing to do. I was able to pull it off in this book. Hopefully, I will do it again.” Corey throughout the book is the wise cracking NYPD cop, Kate is his straight person, and Brenner is the joking military veteran hero.
Fans of DeMille will recognize Brenner from previous books including the epic novel, Up Country, where the plot involved Brenner having to return to the country that haunts him, in order to investigate a murder that took place during the Vietnam War. One of the best quotes in The Panther, is when Brenner compares the Vietnam War to the War in Yemen, “It’s like Vietnam… Incompetent and weak-willed allies fighting an enemy who are motivated by something higher than saving their own worthless asses.”
The Panther, a terrorist, born in America is shown to be a religious fanatic. DeMille tries to explore how someone brought up in America can turn to terrorism. “After speaking to those in the terrorism task force and the FBI I cannot understand what is the thinking behind an American turned terrorist. How could they leave America and go to someplace like Yemen? It must be religious fanaticism. I don’t believe the political motive would be that strong.”
Since DeMille was a former US Army Lt. who served in Vietnam during the Tet offensive it is no surprise that he uses the USS Cole as a backdrop for this plot and brings back a former character who fought in the Vietnam war. Through his characters it becomes obvious that he is angry over the Cole incident, blaming “… the Navy’s Rules of Engagement (that) were rewritten by some committee of politically correct, ball-less wonders in the bowels of the Pentagon.” He told blackfive.net that he hopes this book shows his support of the military, and is grateful “to have a lot of military fans. I get a large amount of emails, first from Iraq, and now from Afghanistan. I love when these guys can relate to the book and hopefully find them accurate.”
He gave a heads up about his next projects. He will be writing the seventh book in the John Corey series. The plot has John Corey and Kate Mayfield, with a possibility of Paul Brenner, working with the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. Once again they will leave New York and be placed in a hostile environment somewhere in the Middle East, this time to rescue hostages. There is also the possibility of making a TV series based around the John Corey books.
The Panther is a very entertaining and informative book. Even though it is fiction, it is very insightful about Yemen. Readers will learn what America is up against in the Middle East and why the Islamic extremists are at war through DeMille’s in depth narrative on the culture, the psyche, and the motive behind those fighting in Yemen. It is a must read for anyone who enjoys political thrillers.