Media Angle is a column offering perspectives on the media landscape from the newsmakers themselves.New York Times No. 1 bestselling author Daniel
Media Angle is a column offering perspectives on the media landscape from the newsmakers themselves.
New York Times No. 1 bestselling author Daniel Silva is back with his 20th novel in the famed Gabriel Allon series with “The Order,” which hits stores on Tuesday.
“The Order” features Allon, an art restorer and spy, attempting to take a vacation with his family, but things aren’t so relaxing once Pope Paul VII suddenly dies and Allon is called to Rome to explore if the pope actually suffered a heart attack, as people were told, or something more sinister.
On Tuesday evening, Silva will be discussing “The Order” via Crowdcast from his home, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to in-person book tours. Fans who purchase “The Order” from a list of independent bookstores across the country will receive access to the event, which also promises to offer a behind-the-scenes look at Silva’s workspace.
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In an email interview with Fox News’ Media Angle, Silva discussed his new book, the differences between his fictional pope and Pope Francis, and how far-right extremism in Western Europe influenced the story.
Media Angle: How is “The Order” different from your other novels?
Daniel Silva: The main difference is the limited period of time in which the story plays out. “The Order” effectively begins on a Wednesday afternoon in Rome and ends 10 days later when 116 cardinals fly into the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. That leaves Gabriel just 10 days to solve a papal murder mystery and disrupt a conspiracy to seize control of the Roman Catholic Church, all while he was supposed to be enjoying a badly needed vacation in Venice with his wife and two young children. It was an interesting exercise in plotting, to say the least, and great fun.
MA: This is the 20th novel based on Gabriel Allon and brings back many familiar faces from the series. Can someone who hasn’t read the first 19 Allon novels enjoy “The Order” without knowing the backstory?
Silva: Absolutely. I make certain that each book contains enough character description and backstory so that it makes sense to a first-time reader. Having said that, I’m also careful not to overload each new novel with material that slows the pace. In a very real sense, I’m writing for two audiences.
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MA: Some of your previous works appear to mirror real-life events. Was “The Order” inspired by recent headlines?
Silva: First and foremost, “The Order” is a work of entertainment. But it was definitely inspired by the rise of far-right political extremism in Western Europe, especially in Germany. It is clear that these so-called populists are working together to seize power across the continent. They refer to their network as “the Movement.” They have a common anti-immigrant agenda. They also happen to share a disdain for Pope Francis.
MA: What are the differences between your fictitious Pope Paul VII and Pope Francis?
Silva: For a start, my pope is an Italian, and Francis is from Argentina. My pope shares Francis’ humility and disdain for unfettered capitalism, but he chose to live in the Apostolic Palace while Francis famously resides in an unadorned suite in the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse. Both men are reviled by traditionalist and reactionary elements inside the Roman Curia and the broader Church. The hardliners refer to my pope as Pope Accidental. Conservatives say the same about Francis. The Church is quite literally fighting for financial and moral survival because of the clerical abuse scandal, and at the same time it is tearing itself to pieces internally over doctrinal issues. The Vatican is a very tense place these days.
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MA: Explain the understanding of international politics and religious history that is required to write the Gabriel Allon series.
Silva: The Allon books have dealt with the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the history of Israeli intelligence, the rise of jihadism and Islamic extremism, the Holocaust, Russia and the KGB, the Cambridge spies, renowned painters such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, and, of course, the craft of art restoration. And that is an abridged list of topics, I assure you. The Order required an enormous amount of research, as evidenced by the bibliography I included in my acknowledgments. Fortunately, I am a bookworm by nature. If I’m not writing a book, I’m reading one.
MA: What is the most interesting thing you learned while conducting the research for ‘The Order?’
Silva: Having written two previous Vatican thrillers and several others with scenes set in or around the Vatican, I’m very familiar with the terrain. I have stood in the lobby of the Swiss Guard barracks, shopped in the Vatican pharmacy and supermarket, visited the conservation labs of the Vatican Museums, opened the door of the stove in the Sistine Chapel, and attended a Mass celebrated by the Holy Father. For me, writing “The Order” was a bit like going home.
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MA: How did the coronavirus pandemic impact your writing?
Silva: As a novelist, I’m used to working in isolation, but I wrote the last pages of “The Order” with an extremely heavy heart. Obviously, much of the story is set in Italy, where hundreds of Italians were dying every day in intensive care units. I had hoped to finish the book in Rome, but that wasn’t possible. If there was a silver lining to the crisis, it was that my children were forced to return home. Like many young professionals, they teleworked from their childhood rooms during the lockdown. I enjoyed occasionally dropping in unannounced on their video conference calls.
MA: Can fans expect a 21st Gabriel Allon thriller?
Silva: Sorry, but I never talk about a book that isn’t written. But barring yet another global calamity, it will be published next July.