It's not every day readers get invited into the home of a best-selling writer such as Daniel Silva. But, in the time of COVID-19, that's exactly what awaits fans of the thriller genre, thanks to an event produced by HarperCollins Publishers via Crowdcast on July 14 — and offered in partnership with independent bookstores around the country, including Murder by the Book in Houston and The Twig in San Antonio.
Readers who buy a copy of New York Times best-selling author Daniel Silva's new book, The Order, will receive a special invitation link for a virtual event with the author at his home. The discussion promises to be be a lively exchange, as the author will be interviewed by his wife, Jamie Gangel, an award-winning special correspondent for CNN.
"Danny and Jamie have been such incredible supporters of ours over the years," McKenna Jordan, owner of Murder by the Book tells CultureMap. "It's weird not seeing him. His events are always great; the store is just packed with people who've come to know him and his work over the years. It's like a homecoming. So, I think this will be a really fun opportunity for readers, to see a different side of his writing life."
The July 14 event, which coincides with the book's release date, will incorporate details about the new book, the 20th in Silva's Gabriel Allon series. It finds his protagonist, the director of Israeli intelligence — who's also an art restorer and assassin — on vacation in Venice, when he gets a call from his old friend, Archbishop Luigi Donati, the pope's private secretary. Pope Paul VII has died, and Donati's not convinced it was under natural circumstances.
Taking place in the 10 days between the pope's funeral and the conclave to elect a new pope, Allon and Donati race to uncover a sinister plot by a far-right organization to take over the papacy.
Jordan and her team have offered a series of virtual live events on Facebook, and have sent out emails with videos from store staff offering reading recommendations. This event folds into the store's current efforts, even though the publisher is spearheading it.
For Claudio Maceo, who manages The Twig, having assistance with a virtual event is an asset. The store, which offers educational books and materials, as well as popular fiction and nonfiction, has been open throughout the pandemic, albeit with stricter measures on crowd control. Maceo says the store has seen an increase in online sales, and has offered both curbside pickup and delivery for patrons.
"Harper Collins reached out and asked us if we'd like to participate in the event," she notes. "All we had to do was order the books. They made it so easy."
The event serves as an important marker for the store, which Maceo says is working to increase the number of virtual events it offers. She's invested in technology and training to amp up the store's social media presence, and feels having an event of this magnitude will be a boon.
"We've had out patrons tell us, 'We appreciate you.' People realize what an important resource a small business like this is to the community."
One of those people is Silva, himself, who's long made stops at independent bookstores during his more than 20 years as a novelist. In an interview with CultureMap, he shares concern about how these stores have fared during the pandemic.
"I worry about all the wonderful people I’ve meet over the years who run indie bookstores and I have gone out of my way, bent over backwards, done everything I can to support independents," he says. "And will continue to do so."
He echoes Jordan's statement about not being on tour, and how strange it is to not see people he's become used to visiting with annually.
"It’s just a weird feeling to not be getting on a plane in a couple of days and starting a book tour. So, we’ll make the best of it with these virtual events," he laughs. "I guess the main difference is, they’ll see the inside of my house. I’m told I’m supposed to let people into my office. I’m not so sure about that."
What's guaranteed to happen, however, is a fun discussion about The Order, as well as Silva's writing style.
"I really do lie on the floor and write my books in longhand in pencil and have a real monastic existence [while working]," he notes.
The discussion should prove engaging for fans and newcomers to the series, alike. Silva said he's been mulling over the plot and themes of The Order for some time. In addition to the rise of far-right factions across the globe, The Order also takes on anti-Semitism, which has seen alarming spikes over the last few years. (Thus far, 2019 was the worst year on record for anti-Semitism, according to the Anti Defamation League.)
"I have been struck time and time again by how many people, including devout Christians, devout Catholics, who don’t realize and don’t understand that the source of anti-Semitism is the gospel’s account of the suffering and death of Jesus," explains Silva. "That the way Jesus' death was portrayed in the canonical gospels, that is source of nearly 2,000 years of antisemitism. And, with the benefit of modern critical biblical scholarship and modern historical techniques, we’ve been able to have a better understanding of why the gospels were written the way they were, how they were written. And how the story, and why the story, was told the way it was."
Silva's wrapped those sentiments around a fast-paced mystery about a secret gospel, and how its contents are so explosive it could upend the church. Readers familiar with the series will notice the compressed timeline, and also that the story takes place mostly within the Vatican, and not the global cosmopolitan locales where Allon usually finds himself. For those who've followed the Gabriel Allon stories, it'll be a welcome addition to the canon, but it's a terrific read without knowing the backstory, an adventure that blends mystery and history and the feel of current events.
And while Silva certainly wishes he could be on the road, he feels it's better for the safety of all that he isn't. But, inviting his readers into his workspace is the next best thing.
"It feels weird to be doing an event and speaking into a screen, but we’ll do the best we can," Silva says. "It’s going to be surreal, that’s for sure."
Houston readers can also access another virtual event with Silva, in support of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center in partnership with Brazos Bookstore on July 15. Dallas readers can be part of a live Q&A with the author and Jim Faulk of the World Affairs Council and Laura Hartman of the Dallas Art Museum on July 16.