Bonnie’s Book Bytes: Brilliant story by a brilliant man

Bonnie Godas

When I write these reviews I feel an uncanny connection to these authors. Usually they are highly ambitious and have had extensive successful careers before becoming a writer. Nelson DeMille is no exception. A genius (literally–he is a member of Mensa, a group with people that have very high IQ’s- maybe in my next life), he shows his talent as a writer in his newest book The Gate House, a novel that carries on the traditional themes similar to his other books: mystery, murder and romance.

DeMille like many authors writes about a lot of things that reflect his own life. It is interesting to see that some of his novels reflect militaristic views because of DeMille’s extensive history in the armed forces. After spending three years in college, he joined the Army and became a student at the Officer Candidate School. After training he was made a first Lieutenant from the years of 1966-1969, which is the height of the Vietnam War and during this time he was the platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division. His tour of duty was so impressive that he received three decorations, The Air Medal, The Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Bronze Star.

If that wasn’t enough, he returned to school and a got a degree in History and Political Science. This academic background in these certainly gave him a well-rounded background for his novels.

He has also has received three honorary doctorates from Hofstra, Long Island University and Dowling College.

It takes DeMille about two years to write a book because of all his extensive research but the main reason why it takes so long is that he writes the complete book in long hand on a legal pad with a number 1 pencil! His most recent novel prior to House is his highly acclaimed Gold Coast, named after an area of Long Island famous for its mansions and homes of the rich and famous. This opulent setting is where his main characters in The Gate House John Whitman Sutter and Susan Stanhope Sutter reside. DeMille is explicit in his description just enough as not to distract his reader, keeping them entertained from one passage to another. As he explains in describing Alhambra, an estate near John and Susan’s home he writes: “Majestic trees cast long moon shadows over the grassy fields, and in the distance can see a huge stucco villa which is dark, except for a light from the closed glass doors of a second-story balcony. That balcony I know leads to library where Frank Bellarosa sits in his leather armchair.” This is a perfect segway into what will happen next and the reader is ready to find out.

The Gate House is a story about a torrid affair that Susan has with Mafia don Frank Bellarosa who she eventually murders. After divorcing his wife, John takes off for three years traveling around the world and eventually settles in London. After some time he decides to return to the Gold Coast and ends up settling in the Gate House that was once a part of his wife’s parents home. By complete coincidence, his wife returns to the same area and settles down in a guesthouse nearby. When they find out they are living in close quarters, their romance begins again. Little do they realize however that Anthony, the son of Frank Bellarosa is living next door. His motive is to seek revenge on his father’s murderer, Susan and draw John into the mysterious life of the mafia. Even from such a dark story, DeMille hopes that his readers will have fun figuring out what happens. He doesn’t believe in the typical Hollywood ending for his books and leaves his readers with some questions allowing them to figure out their own conclusions and the eventual fate of the characters, and to many readers, a book that leaves a puzzle for the reader to figure out makes it all worthwhile.