NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For this week’s summer Beach Reads segment, WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack spoke with New York Times best-selling author Steve Berry.
His latest is called the “The Columbus Affair.”
LISTEN: Farnack with Berry
PF: Steve Berry, it’s so great to speak to you and I’m such a fan. We’re talking about your latest thriller called “The Columbus Affair” and your protagonist is this disgraced Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who’s about to kill himself when…
SB: When a man appears. A man appears knocking on his window and looking at him and this man has Tom Sagan’s daughter held hostage and he needs Tom to do something for him. So, he kind of interrupts this thing that’s about to happen. And along the way, by helping his daughter, he uncovers a secret that involves his family, a 500-year-old mystery that involves Christopher Columbus.
PF: Now, a lot of us don’t really know a heck of a lot about Christopher Columbus. Have you always been fascinated by him?
SB: I thought I knew him. I mean I thought I knew him from all the stuff we were told in school and I realized that all of that is complete legend. We know nothing about Christopher Columbus. We don’t know where he was born, where he was raised, who his parents are. We don’t even know that’s his name. We don’t know where he was educated. He was an expert seaman, but we don’t know how he became one. How he got to the New World, we have no clue because the chart he used disappeared. The journal of Columbus that records what happened when he got here is a copy of a copy. We don’t even know what he looks like because the eight portraits of him were all done hundreds of years after his death. Then there is this really interesting thing about him that I came across. That is that Columbus may have well been Jewish. And that fascinated me. Because at that time, he lived in Spain when it was illegal to be a Jew in Spain at his time, but he may very well had been one. And so I added a little modern twist and took that and made a thriller out of it.
PF: Well, it sounds compelling. I understand that history has always fascinated you and you have an organization that you put together called History Matters. Tell me about that.
SB: That’s an organization me and my wife Elizabeth and I created to help raise money for historic preservation projects around the country and we put on various events, but mainly we do writers workshops where we teach the craft of writing for a four hour intensive workshop and all of the proceeds from that go to the historic project we do. We’ve raised about $275,000 for various projects around the country. We’re doing a couple later this year that are fascinating. We’re doing one at the Smithsonian which is going to be really neat, teaching a workshop and you’re going to get a tour of the rare book vault. And then I’m doing one at the Mark Twain House later this year with R.L. Stine and Sandra Brown. All of those can be found out about on my website http://www.steveberry.org We’re also doing some in Tennessee and Kentucky. These are just projects where we kind of give back and help raise money for historic preservation.
PF: What do you think about history is taught in our schools these days?
SB: It needs to be changed a lot because kids don’t like history. It’s boring to them because you get facts and figures and things that make no sense. History needs to be a story. It needs to be told as a story. And if it’s told as a story and how those threads of that story intertwine with one another, that would make it, where they would see the relevance of it, they would see the importance of it, they would see the drama of it. A story has to be dramatic, so I think we have to rethink the way we teach history. My wife, Elizabeth, she said in school she hated history. She despised it. But she loves reading my books because she says ‘You tell me a story and I learn the history in a story form.’ So, it makes a difference.
PF: Well, The Columbus Affair sounds fascinating. Good luck with that. It is out in stores now, in stores I understand. How do we get a hold of it?
SB: Get a hold of it any place. It’s in hardcover, e-book, large print, audio. It’s out there now. I think the readers will be fascinated to learn about this interesting aspect of Columbus, things we never knew about him. I know I was shocked to learn all these things. So I think they’re going to get a pretty interesting thrill ride.
Tune in again next Thursday at 12:50 for another recommendation for your beach bag.