NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new thriller from author Steve Berry, featuring his recurring character Cotton Malone, is based on the legend that Queen Elizabeth I may not have been who everyone thought SHE was.
“The King’s Deception” is our latest summer Beach Reads entry and WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack spoke with Berry.
PF: I just got your book. I was so engrossed that I almost missed getting off at my subway stop.
SB: We hope that happens a lot.
PF: This is a thriller and you have certainly woven in history and intrigue. Tell me how you came up with the kernel of this idea for “The King’s Deception.”
SB: I was in England three years ago doing some work for my British publisher and I was in the town of Edy and I was in the cathedral there looking around and the lady who was showing me around began to tell me about this legend from the village of Bisley. It’s about an hour away. And she told how on a day certain for many centuries, the locals would dress a boy up in Elizabethan costume and parade him through the streets. Now that’s a very odd behavior. Why would they do that? And as I looked into it, I began to discover that another writer, Bram Stoker, in the early part of the 20th century, had come across the same legend and wrote about it in a non-fiction book called “Famous Imposters.” I got that, I read it, began to do more research and I realized that there was a novel there. This novel centers around Elizabeth I. She was really a strange individual. All her life she wore heavy makeup, she wore wigs, she wore clothing that didn’t flatter her body. She refused to let doctors examine her and when she died, she left orders that no autopsy would be performed on her. Her number one duty as queen was to have an heir, but she absolutely refused to marry, refused to have a child and proclaimed herself the “Virgin Queen.” And then when she dies, this is the strangest thing of all, they bury her with her sister… in the same grave so their bones would be mixed together. Now I discovered all of that happened for a reason. There’s a great secret associated with Elizabeth I that could well be true and my recurring character, Cotton Malone, goes over there to discover that secret.
PF: Wow, you’re not going to give us the secret though.
SB: No! That would give away the whole book. I’d hate to give away the fun. It’s really interesting. It’s really different. It’ll make you think about the Tudors in a way you never thought about them before and you’ll say “Wow, could that really be true?” Well, it’s entirely possible that it is.
PF: Now, you have founded a group called History Matters.
SB: I like history. I’ve always liked history. It’s been a passion of mine since I was very young. I’ve read about it for years and when I started writing, I gravitated to write things about history. So I like action, history, secrets, conspiracy, international settings, those kinds of books. The cliché, they call them the Dan Brown books. Well, I was a fan of Dan long before “The Da Vinci Code.” I was a fan of those books long before that. But I like things lost, things forgotten, things from the past you don’t know a lot about. So, History Matters kind of came out of that. And that’s the foundation that Elizabeth and I put together that helps raise money for historic preservation. How history is taught is probably something we need to be re-evaluating. I actually did a seminar with the Tennessee educators about a year ago where I went up and spoke to about 150 history teachers. You know, how can we make history interesting? How do we make it a story form? How do we make it where the kids look at it and say “I want to know more about this?” Yeah, unfortunately, you gotta know some facts and figures and some dates and places, but you have to put it in context of a story. And if we could do that more, I think, you’re right, a lot of students would find it a lot more interesting.
PF: Alright, anything you want to leave with our listeners about “The King’s Deception” to get them to pick it up? I know I can’t wait until it is over so I can start reading it again.
SB: It’s a good adventure. It’s a great adventure in England. You’re gonna learn a lot about English history, the Tudors. My recurring character Cotton Malone is back for the eighth time… It involves his son, so it’s really a father/son story. They can find out all about me at steveberry.org and about that book and all my other books. And I hope they go out and check it out.
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