Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

There's a rather unseemly TV commercial making the rounds, in which middle-aged men who ought to know better make fools of themselves pretending to play guitar while allegedly hot young women pretend to be interested in them. (Yeah. And it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.)

Reading Nelson DeMille's latest hernia-inducer, "The Gate House," I thought it must be intended for the same target audience as that commercial. OK, I realize the bestselling DeMille has a readership that extends beyond that segment of the population that has outgrown Maxim but is not yet ready for the AARP newsletter. But everything about "The Gate House," from the soapy, melodramatic plot to the cardboard characters to the airline-magazine depiction of what they used to call "the good life," has a dragged-out, tired-blood quality to it. Saddling yourself with the nearly 700 pages of this book is like tuning into an endless miniseries with a second-rate cast and just being too pooped to get up and change the channel. It's absorbing if you don't have anything better to do - like ironing or paying bills.

"The Gate House" is a sequel to DeMille's 1990 blockbuster, "The Gold Coast," in which a pricey Long Island tax attorney is fool enough to sign on to work for a Mafia don and finds his wife drifting into an affair with this hotshot goombah.

As "The Gate House" opens, family business has summoned that fool of a lawyer, John Sutter, back to the North Shore. Sutter has been working in London after (literally) sailing out of his former life. Susan wound up killing her mob lover and though she avoided prison, in "The Gate House" her dead lover's son is taking over the family business and is hot for revenge. Fueling Sutter's desire to protect Susan is the fact that the two of them are back together - the last development following some verbal foreplay that has all the dexterity of the Hindenburg landing.

For a guy with a reputation for page-turners, DeMille pads out nearly every scene. Each dramatic development goes on at least two or three pages after we've gotten the point. DeMille's might be called the Sharpie method of narrative unfurling: He doesn't dramatize as much as underline. When Sutter meets Goombah Jr. in a Chinese restaurant, Junior reels off three dumb Asian jokes in a row so we understand he's a mamaluke.

About the author:

Nelson Richard DeMille was born in New York City on August 23, 1943 to Huron and Antonia (Panzera) DeMille. He moved as a child with his family to Long Island. In high school, he played football and ran track.

DeMille spent three years at Hofstra University, then joined the Army and attended Officer Candidate School. He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army (1966-69) and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He was decorated with the Air Medal, Bronze Star, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

DeMille returned to the States and went back to Hofstra University where he received his degree in Political Science and History. He has three children, Lauren, Alexander, and James, and still lives on Long Island.

DeMille's earlier books were NYPD detective novels. His first major novel was By the Rivers of Babylon, published in 1978 and still in print, as are all his succeeding novels. He is a member of The Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and American Mensa. He holds three honorary doctorates: Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University, Doctor of Literature from Long Island University, and Doctor of Humane Letters from Dowling College.

Nelson DeMille is the author of: By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General's Daughter, Spencerville, Plum Island, The Lion's Game, Up Country, Night Fall, and Wild Fire. He also co-authored Mayday with Thomas Block and has contributed short stories, book reviews, and articles to magazines and newspapers.

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