The bestselling author, Nelson DeMille, recently updated and republished his religious-thriller novel about the Holy Grail called “The Quest.” Thirty-seven years after its initial publication in 1975, DeMille decided to re-release his beloved tale. He recently spoke with Bookish about resurrecting his novel which has been described as “another Da Vinci Code knockoff–except that it was done 25 years before.”
“The Quest” is set in a time when the Ethiopian Civil War rages and a Catholic priest languishes in prison. Forty years have passed since he last saw daylight. His crime? Claiming to know the true location of Christ’s cup from the Last Supper. Then the miraculous happens – a mortar strikes the prison and he is free! Old, frail, and injured, he escapes to the jungle, where he encounters two Western journalists and a beautiful freelance photographer taking refuge from the carnage. As they tend to his wounds, he relates his incredible story. Motivated by the sensational tale and their desire to find the location of the holiest of relics, the trio agrees to search for the Grail.
Bookish asked DeMille what he was excited about with the re-release of his novel. He explained,
“I’m most excited about being able to rewrite a book–it’s the first time I’ve ever done that–and bring it back. It was my first best book–or my best first book, I should say–it didn’t see much of the light of day back in 1975. The process was interesting, to rewrite one of my own books 37 years later. [There were] some winceable moments. I felt like my own editor–I was a man in my 30s when I wrote it.”
DeMille says that the biggest obstacle he had to overcome when rewriting “The Quest” was keeping the tale fresh despite the time period it was initially published in.
“I didn’t want to change so much that it sounded like it was written today about the ’70s. Some of the words and usage have changed–some of the spelling, punctuation, the dialect…. You don’t want to make it so modern that it sounds like you really wrote it yesterday. One of the words I stuck to was the word “Muslim”; it was written “Moslem,” which was more common then. My main character smokes–I let him keep his cigarettes. He’s a man of the ’70s. A lot of us were surprised when we saw Mad Men on TV–that era coming alive again. You realize how much has changed in terms of things like smoking, how men treated women, the language that was used. Some of the stuff I wrote [in the ’70s] was probably offensive by today’s standards.”
Despite stories of the Holy Grail being all over literature both modern and ancient, the details and story continue to fascinate mankind. DeMille offers his opinion on why we continue to tell the story of the grail.
“The Holy Grail has become an expression–“the Holy Grail of…” It’s part of the consciousness, the culture. The actual Grail was a Kiddush cup in the Jewish Passover–a beat-up, old thing. It had no magical powers. It’s an interesting evolution: By the early Middle Ages, the Grail had become big. But why the Grail, why not something else? What are the artifacts people think of–religious relics of saints, a piece of the cross? Nobody says these have magical power. The Grail has magical power–that’s what fascinates people.”
“The point is, nobody knows if it exists. But, it persists in legend, it persists in literature, it persists in people’s consciousness and imagination. It’s very universal.”
You can read the full interview between Bookish and DeMille here: Bookish.com