It is interesting and can be quite illustrative to go back and read the first novel of a highly successful novelist. What is it that they learned over the subsequent years and multiple forays on the bestseller list? In Nelson DeMille's case, he started immediately with a suspense thriller that would be considered impressive even if written by a veteran novelist. Written in 1978, BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON resounds with today's headlines. A peace mission is flying to New York in which a treaty is to be negotiated between the Palestinians and the Israelis. High-ranking dignitaries are flying on two Concorde jets from Tel Aviv. What they do not know is that in the tail of the planes are explosives placed over a year ago as the planes were being built. Rish, a terrorist approaches the planes with his jet and threatens to blow them up unless they follow him to an unknown destination. What ensues is a standoff in the Babylonian desert between the Arab terrorists and the Israeli diplomatic team, which includes members of the military and Israeli security force.
Nelson DeMille's first effort is a fast paced and extremely clever tale that is in some respects surprisingly claustrophobic. Almost the entire book occurs in this Babylonian desert region. The book can be divided into prebattle, battle and post battle. It is obvious that Nelson DeMille was stretching the simplistic plot in an effort to bulk up the book. However, the pacing is relentless and the book can almost be consumed in one lengthy sitting. The author revealed almost twenty-five years ago that he could write a competent thriller and has perfected that task over the ensuing decades. A wonderful first effort.