Sumatra: Island of Adventure

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More About This Book

Product Details

Meet the Author

Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Friends and writing partners since childhood, Ian Calwell and Dustin Thomason are now enjoying a profitable partnership. Their debut novel, The Rule of Four -- a gripping suspense thriller involving an ancient code-filled manuscript -- is being hailed as heir apparent to The Da Vinci Code.


Virginia natives Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason met at a friend's birthday party when they were eight years old, and they've been co-authors ever since, working up from class plays and commencement speeches to their blockbuster of a debut novel, The Rule of Four.

"We were college seniors who, in a bubble of post-graduation optimism, thought we could write and sell a manuscript in the three months before Dusty went to medical school and Ian went to work at a dot-com company," Caldwell and Thomason explained in a Barnes & Noble interview.

The duo picked out a genre and subject: inspired by Caldwell's seminar at Princeton on "Renaissance Art, Science and Magic," they planned to concoct an intellectual thriller about a mysterious 15th-century text, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (a real book). But the path from first draft to publication was rockier than they anticipated.

"We slaved over the manuscript a good fifty hours a week that entire summer, and at the end of it all we had... nothing," they confessed.

Nothing, that is, but the beginnings of a manuscript that would take nearly six years to write, rewrite and revise before it would be published.

When The Rule of Four finally made it into print, it met with all the success two first-time authors could hope for -- including glowing reviews and chart-topping sales. "Think Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco ," suggested Publishers Weekly.

The same comparisons were repeated by other book reviewers. Like Brown's The DaVinci Code (which hadn't been published when Caldwell and Thomason were writing their novel), The Rule of Four deals with an explosive secret encoded in ancient texts; like Tartt's The Secret History, it takes place at an elite school where scholarly obsessions turn deadly; like Eco's The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, it is packed with historical and literary arcana, "an extremely erudite thriller," as Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times.

Also in the mix are the authors' observations about love, friendship and undergraduate life at Princeton, Caldwell's alma mater. (Thomason graduated from Harvard, and went on to earn his M.D at Columbia University.)

Though comparisons to The DaVinci Code were inevitable, many critics deemed The Rule of Four "better, more difficult and more rewarding" (The Miami Herald). The San Francisco Chronicle called it "As much a blazing good yarn as it is an exceptional piece of scholarship... A smart, swift, multitextured tale that both entertains and informs."

With their first big success under their belts, Caldwell and Thomason have cheerfully abandoned their other possible career paths in order to focus on writing full-time.

"We're working on our next co-written book," they said in an interview on their publisher's Web site. "Now that we're both able to focus completely on our writing, we look forward to finishing it in a lot less time than The Rule of Four took!"

Good To Know

In our interview, the authors shared some fun and fascinating facts with us:


"Dusty and I first met at a friend's birthday party in third grade. Twenty years later, that same friend, Olivier Delfosse, took the author photo that appears on the back cover of The Rule of Four."

"Dusty and I co-wrote the speech he gave at our high school graduation. The last line was: ‘With that, I thank you all for a wonderful four years, wish you Godspeed, and hope to see you in another 40.' And that was one of the good parts."

"Dusty and I were the left halfback/left wing combination on our travel soccer team in high school. The only ‘move' we ever rehearsed involved Dusty jogging backward, seemingly to receive a short throw-in from me, then suddenly turning back and bolting up the field, leaving the defender in his tracks, in order to receive a much longer throw. It sounds more complicated than it was, and it rarely worked."

"Dusty finds this endlessly amusing, but my fiancée and I, after spending four years in southwestern Virginia during her veterinary training and my work on The Rule of Four, are devoted fans of Virginia Tech college football. We've moved east since then, but everything in our household -- even writing -- still comes to a stop when the Hokies take the field."


"Ian and I have been writing together since we were kids. In the seventh grade, we co-wrote a spoofy musical number for a teacher's retirement party. I had done a Roger Daltrey turn at that year's talent show (our algebra teacher was a Who fanatic with a garage band but needed a singer), so for the retirement party, I sang and Ian was the piano man. No videotapes exist of this incident."

"I used to be a competitive gymnast, and I was terrified of the high bar."

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    1. Hometown:
      Caldwell: Newport News, Virginia; Thomason: New York, New York
    1. Education:
      Caldwell: B.A., Princeton University, 1998; Thomason: A.B., Harvard College, 1998; M.B.A./M.D., Columbia, 2003
    2. Website:

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