An earlier, shorter version of The Quest was published in paperback in 1975. In 2013, I rewrote The Quest and doubled its length, making it, I hope, a far better story than the original, without deviating from the elements that made the story so powerful and compelling when I first wrote it. In other words, what made The Quest worth rewriting remains, and whatever is changed is for the better.
I was happy and excited to have this opportunity to rewrite and republish what I consider my first "big" novel, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first wrote it.
A sweeping adventure that's equal parts thriller and love story, Nelson DeMille's newest novel takes the reader from the war torn jungles of Ethiopia to the magical city of Rome.
While the Ethiopian Civil War rages, 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.
Thus begins an impossible quest that will pit them against murderous tribes, deadly assassins, fanatical monks, and the passions of their own hearts.
THE QUEST is suspenseful, romantic, and filled with heart-pounding action. Nelson DeMille is at the top of his game as he masterfully interprets one of history's greatest mysteries.
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About the Author
Hometown:Long Island, New York
Date of Birth:August 22, 1943
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A. in political science, Hofstra University, 1974
Read an Excerpt
By Nelson DeMille
Center StreetCopyright © 2014 Nelson DeMille
All rights reserved.
The elderly Italian priest crouched in the corner of his cell and covered himself with his straw pallet. Outside, screaming artillery shells exploded into the soft African earth, and shrapnel splattered off the stone walls of his prison. Now and then, a shell air-burst overhead and hot metal shards pierced the corrugated metal roof.
The old priest curled into a tighter ball and drew the pitifully thin pallet closer. The shelling stopped abruptly. The old man relaxed. He called out to his jailers, in Italian, "Why are they bombing us? Who is doing this thing?"
But he received no answer. The older Ethiopians, the ones who spoke Italian, had gradually disappeared over the years, and he heard less and less of his native tongue through the stone walls. In fact, he realized he hadn't heard a word of it in almost five years. He shouted in snatches of Amharic, then Tigregna. "What is it? What is happening?" But there was no answer. They never answered him. To them, he was more dead than the ripening bodies that lay in the courtyard. When you ask questions for forty years and no one answers, it can only mean that you are dead. But he knew they dared not answer. One had answered, once, when he first entered his cell. Was it forty years now? Perhaps it was less. The years were hard to follow. He could not even remember the man who had answered, except for the skull. His jailers had given him the skull of the one who had answered him. The skull was his cup. He remembered the man and his kindness each time he drank. And the jailers remembered when they filled his cup; they remembered not to speak to him. But he asked anyway. He called out again. "Why is there war? Will you release me?"
He stared at the iron door on the far wall. It had closed on a young man in 1936, when Ethiopia was an Italian colony, and the door had not opened since. Only the small pass-through at the bottom of the iron door was ever used. His sustenance came in and his waste went out once a day through that small portal. A window, no larger than a big book—really just a missing stone—above eye level, let in light, sounds, and air.
His only possessions in the cell, aside from his tattered shamma, were a washbasin, a pair of dull scissors that he used to cut his hair and nails, and a Holy Bible, written in Italian, which they had let him keep when he was first imprisoned. If it weren't for his Bible, he knew, he would have gone mad many years ago. He had read the holy book perhaps a hundred, two hundred times, and though his eyesight was growing weaker, he knew every word by heart. The Old and New Testaments brought him comfort and escape, and kept his mind from dying, and kept his soul nourished.
The old man thought of the young man who walked through the iron door in 1936. He knew every detail of the young man's face and every movement of his body. At night, he spoke to the young man and asked him many things about their native Sicily. And he knew the young man so well that he even knew what went on inside his mind and how he felt and where he went to school and the village he came from and how old his father was. The young man never got older, of course, and his stories were always the same. But his was the only face the old man knew well enough to remember. He had seen that young face in the mirror for the last time close to forty years ago and not again since, except in his mind's eye. He wept.
The old priest dried his tears on his dirty native shamma and lay back against his cell wall and breathed deeply. His mind eventually came back to the present.
Wars had ebbed and flowed around his small prison and he imagined that the world had changed considerably in his absence from it. Jailers got old and died. Young soldiers grew old as they paraded through the years in the courtyard of the small fortress outside. When he was younger, he was able to hang from the sill of the window much longer. But now he could no longer gather the energy to pull himself up for more than a few minutes a day.
The shelling had jarred loose many things in his mind. He knew that his imprisonment was at its end; if the explosions did not kill him, then the guards would, because he knew they had standing orders to kill him if they could no longer continue to guarantee his incarceration in this place. And now he could hear the sounds of fleeing garrison soldiers. And the jailers would soon open that never-opened door and do their duty. But he held nothing against them. Those were their orders and he forgave them. But it did not matter if they or the explosions killed him. His own body was failing him anyway. He was dying. There was famine in the land and the food had been poor for over a year. His lungs made a liquid sound when he coughed. Death was here. Inside his cell and outside his cell.
The old man's biggest regret, he thought, was that he would die in ignorance—that as a consequence of the two score years of being held in darkness, he knew less than the simplest peasant did about his world. He did not regret the dying—that held no special terror for him—but the thought of dying without knowing what the world had come to in his absence was a peculiarly sad thing. But then again, his calling was not of this world, but of the next, and it should have made no difference what the world had come to. Still, it would have been nice to know just a little something of the affairs of men. He could not help wondering about his friends, about his family, about the world leaders of his day.
He wrapped the shamma around himself more tightly. The sun was fading from his window and a chill wind blew down from the highlands. A small lizard, its tail partly severed by a piece of shrapnel, climbed awkwardly up the wall near his head. Outside in the stillness, he could hear the soldiers speaking in Amharic about who would have to kill him if it became necessary.
Like so many other imprisoned and condemned men and women, like the martyred saints, the thing that had sustained him through his ordeal was the very thing that had condemned him in the first place. And what had condemned him was his knowledge of a secret thing. And the knowledge of that secret thing comforted him and nourished him and he would gladly have traded forty more years of his life, if he had them to trade, for one more look at the thing that he had seen. Such was his faith. The years in prison saddened him because they meant that the world had not yet learned of this thing. For if the world knew, then there would be no more reason for his solitary confinement.
He often wished they had killed him then, and spared him this living death for forty years. But he was a priest, and those who had captured him, the monks, and those who had imprisoned him, the soldiers of the emperor, were Coptic Christians, and so they had spared his life. But the monks had warned the soldiers never to speak to the priest, for any reason, or death would come to them. The monks had also told the soldiers that they had leave to kill the priest if his imprisonment and silence could not be guaranteed. And now, he thought, that day had surely come. And he welcomed it. He would soon be with his heavenly father.
Suddenly the artillery began again. He could hear its thump and crash as it walked around the walls of the small fortress. Eventually the artillery spotter made his corrections, and the rounds began to land more accurately within the walls of the compound. The sounds of secondary explosions—stockpiled petrol and ammunition—drowned out the sounds of the incoming artillery. Outside his window, the old priest could hear men screaming in pain. A nearby explosion shook the tiny cell and the lizard lost its grip and fell beside him. The deafening explosions numbed his brain and blotted out every awareness except that of the lizard. The reptile was trying to coordinate its partially severed halves, thrashing around on the reverberating mud floor, and he felt sorry for the creature. And it occurred to him that the soldiers might abandon the garrison and leave him here to die of thirst and hunger.
A shock wave lifted a section of corrugated metal off the roof and sent it sailing into the purple twilight. A piece of spent shrapnel found him and slapped him hotly across his cheek, causing him to yell out in pain. The old man could hear the sounds of excited shouts outside his iron door. The door moved almost imperceptibly. The old man stared at it. It moved again. He could hear its rusty stubbornness over the roar of the fiery hell outside. But forty years was a long time and it would not yield. There were more shouts and then quiet. Slowly, the pass-through at the base of the unyielding cell door slid open. They were coming for him. He clutched his Bible to his chest.
A long, gaunt Ethiopian slithered through the pass-through onto the mud floor and the old man was reminded of the lizard. The Ethiopian rose to his feet, looked at him, then drew a curved sword from his belt. In the half-light, the old priest could see his fine features. He was undoubtedly an Amhara from Hamitic stock. His hooked nose and high cheekbones made him look almost Semitic, but the tight, black hair and dusky skin revealed him as a descendant of Ham. With his scimitar in his hand and his shamma, he looked very biblical, and the old priest thought that this was as it should be, although he could not say why.
The old priest rose, carrying his Bible, and his knees shook so badly he could barely stand. His mouth, he noticed, was quite dry now. He surprised the Ethiopian by deliberately walking across the small cell toward him. It was better to die quickly and to die well. A chase around the cell with upraised arms to ward off the blows of the scimitar would have been grotesque.
The Ethiopian hesitated, not wanting to do his duty in the final analysis and wondering now if perhaps he could circumvent it. But having drawn the short straw, he had become the executioner. What to do? The old priest knelt and crossed himself. The Ethiopian, a Christian of the ancient Coptic Church, began to shake. He spoke in bad Italian. "Father. Forgive me."
"Yes," said the old priest, and he prayed for both of them in snatches of long- forgotten Latin. Tears welled in his eyes as he kissed his Bible.
A shot rang out above the dwindling sounds of artillery outside and he heard a cry. Another shot, then the sounds of automatic rifle fire.
The soldier said in Italian, "The Gallas are here."
He sounded frightened, thought the old man, and well he should be. The priest remembered the Gallas, the tribal people who were as merciless as the ancient Huns. They mutilated their prisoners before they killed them.
The priest looked up at the soldier holding his scimitar and saw that he was shaking in fear. The old priest yelled at him, "Do it!"
But the soldier dropped his scimitar, then drew an ancient pistol from his belt and backed away toward the door, listening for sounds outside.
The soldier seemed indecisive, thought the priest, torn between staying in the relative safety of the cell or going out to be with his comrades, and to meet the Gallas, who were now within the fortress. The soldier was also torn between killing the old priest or letting him live, which could cost him his own life if his commander discovered what he had done—or failed to do.
The old priest decided that he preferred a quick and merciful death at the hands of this soldier; the Gallas would not be quick or merciful. He stood and said to the soldier in Amharic, "Do it. Quickly." He pointed to his heart.
The soldier stood frozen, but then raised his pistol. His hand shook so badly that when he fired, the bullet went high and splattered off the stone behind the old man's head.
The old priest had suffered enough, and the strange emotion of anger rose inside him. Here he was, after close to forty years in solitary imprisonment, and all he had wanted in his last moments was to die well and to die quickly, without losing his faith, like so many others did in those last seconds. But a well- meaning and inept executioner had prolonged his agony and he felt his faith slipping. He screamed, "Do it!"
He stared down the barrel of the gun and saw it spit another flame at him. And he thought of the thing that had condemned him. And the vision of that thing glowed like the fire from the gun, all golden and blinding—bright like the sun. Then everything went black.
He awoke to the miracle of being alive. The roof was mostly gone and he could see pinpoints of starlight against the sky. A bluish moon cast shadows across the floor, which was strewn with timbers and stone. Everything was unearthly still. Even the insects had abandoned the fortress.
He looked and felt around for his Bible, but could not find it in the rubble, and thought perhaps the soldier had taken it.
The old man crawled toward the door, then carefully out the pass-through. The soldier lay naked outside the door, and he saw that the man's genitals had been hacked off. The stripping, the mutilation; this was the mark of the Galla tribesmen. They might still be near.
The old man rose unsteadily. In the courtyard, naked bodies lay in the blue moonlight. His insides burned, but he felt well otherwise. It was hard to feel anything but well, walking now under the sky and taking more than five paces in any one direction.
A cool breeze picked up swirls of rubble dust, and he could smell the burned earth and the death around him. The damaged concrete buildings gleamed white in the moonlight like broken teeth. He shivered and tucked his arms in his shamma. His body was cold and clammy. He became aware that his shamma was caked with dried blood, sticking to his skin, and he moved more slowly so as not to open the wound.
It had been forty years, but he remembered the way and walked to the main gates. They lay open. He walked through them, as he'd done in dreams five thousand times, and he was free.CHAPTER 2
The Jeep bounced slowly over the rutted track, and its filtered headlights picked out the path between the tight jungle growth. In the distance, artillery boomed and illuminated the black sky, like flashes of distant lightning.
Frank Purcell gripped the wheel and peered hard into the distorted shadows of gnarled trees and twisting vines. He hit the brakes, then shut off the hard- idling engine and killed the headlights. Henry Mercado, in the passenger seat, asked, "What's the matter?"
Purcell held up his hand for silence.
Mercado peered nervously into the encroaching jungle. Every shadow seemed to move. He cocked his silver-haired head and listened, then looked out of the corners of his eyes into the darkness, but he could see nothing.
From the back of the open-sided vehicle, on the floor among the supplies and photographic equipment, came a soft feminine voice. "Is everything all right?"
Mercado turned around in his seat. "Yes, fine."
"Then why are we stopped?"
"Good question." He whispered, "Why are we stopped, Frank?"
Purcell said nothing. He started the engine and threw the Jeep into gear. The four-wheel-drive dug into the track and they lurched forward. He moved the Jeep faster and the bouncing became rougher. Mercado held on to his seat. In the back, Vivian uncurled her slender body and sat up, grabbing on to whatever she could find in the dark.
They drove on for a few minutes. Suddenly, Purcell yanked the wheel to the right, and the Jeep crashed through a thicket of high brush and broke into a clearing.
Vivian said, "What the hell are you doing? Frank?"
In the middle of the clearing, gleaming white in the full-risen moon, were the ruins of an Italian mineral bath spa. A strange, anomalous legacy from the Italian occupation, the spa was built in ancient Roman style and sat crumbling like some Caesar's bath in another time and place.
Purcell pointed the Jeep toward the largest of the buildings and accelerated. The stuccoed structure grew bigger as the vehicle bounced across the field of high grass.
The Jeep hit the broad front steps of the building, found traction, and climbed. It sailed between two fluted columns, across the smooth stone portico, and through the front opening, coming to rest in the center of the main lobby of what had been the hotel part of the spa. Purcell cut the engine and headlights. Night creatures became quiet, then started their senseless, cacophonous noises again.
The moon shone blue-white through the destroyed vaulted ceiling and lit the pseudo-Roman chamber with an ethereal glow. Huge crumbling frescoes of classical bath scenes adorned every wall. Purcell wiped his face with his sweating palm.
Excerpted from The Quest by Nelson DeMille. Copyright © 2014 Nelson DeMille. Excerpted by permission of Center Street.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
MY husband and I both usually enjoy Nelson DeMille's books. So I was anticipating the arrival of the pre-ordered copy of The Quest. Upon opening the book you find an author's note stating that it was published 40 years ago and on the advice of an editor sex was added to make it more current.Barnes and Noble should have been truthful to its loyal customers and revealed this fact. Feel totally ripped off and should be receiving a refund! I think I will stop pre-ordering books and wait for readers comments before purchasing . Pass tis comment onto the author and publisher.
I would have said prior to reading this book "Nelson Demille is my favorite author". I've read all of his books and eagerly anticipated this book when I preordered it. I'm not sure what happened but this book is dull and the characters are pretty one dimensional. Usually, Demille's books catch me right away and I'm interested in the story. I love his usual cheeky approach to relationships between men and women. It is fun. Not so in this book. What happened, Mr. Demille? Perhaps it is because this book was originally written earlier in your career and didn't show the depth of your usual mature writing. Please don't take and old work and "update or rewrite" it again. I feel ripped off!
The Quest is awful. Nelson DeMille is one of only 10or so authors that I read the second the book becomes available. Never again. I stopped reading this book after slogging through 150 pages, and realizing that reading is supposed to be pleasant and this wasn't. Just a very boring story with uninspied characters. Terrible.
Nelson Demille is one of my favorite authors and I eagerly awaited the release of this book but was sorely disappointed. He mentioned it was one of his earlier books he re-wrote, but it reads like he found one of his college manuscripts in a box and decided to publish it with little or no effort and capitalize on his name. Shame on Mr. Demille and please do not waste you money on this tripe.
It's difficult for me to pick a favorite novel by Nelson DeMille because I love them all. But I think this is my favorite. I hate to give too much away, if you love adventure, suspense and love you will enjoy this! Thank you Mr DeMille for such a fantastic read! I hope to see you soon in AL and I am thrilled beyond belief to hear you speak at my favorite independant book store!
DeMille has always been one of my favorite authors, but the two books prior to this one started what is now a confirmed downhillslide in quality. Turning wisecracking detective John Corey into a terrorist fighter has not worked; his jokes seem lame in the international setting. Since this book was not involving the Corey character , I had high hoped for it. But it turns out this is DeMille's worst effort ever.. Not only is this basically a retread of a 40 year old book, there seemingly was nothing done to update it or make it appealing in any way. The characters were unlikeable, the plot boring, the dialogue terrible. It seemed like maybe this was his first book written inhigh school. Absolutely awful; I bailed after about 100 pages. The first time ever I did not finish one of his books. Do not waste your time or money on this book.
As always - so excited to have my hands on a new Nelson Demille...... That was where it ended. I finished the book because it wasn't awful it just wasn't great. I loved the story idea and could see a lot of John Corey in Frank Purcell and all that did was make me miss John Corey even more!
If you are a "It's Nelson DeMille and Damn The Torpedoes" fan then you might enjoy this book. I'm pretty forgiving but this thing is a turkey. Let me count the ways: All of DeMille's characters retain the same characteristics. Like using the word "right" all the time. Only a small percentage of Americans use the word "right" as an acknowledgement to someone else's statement. The sarcasm is there, you can bet your boots on that. But the plot is a plod - too much mundane "filler" that taxes the patience of the reader. This is supposed to be the same author that wrote thrillers like "The Charm School" which in my opinion rates many stars. DeMille could have spent more ink or pixels on describing Africa. or even for that matter Vatican City - but he didn't. He expended all his energy trying his best to create an air of tension between the three main characters. And it does not work. I am on page 250 something and I am damned near ready to archive this loser. I had to chuckle last night when I found myself wishing the "opposition" would catch the three wraithlike main characters (they are so shallowly constructed and get it over with. The book continues DeMille's downward spiral from greatness to mediocrity. Eleven bucks down the you-know-what. I will NOT be ordering any more of DeMille's books UNTIL 50 reviews have been posted with at least a 4 star rating. No more wasting money on novels that are as compelling as a Roadrunner Wiley Coyote cartoon.
Without a doubt, this was the worst book from him I have ever read. While it started out with an excellent premise storyline and characters, it soon bogged down to mundane writing, no meaningful plot changes. I'm almost at the end, just because I need to see how he pulls the ending off. Hopefully, it is something imaginative, but I'm down to the last 20+ pages, and it "ain't lookin good". As stated in the other comments/reviews, shame on BN for not noting this was an earlier work by him. Is he behind in tax payments and had to throw something together??
My husband and I have enjoyed DeMille's books for years. His humor is razor sharp in such novels as Up Country and The Panther. And what is a 63 year old man doing lusting after a 23 year old...kinky. And then she gets it on with another character when her lover is tied up and hanging from a torture post...right under his nose. This novel was painfully slow to read and we only finished reading it because we respect DeMille. We did not enjoy this novel.
I am a big Nelson DeMille fan but the Quest was a long and dreary read. Had it been written by an unfamiliar author,I doubt that I would have finished it. As far as a can't put it down enjoyable book, it doesn't come close to Plum Island, The Gate House, The Gold Coast, Night Fall, etc.
I have read every one of Mr. DeMille's books as he is a very good to great mystery/adventure writer. This is not his best one and it was generally disappointing. It is interesting but I wouldn't recommend purchase. Wait till it comes out in paperback or better yet get it from the library.
booooorrrrrinnnnng.... usually enjoy his book, but this is slow, tedious, boring.
Found this book to drag on and was kind of boring. The sex parts read like they were written by a novice. Very boring geography lessons as well as the boring history.
Just finished this book and it should have never been published...You can tell that this is very early DeMille. Subject matter is as outdated as the prose. Thank goodness his writing style has improved exponentially. Gratuitous sex only degrades the writing. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK This is not the DeMille I am used to.
The best thing about this novel is that some of it was written before DeMille descended into filling pages with the inane witticisms of John Corey. Adding romance to his earlier version of this book does little to increase its literary quality. Not a bad read, but it never approaches the heights of his pre John Corey novels.
Terrible. Awful. The worst written book I have ever picked up. Did Mr. DeMille really write this? If it had been an unknown author it would have never made it out of the envelope at the publisher's office. The story is lame. Mr. Deville should stick to the plots he is good at. A love story is not his forte. I did not have the problems with the electronic book that others mentioned but I wish I would have so I would have given up a lot earlier on the book. The publisher should reimburse every person who bought this book. When I see an author and their publisher stoop to this level to sell a book it means I will never read the author again. Mr. Demille, thanks for all the great books but I have read the last one of yours.
I have read every one of Mr.DeMille's books. He is my favorite author. Unfortunately, this is one of the first books that I've ever put down before finishing it. It lacked everything I admire in Nelson's writing. Boring from the start and it got worse. I get the impression that it was released to make some quick cash. This is probably the worst book I've ever read. Now I'm not sure if I'll ever purchase another DeMille book.
My husband and I have read every DeMille book and were disappointed in The Quest. We both became so weary with the "triangle", which seemed to become the plot rather than the quest for the Grail. The tension between the three was tiring. Neither of us finished the book.
I must conclude that 40 years ago DeMille was nowhere near the writer he later became. I have read his books as much for his writing as for the stories. But this one is so padded, I skipped over whole pages, even several at a time. Some of the characters were a bit unbelievable, especially the female who spread her legs for everyone. I kept asking myself why the male characters loved this slut.
This is notMr DeMille's best work. I have enjoyed every book this author has written to this point. I found this book too long in charachter building and not enough into the story. I kept reading hoping that the story would finally start to pull me in but unfortunately it didn't.
I. wish I knew this was a revised edition of a book written 40 years ago, a dated adventure story, but good nevertheless .
This is not another addition to the long list of great books by Nelson DeMille that we avid fans would have assumed or expected. It is a reprint of a book written 40 years ago before the author's writing had matured to a level that has made for such entertaining reading these past two decades. "The Quest" is a mildly enjoyable story of yet another quest for the Holy Grail written in a manner that is demeaning to people of faith and presents two of his main characters as basically silly for holding such beliefs. The only reasonable and believable character is the non-believer. The love triangle is itself "silly" and its ultimate resolution betrays the characters that had heretofore been developed. On the whole, however, if you buy it for under $3 you have not wasted your money and will likely enjoy the reading experience. Vale! ("Be well!")
Very boring and wordy. I think the story had the potential to be good but unfortunately it wasn't. Thank goodness Nelson Demille has improved over the years and given us some really great books. This wasn't one.
I guess he learned to write in the many years since he wrote this book. No wonder he didn't publish. He must have been embarrassedStruggled to read it and struggled to even give it one star.