When a baby boomer is creative and successful

We’re always interested here at BoomerCafé when a baby boomer is creative and successful. And that is the best way to describe former CNN producer and now #1 New York Times best selling author Daniel Silva. He has given BoomerCafé exclusive permission to run a short excerpt from his newest novel, The English Spy, which takes place on what we know as the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s. From the very first sentence, we found we wanted more.

He had arrived on the island at the height of hurricane season and settled into the clapboard cottage at the far end of the beach at Lorient. He had no possessions other than a canvas duffel bag, a stack of well-read books, a shortwave radio, and a rattletrap motor scooter that he’d acquired in Gustavia for a few grimy banknotes and a smile. The books were thick, weighty, and learned; the radio was of a quality rarely seen any longer.

Best-selling author Daniel Silva. (Photo by John Earle)

Best-selling author Daniel Silva.
(Photo by John Earle)

Late at night, when he sat on his sagging veranda reading by the light of his battery-powered lamp, the sound of music floated above the rustle of the palm fronds and the gentle slap and recession of the surf. Jazz and classical, mainly, sometimes a bit of reggae from the stations across the water. At the top of every hour he would lower his book and listen intently to the news on the BBC. Then, when the bulletin was over, he would search the airwaves for something to his liking, and the palm trees and the sea would once again dance to the rhythm of his music.

At first, it was unclear as to whether he was vacationing, passing through, hiding out, or planning to make the island his permanent address. Money seemed not to be an issue. In the morning, when he dropped by the boulangerie for his bread and coffee, he always tipped the girls generously. And in the afternoon, when he stopped at the little market near the cemetery for his German beer and American cigarettes, he never bothered to collect the loose change that came rattling out of the automatic dispenser. His French was reasonable but tinged with an accent no one could quite place. His Spanish, which he spoke to the Dominican who worked the counter at JoJo Burger, was much better, but still there was that accent.

The girls at the boulangerie decided he was an Australian, but the boys at JoJo Burger reckoned he was an Afrikaner. They were all over the Caribbean, the Afrikaners. Decent folk for the most part, but a few of them had business interests that were less than legal.

Silva_bookHis days, while shapeless, seemed not entirely without purpose. He took his breakfast at the boulangerie, he stopped by the newsstand in Saint-Jean to collect a stack of day-old English and American papers, he did his rigorous exercises on the beach, he read his dense volumes of literature and history with a bucket hat pulled low over his eyes. And once he rented a whaler and spent the afternoon snorkeling on the islet of Tortu. But his idleness appeared forced rather than voluntary. He seemed like a wounded soldier longing to return to the battlefield, an exile dreaming of his lost homeland, wherever that homeland might be.

According to Jean-Marc, a customs officer at the airport, he had arrived on a flight from Guadeloupe in possession of a valid Venezuelan passport bearing the peculiar name Colin Hernandez. It seemed he was the product of a brief marriage between an AngloIrish mother and a Spanish father. The mother had fancied herself a poet; the father had done something shady with money. Colin had loathed the old man, but he spoke of the mother as though canonization were a mere formality. He carried her photograph in his billfold. The towheaded boy on her lap didn’t look much like Colin, but time was like that.

The passport listed his age at thirty-eight, which seemed about right, and his occupation as “businessman,” which could mean just about anything. The girls from the boulangerie reckoned he was a writer in search of inspiration. How else to explain the fact that he was almost never without a book? But the girls from the market conjured up a wild theory, wholly unsupported, that he had murdered a man on Guadeloupe and was hiding out on Saint Barthélemy until the storm had passed.

The Dominican from JoJo Burger, who was in hiding himself, found the hypothesis laughable. Colin Hernandez, he declared, was just another shiftless layabout living off the trust fund of a father he hated. He would stay until he grew bored, or until his finances grew thin. Then he would fly off to somewhere else, and within a day or two they would struggle to recall his name.


  1. Wonderful opening, yes, you’re right, it does make one want to read on. Considering the title’s declared reference to an “English Spy” and the opening presenting a mysterious expat, there is a whiff of James Bond that keeps you wondering and wanting to turn the pages. Yes, this is very well done! Thanks for sharing, I shall look the book up!

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