Scranton’s 2011 Distinguished Author as Interesting as His Characters

02/14/11

Cotton Malone, the main character of Steve Berry’s best-selling series of espionage thrillers, navigates through “… twists, turns, schemes and counter-schemes manifesting themselves by the second …” (the Los Angeles Times). It should come as no surprise that the author’s life is also very interesting.

Berry will receive the 2011 Royden B. Davis, S.J., Distinguished Author Award at a ceremony on Saturday, March 19, in the DeNaples Center at The University of Scranton – where he will discuss “The Emperor’s Tomb,” the seventh and most recent novel in his Cotton Malone series.

More than 11 million copies of Berry’s books are in circulation (he wrote three before introducing Malone). They have been translated into 37 languages and sold in 50 countries. His novels have regularly appeared on national bestseller lists – earning praise from The New York Times (“Berry raises the genre’s stakes.”); USA Today (“In Cotton Malone, Berry has created a classic, complex hero.”); and other publications.

But writing novels is only part of the complex man named Steve Barry. He also teaches the concepts of writing to audiences around the world. And in December 2010, he embarked on a special mission to the Middle East.

Berry and four other critically acclaimed thriller writers embarked on a weeklong USO tour of U.S. military bases in the Kuwait and Iraq. The tour, dubbed Operation Thriller, kicked off with a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Overseas, the authors shared their techniques, greeted the troops, distributed advance copies of their upcoming novels and held Q&A sessions.

“During my five days in Kuwait City, Baghdad, Mosul, Balad and Basrah, I talked with units from Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina,” Berry said. “It’s still hard for me to believe that I was there, but so many men and women remain. Their daily lives are both tough and dangerous. ‘Never let your guard down,’ one of them told me. Sadly, some of those folks may not make it back, and that thought occurred to me each time I shook one of their hands (which sent a chill through me).

“But that look in their dedicated eyes, the warm smiles, the confident swagger in their steps, the way they toted their weapons and answered questions, and, most of all, that longing for home in their voice as they rattled off the number of days left in their tour – that’s what I’ll remember. It’s want I’m still remembering. God bless those men and women.”

Back on the home front, Berry and his wife Elizabeth started and lead a foundation called “History Matters,” which is dedicated to preserving our heritage. The author explains this passion. “History is about people, places, things. It is who we were, who we are, who we will be,” he said. He explains that history is much more than tangible items.

It is writings, images, art and memorabilia, much of which is donated to museums and archives. However, of the more than 1.7 billion rare and unique books, periodicals and scrapbooks currently in collections, at least 16 percent (270 million) are endangered because of poor conservation. Of the 21 million paintings, sculptures and decorative art now in those collections, 26 percent (5.5 million) are threatened.

In his travels, Berry and his wife have witnessed this ever-growing problem. “History Matters” assists communities around the world with the restoration and preservation of important cultural artifacts. Cotton Malone likely would be proud of his creator.

The Distinguished Author Award Series helps the Friends of the Library Endowment Fund, which supports special gifts for the Weinberg Library collections and services. The Distinguished Author Award was named for the late Royden B. Davis, S.J., who served as the first president of the Friends of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg memorial Library at Scranton.

Past recipients of the Distinguished Author Award have included Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning author and actor Jack Palance, Malachy McCourt, Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, among others. For further information or to reserve a ticket for the award event, visit www.scranton.edu/authaward, or contact Kym Fetsko at The University of Scranton at (570) 941-7816 or fetskok2@scranton.edu.

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