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The Charm School Paperback – July 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This highly charged espionage thriller gets off to a stunning start. On the road from Smolensk to Moscow, an American tourist, Gregory Fisher, is confronted by a man on the run: an Air Force major who was shot down over appears from his hotel and soon turns up dead, the victim of a suspicious car crash. Intelligence officer Sam Hollis, press attache Lisa Rhodes and CIA bureau chief Seth Alevy must discover for themselves what is going on at the Charm School. They must also decide whether public revelation of a horrifying KGB operation during the new era of glasnost might not damage American/Soviet relations. In this exciting, polemic novel, DeMille (Word of Honor) limns an authentic portrait of Russian society. He conveys the claustrophobic life of American Embassy officials impossibly restricted in movement, and he creates spirited American agents who dodge and spar wittily with coarse KGB men. Once DeMille brings readers into the Charm School itself, however, he cannot sustain the magic that has propelled the narrative for two-thirds of its generous length. At this point, the plot becomes predictable, and the finale differs little from standard adventure escapes, with a cruel resolution to boot. Still, it's riveting reading most of the way. 100,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The sustained action of this chilling vision of modern Russia starts with a young American tourist phoning the U.S. embassy in Moscow to report an unusual encounter with a U.S. Air Force major in the forest near Borodino. The tourist then vanishes and the officer is identified as a Vietnam MIA. Attaches Sam Hollis and Lisa Rhodes eventually uncover a spy school graduating several hundred "Americans" each year and staffed by an unwilling faculty made up of American servicemen missing from Vietnam. The blockbuster ends after a maverick CIA agent pulls off a hair-raising escape to the West, carrying proof of the camp's existence. John North, L.R.C., Ryerson Polytechnical Inst., Toronto
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (July 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446675091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446675093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (723 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I was born in New York City in 1943. My father was a Canadian, serving at that time with the American Navy, and my mother was a Brooklyn native, trying to figure out how to grow a Victory Garden for the war effort.

My family moved to Elmont, Long Island, New York in 1947 where my father was a house builder, and my mother was a homemaker raising four boys.
I attended Elmont public schools, played football, ran track, and was on the wrestling team. I graduated Elmont Memorial High School in 1962 and spent the summer at the beach.

I attended Hofstra University, but left before graduation to join the Army in 1966. I served three years in the United States Army as an infantry lieutenant and spent one year in Vietnam as a platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division. You'll see that I used this experience in my novels "Word of Honor" and "Up Country."

After the end of my military service, I returned to Hofstra where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History. I married and had two children, Lauren and Alex, and eventually divorced.

I held a series of good and bad jobs between 1970 and 1974, and in that year, for some reason I can't remember, I decided to be a writer. My first books were paperback originals, New York City police detective novels, thankfully all out of print and hard to find.

In 1978, I published my first major novel, "By the Rivers of Babylon," which was a commercial and critical success. Since then, I've written fourteen other novels and had a good time creating my characters John Corey, Ben Tyson (played by Don Johnson in the TNT movie of "Word of Honor"), foxy Emma Whitestone, Paul Brenner (played by John Travolta in the Paramount movie of "The General's Daughter"), sexy Susan Sutter, the never-say-die CIA officer Ted Nash, and my favorite villain, Asad Khalil, a misunderstood Libyan terrorist with unresolved childhood issues.

I am a member of The Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America (past President), American Mensa (thank God I don't have to retake that test), and I hold three honorary doctorate degrees (thank God I didn't have to study for them) from Hofstra University, Long Island University, and Dowling College.
I'm married to the love of my life, Sandy Dillingham, whom I met while I was on a publicity tour in Denver. We have a son, James, two years old, and he's keeping me young.

There's more about me on my website. Thanks for reading about me here, and I hope you enjoy my novels.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Roger J. Buffington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Charm School is my favorite Cold War novel of all time and one of my favorite novels of any genre, ever. This is a powerful, well-written, and disturbing novel of Cold War intrigue. It takes place in the old Soviet Union circa 1988, and DeMille's research about, and visits to, the USSR around this time have given this novel an authenticity that resonates throughout the novel. DeMille captures the tension of the Cold War conflict, the sorrow of the Russian people and the contradictions in the old Soviet state ("with gravel roads, ICBMs, and a world-class Secret Police service..."). This is a superb novel.
Without committing any spoilers, the plot is simple, powerful, and disturbing. Two US diplomats in the Soviet Union discover a terrible secret: that over 1000 US MIA pilots shot down over Vietnam have been spirited away to Russia. The purpose is to allow the Soviets to set up "Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School" which is a KGB academy in which the pilots are forced to teach aspiring Russian spies how to act, speak, and pass as Americans. The KGB will go to literally any lengths to keep the existence of "The Charm School" a secret. The rest would be telling. This is a great story.
DeMille literally transports the reader to Soviet-era Russia. His prose dealing with the Russian people, the Soviet government, the vast country, and the long-suffering people to me seemed to capture at least some of the essence of that great and troubled country. The novel moves at a fast-pace without racing to the finish; the reader is allowed to "smell the flowers" along the way, but the storyline never drags. This novel manages to do what very few novels ever succeed in doing: it is a classic of its genre, as well as a ripping page turner.
"The Charm School" ranks with DeMille's "Word of Honor" as a true masterpiece that belongs in every reader's library.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is my third Nelson Demille novel, and each time I start a new one, I think that it cannot be better than the last. Wrong. With every novel, I have more of an appreciation for Demille.
The Charm School is one of the best books that I have ever read. Demille gives the reader an indepth look into the world, people, and psyche of Cold War Russia, the inner workings of KGB, CIA, and our government. The characters are superbly develpoed, you really feel as though you know their thoughts and understand why they react the way that they do. The stlye in which Demille conveys his story is unparalleled, you can't help but tear through the pages to find out what happens next.
One of the aspects of Demille's novels that I really appreciate is the fact that everything that happens is believable. The protagonists are very human and make mistakes, the antagonists are equally as human and to some degree are compassionant. Nothing is "over-the-top". Very believable situations and outcomes.
This is a must read for anyone.
Another great job Mr. Demille. I only wish I had read it sooner.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Charm School" is one of the BEST books I've ever read in my life! I've read over 500 spy novels, and at least 300 mysteries - Nelson DeMille has the ability to capture the reader from the first line of this book where he involves the reader DIRECTLY in the action, as well as elicit a multitude of emotions from the reader, based on the reader's personal experiences and what the reader can imagine, evocatively elicited by DeMille from is readers. The novel occurs during the waning days of The Cold War in Soviet Russia. An American tourist, Gregory Fisher, discovers a dark secret hidden deep in European Russia, which could effectively end Soviet-America relations for years to come. This discovery occurs when Fisher is committing an "intinerary violation," which brings him to the attention of the KGB. Fisher then attempts to relate the information that he uncovered to the American Embassy's Air Force Attache` in Moscow, Sam Hollis, on the very night that the KGB discovered Fisher's intinerary violation. Following that discussion, Fisher is murdered by the KGB, who subsequently tries to make Fisher's death look like an accident. This does not sit well with Hollis, who is trying to help him get to the American Embassy. It also does not sit well with the CIA Station Chief at the American Embassy, Seth Alevy. The woman who took the initial call from Fisher, a State Dept. Liason Officer, Lisa Rhodes, is also involved, as she listened to and recorded the initial call between Fisher and Hollis, and she is familiar with some of the CIA's espionage operations in Moscow; she was the former girlfriend of Alevy, and is soon to become Hollis' girlfriend during the operation to discover the truth behind Fisher's death and the secret Fisher discovered.Read more ›
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just re-read Charm School, the first time being several years ago. I couldn't put it down. It had everything necessary for an incredible plot - intrigue, romance, spys, conflict between good & evil - although it's not always obvious which is which. Nelson DeMille puts it all together with obviously well researched information on the history and, at the time, current circumstances in the U.S.S.R. Dialogue is excellent, the characters are deep and their motives easily understood (although maybe not easy to agree with). I love the fact that there is no good answer for how to resolve the issue of the Soviet Union keeping American POWs for over 20 years. DeMille explores all options and left me feeling sympathy for all players involved in this drama. My only wish is that someone would have made this into a movie - it would be excellent. Unfortunately, it's too dated to make good material now. By the last 100 pages - I absolutely had to find a corner to hide in to finish. These final scenes were so nail-bitingily intense and I could clearly picture in my mind what was happening. You will NOT be disappionted in this read.
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