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No Beach Read Like A DeMille Beach Read

Originally Posted: August 10, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

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Nelson DeMille signing his latest novel "Gate House" at Author's Night in support of the East Hampton Library. Photos by Douglas Harrington

The Hamptons - It is a rainy morning and I, Douglas Harrington, have made my second pass around the block in search of a parking space. I see a spot between a Mercedes and a Lexus, I am after all in Garden City, a Manhattan gentrified and wealth impregnated turn of the last century village with chic shops and seven digit residential real estate to match.

I park and look up at the corner red brick, three story building trimmed in white carved exterior accents and moldings. Stately and proper, it seems like the perfect location for the writing office of one of America's most prolific and popular authors. My notepad, recorder and camera are all resting in the usual pockets of my Brooks Brothers navy blazer. I swallow a splash of mouthwash and spray on some cologne to disguise the smell of the half dozen cigarettes I have smoked in the Chevy on the long drive west from The Hamptons. I am not ready to part with the cigarette I already have lit, so I find an awning on the street and take a few more drags in the rain before I head up upstairs to my interview with Nelson DeMille.

The prolific author in the library of his foreign language publications.

As imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I hope I have done justice in the opening paragraphs' homage to the first person narrative style that has endeared millions of devoted fans to author DeMille. A narrative style he first introduced in his immensely popular novel "The Gold Coast" (1990) and a style that he has not departed from since, "Publishers don't usually like novels written in the first person. One of the jokes in the business is that suicide notes are written in the first person. They loved the first few chapters in the third person, but I decided to change it."

He went on to explain, "John Sutter's voice was so ironic and witty and upper class, it just seemed like the way to do it." Although his early works were written in the third person and his novel "The Lion's Gate" (2000) alternates between first and third person narrative, DeMille states, "I can never write in the third person again."

Changing his narrative tense was certainly not a suicidal decision for DeMille, as although he had written six books prior, "The Gold Coast" marked a turning point for an author whose previous, well established reputation had been that of an espionage and war novel writer. In what DeMille described as his "First attempt at writing literature," he admitted his publisher was "not happy" with the author's change in genre style. It turned out to be his most popular book that has been in continuous print for 19 years, garnering DeMille an entirely new audience, namely women readers who now make up 60 percent of his reader email correspondence. "With 'The Gold Coast' I found an entirely new audience - 20 years after its publication I have teenagers today that write to me as fans of the book."

An average teenager himself who read Sherlock Holmes novels, there was no immediate family lineage that might have been a specific inspiration for DeMille to become a writer. He was raised on Long Island in the middle class, Elmont home of a stay-at-home mother and a Canadian born house builder. His father, however, was a voracious reader and history buff, a passion he passed on to his son. "He was not rich by any means, but would indulge his passion for books. He had a library full of English classic literature and that is what I would read."

DeMille revealed that he is named for Lord Nelson, his father's favorite historical figure. His middle name, Richard, was in honor of King Richard The Lionhearted, both biographies were given to him by his father to read as a child.

In 1966, after his third year at Hofstra University as a political science major in preparation for law school, DeMille decided to drop out for a year and travel before returning to complete his education. It was at the height of the Vietnam War and any change in draft classification was a swift and efficient notification. Sooner than he anticipated, DeMille joined the Army and was a First Lieutenant in command of an infantry platoon during some of the fiercest fighting of the Southeast Asian conflict. Among other commendations, he was decorated with the Bronze Star.

Whether aware of it or not at the time, all these aspects of his life converged to form the writer he was later to become. "I never thought about writing until maybe the end of my last year in college. I probably should have been an English major, as a number of professors would write on my papers, 'You write well.' One professor actually accused me of plagiarizing. I thought, 'Well that's a compliment, since I didn't.' It was a natural gift, that is the only way I can describe it. It probably came from a young mind, as early as five or six, that was formed by reading, reading and reading. Reading good stuff, mostly classics."

After graduation he did indeed sit down to write. "I think it was because of Vietnam. Like a lot of veterans, I didn't want to talk about it, but I didn't have a problem writing about it. I started out just scribbling down my experiences because I felt I had to, whether it was ever published or not." He went on to state, "If I had not been in Vietnam, I don't think I would have ever become a writer." Although his first published novel, "By The Rivers Of Babylon" (1978), was not set in Vietnam, DeMille admits his military experience did provide him with the tools to write it, "I understood the hardware. It was Vietnam, but it was set in the ancient city of Babylon."

Although fiction, DeMille takes great care in researching the events, skills, demographics and history of the settings, characters and plot lines in his novels. Often his books are motivated by a real life, real time event that plants the seed. Never more evident than in his novel "Night Fall" (2004), which was based on the 1996 TWA Flight 800 tragedy that occurred off the coast of Westhampton Beach.

"That was a tough book, I didn't want to be insensitive to the victims or their families. It was the first book I had ever attempted whose facts were based totally on non-fiction events. I didn't want to be Oliver Stone. There has to be good reason why you are taking fact and fictionalizing it, something other than entertainment." DeMille felt that there were so many unresolved and conflicting opinions regarding the plane's mid-air explosion that he felt the need to examine the incident in a genre that would afford it the freedom for reasonable speculation, "It can synthesize the various theories of what happened." He conceded, "I wouldn't do it again. It was very difficult not only in terms of the craft, but it was difficult emotionally." Particularly so, as the author was not only considering the impact of the novel on the families of the victims, but had just two days before the incident put his own daughter on the same TWA 800 flight. As apprehensive as DeMille might have been about this particular non-fiction based novel, the response as usual was positive, "A lot of email on this book and almost all of it positive, readers thanked me for writing it. Some family members, but particularly from TWA employees who liked the book."

Nelson DeMille with his # 1 pencil and writing pad, never a computer or typewriter!

Although DeMille frequently has reoccurring characters in his novels, such as John Corey in "Wild Fire" (2006), "Night Fall" (2004), "The Lion's Game" (2000) and "Plum Island"(1997) and Paul Brenner in "Up Country" (2002) and "The General's Daughter" (1992), this past year marked the publication of his first sequel, "The Gate House." It is the continuing story of John and Susan Sutter from the "The Gold Coast" and includes the son of the novel's other central character, Mafia don Frank Bellarosa. Motivated in part by hordes of fans who obviously loved the best selling book but were disappointed with the unresolved parting of the Sutters, DeMille received pleas from his readers to continue their story. "One reader actually sent me a five page outline on how he thought I could continue the story." It picks up 10 years after the conclusion of the original novel and according to DeMille was not an easy write. "A real sequel is taking that story and totally integrating it with the story that came before it. It has to make sense, you have to pick your time lines. The time frame between "The Gold Coast" and "The Gate House" is 10 years, in 10 years what happened? The back story you have to fill in, but even then your editor asks, 'Even if they were in love, why did they really part?'" More so, as always, DeMille thought of his readers, "So many people read "The Gold Coast," there were millions of people that read it and loved it, so the question was do we leave well enough alone or do we give this a shot?" Give it a shot he did and it has now proved to be his largest selling novel.

DeMille's NYPD/Terrorist Task Force Detective John Corey is being reprized again in his second venture into the sequel format with his upcoming novel "The Lion," due out for Father's Day in 2010. A continuation of the plot of "The Lion's Game," DeMille says that there may be one more John Corey novel to follow, but that will mark the end of his contractual multi-book relationship with his publisher, "The next one will be his last book [John Corey]. You get to a point when you want to end on a high note. I am going to end my commercial contracts. It is time to move on to actually selling a book, as opposed to fulfilling a multi-book contract. I hate writing against a deadline. I want to go back to being the writer I was, where I can write what I want to write, the way I want to write it." DeMille went on to say, "When my contractual agreements are over, I will be able to write what I want to write. Not something I am obligated to write because I was given an advance based on an outline. I want to go back to being a freelance writer. Maybe some screenplays, although that may kill me, maybe some short stories, and perhaps a memoir." He said there are still more novels to come, this time on his terms and timetable.

After moving from his administrative offices to the sanctum of his private writing office, I told the author that I thought his first person narrative style lent itself to a Hemingway meter and DeMille admitted, "He is one of, if not, my favorite author."

Nelson DeMille poses for a photo with fan Phyllis Kessler at the East Hampton Library's Authors Night reception.

Humbly and very embarrassed by the compliment, DeMille turned the conversation to craft, "You have good days, you have bad days. I re-read everything. Before I write the second chapter, I re-read the first. I re-read the first and second before I work on the third and so on. Maybe by the 30th chapter I only go back and re-read the six previous chapters. You can't forget what you are doing and why you are suppose to be there. The action may take place over three days, but it took you three months to get there. You owe it to the reader."

This is an author who is not only adored by his readers, but adores them in kind, "I really respect my readers, I really care about my readers." Indeed, as this comes from a writer who composes his novels in the antiquated style of longhand with a number one pencil on a legal pad, but cares enough about his readers to have a very interactive website created that he, although he has no idea or interest in how it actually works, requests his assistant, Diane Frances, to check it three times a day and relay the messages to him sent from his readers. (www.nelsondemille.net).

That same connection between writer and reader was exemplified at the recent East Hampton Library's Fifth Annual Writers Night, wherein he sat for three hours and signed books donated to the cause and then joined supporters as the literary centerpiece at a private dinner party hosted by Jane Friedman.

An author for three decades, Nelson DeMille's literary impact has been profound, if not seminal. He has taken us through his own journey from espionage and war novelist to the literature of his gift as a chronicler of our own Long Island Gold Coast in a manner similar to F. Scott Fitzgerald in "The Great Gatsby."

There is no better summer beach read than a Nelson DeMille novel - 20 years ago it was "The Gold Coast" and this year it is "The Gate House." Undoubtedly, next summer we will all be shaking grains of beach sand out of our copies of "The Lion."

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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Guest (Gaetana) from Boston, Ma. says::
Read all - reading Radiant Angel - had it 2 days and up to page 250, I cannot put it down. More books should be made into movies. Why has Hollywood not done so?
Jun 1, 2015 8:06 pm

Guest (Steve L) from Connecticut says::
Cannot wait to read the chapter of the new John Corey novel coming up shortly! Thank you for all the hours of entertainment over the years & wishing you health and happiness in 2015! A tip of a single malt to you!
Dec 31, 2014 12:39 am

Guest (FRED BUNTING) from FLORIDA says::
Apr 6, 2013 4:53 pm

Guest (Jim) from Scottsdale says::
Please continue the John & Susan Sutter series!
Feb 10, 2013 7:43 pm

Guest (Fred Bunting) from Port Charlotte, Florida says::
Nelson Please keep on writing. And I will keep on reading.. Good luck. Fred Bunting Hofstra-'54
Jul 6, 2012 2:15 pm

Guest (Sandy Aptecker) from Boca Raton, FL says::
I am in mourning, as I just finished reading Word of Honor, which I apparently missed when it first came out. I miss the incredible journey you take me on with each of your books, and I am subdued and depressed for days afterwards when I can't get another of your books. Please write faster! With great admiration, Sandy Aptecker sandyapt2000@yahoo.com
Jul 1, 2012 10:56 am

Guest (Dixie Holster) from Lufkin, Texas says::
82 y/o white widow. Mr. DeMille, we have had a very close relationship since 1979.I hope you live and write for a thosand years , with myself standing close behind, reading over your shoulder
Feb 24, 2012 2:21 am

Guest (Jan) from New Hampshire says::
As a former born & raised on LI girl; just love those books set there but love all the books and I have now read them all! Love the wonderful dry humor and especially John Corey's character.
Jul 20, 2011 4:30 pm

Guest (JP) from Massachusetts says::
You without a doubt are my favorite author. Your humor and wit, as well as having experienced things you have written about add so much to the surroundings and environment that you are writing about. I constantly watch for new releases coming to market. I cannot get enough of your writing regardless of the individual you are writing about. Hopefully, you will have another book coming out soon.
Jul 14, 2011 9:50 am

Guest (arlene t.pagsiat) from manila, philippines says::
He is one in a million! i have a collection of all his novel except the latest The Lion. I'm so excited to have the next...John Corey is my ideal man, ha ha ha. i really feel in love with john...If only i could visit him and have my books signed by him. I dreamed of having his signature in my collections.
Jun 22, 2011 6:00 am

Guest (P. Hepp) from Punta Gorda, Fl says::
I anxiously await your next book. John and Susan Sutter is mine and my husbands favorite. When particular circumstances arise in our family I'll look at him and say "Is that so, John?" He'll reply in what we think is John's New England accent, "Yes, Susan that is correct" We love everything you write
Apr 15, 2011 2:50 pm

Guest (Guest) from New Orleans, La. says::
My husband, and then I, just finished our first DeNille book, The Gate House, which was recommended to us by a stranger in the book store. Nelson, your whacky sense of humor had me chuckling on every page, and laughing out loud on many. What talent!! Even though we hadn't read Gold Coast first, there was no problem following its sequel! John Sutter's thoughts are hilarious, and so typically male. We thoroughly enjoyed Robert Crais' series and Michael Connelly's series, but unfortunately, all good series must come to an end. That's when we look for another captivating author and are glad to have found you, Mr. DeMille. We're looking forward to reading the rest of your books! (retired in NOLA)
Jan 24, 2011 11:28 pm

Guest (Guest) from Boston, MA says::
An incredible writer! No one can make one laugh out loud like Nelson DeMille! John Corey is my favorite...he is cast as George Clooney in my mind! (If you've ever seen Out Of Sight or Oceans, you'll know why! Seriously, no one does research and has the life experience of DeMille. Predictions in The Lion's Game were frightening to read after 9/11. Heed DeMIlle's warnings today!
Jan 17, 2011 8:50 pm

Guest (Guest) from kerala,india says::
all books are wonderful, but THE CHARM SCHOOL is the best. THE UPCOUNTRY is also superb. waiting for the next.
Nov 7, 2010 1:58 am

Guest (Guest) from pachalam,india says::
i can still remember all events of your novels like a cinema. i am really a super fan of your heros, expecting more and more heros from you.
Nov 7, 2010 1:06 am

Guest (Guest) from Seattle says::
Listening to Wild Fire on my MP3 can be dangerous, as I thought the other riders on my bus thought I had lost it when I started laughing out loud when John Corey's bear concerns were realized. The diagloug between John and Kate is priceless. Even if your contract is ending with the Corey series, please have him come back later. A dedicated fan that has listened to all your books..
Oct 30, 2010 11:15 am

Guest (Guest) from Serbia says::
I just finished the Gold coast and it is remarkable book. I hope one day i'll read the Gate house on my native language and enjoy again. (I try to not inform myself about,no spoilers :) but i hope little bit hapier ending is)
Oct 26, 2010 6:15 pm


bjm4173 says::
I can read your books all day. Probably the fact that I am also from Long Island. I enjoy that you describe places that I am familiar with, it makes for an easy read. Another reason might be that I have the same strange warped sence of humor that you have and chuckle out load making people near me turn to wonder what is so funny. I have read some of your books twice, the best of your books is "Up Country" which I just finished reading for the second time. The one thing I wish for is that you bring back Paul Brenner and Sue Weber in a sequel, they were made to work together. Another book "The Lion", I knew where you were heading, I was at the WTC that fateful morning. I was choked-up reading the last line.
Sep 28, 2010 5:48 pm

Guest (Guest) from Taos, NMex says::
I've passed this summer reading everything "DeMille" in our library and cannot wait to go home and see what my own library has to offer. My first discovery was Up Country. Thanks Nelson! Its been a great summer.
Sep 23, 2010 10:52 am

Guest (Guest) from Austin, Tx says::
I've read every book by DeMille. I liked all of them, but I really enjoyed the John Sutter (Gate House and Golden Coast books).
Sep 17, 2010 2:54 pm

Guest (Guest) from IOWA says::
Having spent many years of my childhood in Lattingtown,I have GREAT appreciaton for Your accuracy in that landscape. My Grandparents were like the gatekeepers in Gold Coast and worked the Pratt Estate on Old Tappen Road from 1931-1977. Used to wait for the schoolbus at the triangle w/ Overlook, Where The Church You describe for the Sutters must be. Please keep writing, love your stories and best wishes
Aug 23, 2010 7:37 am

Guest (June McKown) from Pennsylvania says::
Nelson DeMille is my favorite writer. I am ready to start the Lion but then I will be so sad to finish that I will probably start all of the books again. Nelson, your sense of humor is lol great. My book club has read the John Sutter stories and we are now doing John Corey - The Lion's Game. Your wit with these 2 John's is amazing. Thank you for sharing your gift.
Jun 23, 2010 5:44 pm

Jun 22, 2010 2:15 pm

Guest (Carol Bullard) from Atlanta, GA says::
I opened my mailbox last Saturday; there lay my long awaited "The Lion" in plain brown paper. Within 24 hours, I had inhaled my latest fix of fictional DeMille. My reading buddies at work can't wait until tomorrow when I bring it in. They beg to be first, I say "take a number." Nelson DeMille has a huge fanbase of readers in Atlanta that put the pleasure of reading his books at top of their lists. loved Charm School best and can still picture Russia through his writer's eyes.
Jun 18, 2010 2:17 pm

Guest (Paul) from sydney, aust says::
I can honestly say that you are without a doubt the best author I have read. Word of honour was brilliant but nothing beats John Corey. Legend.
Jun 6, 2010 4:29 am

Guest (Tony) from Red Bank says::
I just finished "The Lion's Game" last night, which completes the list of all of your singularly written books. It was amazing! My first was "The Charm School", many years ago, and I became hooked. I picked up this one in my local library, at no charge, in paperback, because of the "Signed" sticker. You did indeed sign it, and it will always be with me. Can't wait til Father's Day and continue the story. I hope Corey is as much a dedicated cop and wise ass has he has been! GO ARMY!
Jun 1, 2010 3:21 pm

Guest (Jackie) from Long Island says::
I cannot wait for The Lion, and am hoping that the John Corey character will remain the sarcastic and witty cop that we all know and love. I was very disappointed in the transformation of John Sutter. He went from a man of substance and humor to a sniveling wimp who would do anything for his murderess wife. I hope John Corey keeps the traits that made us all fall in love with him!
May 9, 2010 9:57 pm

Guest (Jerry) from Scottsdale.... says::
Come to the "Valley of the Sun" next winter when it's cold and sunless........You may never go home.....Jerry
Apr 20, 2010 11:16 pm

Guest (Pat) from 40 yrs. LI - now NJ says::
Nelson, Can't wait for the next book... from Tahiti, go do it! I can imagine it....! Lovin' the edgy sense of humor...Well done indeed...
Apr 20, 2010 8:27 pm

Guest (June) from Queensland.Aust. says::
Mr Demille Your books are a great read and always looked foreward to. Thank you .
Apr 9, 2010 10:50 pm

Guest (John) from Hobe Sound, FL says::
I read Plum Island and Night Fall and enjoyed them so much that I went to the bookstore and bought everything else written by Mr. DeMille. Just finished the Lion's Game and can't wait for the Lion this June
Mar 3, 2010 4:59 pm

Guest (Susan ) from Ohio says::
I have loved Nelson DeMille evers since I had the good sence to read Spencerville and fell in love with his writting .I have enjoyed all of his books & I get impatient for the next.I like the fact they are different depending on the era but he has the best since of humor I simply love his writing. Thank you.
Feb 11, 2010 9:17 pm

Guest (Julie Y.) from McHenry, IL says::
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Nelson De Mille. John Corey character makes me laugh out loud while I'm reading. PLEASE don't stop John Corey :-)
Jan 19, 2010 8:02 am

Guest (Paul) from New York says::
Big fan of Nelson DeMille starting with "By the Rivers of Babylon". "Wild Fire", "Night Fall" are awesome reads. Love everything with John Corey EXCEPT "Gate House". Waiting for "The Lion".
Dec 14, 2009 2:28 pm

Guest (Laurence) from Johannesburg, South Africa says::
There is no finer read around today than a Nelson De Mille novel. I seldom read novels because having discovered Mr de Mille many years ago there are very few authors who can make every page of a book as interesting as he does, and provide world class entertainment at the same time. Thank you sir for all of the books you have written, and for the many many hours of pleasurable reading that you have provided for your devouted fans.
Nov 30, 2009 4:03 pm

Guest (Eileen) from Houston says::
I stumbled across the Charm School many years ago and have been hooked ever since. I hate waiting years for the next book to come out. His are the only ones I pay for in hard cover but several people in my office read them so its worth every penny!
Nov 11, 2009 5:55 pm

Guest (john) from uk says::
Bruce Willis would make a good John Cory dont you think ?
Nov 9, 2009 4:55 am

Guest (Tom) from CT says::
I've enjoyed all of Nelson DeMille's books, enjoying them enough to have read Gold Coast and Charm School several times. Up Country has been my favorite, probably because the impact of the Vietnam era. Thanks for writing very enjoyable books!
Oct 30, 2009 8:47 pm

Guest (Jolanta Dabrowski) from Southern Michigan says::
I got hooked on your novels after reading School of Charm.As a western neighbour of Russia I thought... oh, what else can surprise me about Russia or cold war.I have never read anything written by a writer from the West about the East so accurate and funny at the same time, as School of Charm. It is as you have been there, I sure was. I enjoy your novels tremendously,cannot wait for the next one. Sincerely, Jolanta
Oct 30, 2009 3:32 pm

Guest (joan smyrneos) from appleton,wi says::
i have read all your books. loved everyone of them. my absolute favorite was wildfire because of john's fear of bears.too funny.can't wait for THE LION.
Oct 22, 2009 8:53 am

Guest (Tom Hal) from Plainview, Texas says::
I am a big fan of John Corey too, but my favorite novel you have written is Spencerville. I hope you will do a followup on Keith and Annie!
Oct 17, 2009 9:49 pm

Guest (Jeaentte) from Pennsylvania says::
Please don't stop writing John Corey novels. I too am rereading all of the Corey novels and can't say enough how good they are. Thank you, Mr. Demille.
Oct 16, 2009 2:44 pm

Guest (Barbara) from Florida says::
I have read quite a few of your books, including Gate House, Gold Coast and all the John Corey books - I am so in love with John Corey's character - You certainly have a gift of writing by bringing the character to life as you did with John Corey - I hope you will write another novel with his character soon. An admiring fan
Oct 13, 2009 12:46 pm

Guest (Anna-Maria Gays) from UK says::
I have just reread the Lions Game for the 3rd time it is my favourite jointly with the Gold Coast (which I have also read many times)!!! I am now rereading Plum Island because I cant get enough of John Corey. (Yes I do read many other authors, however, you are by far the best).My son, age 15 also agrees so you have a wide audience, and he has sometimes copied your style and content in his English homework!! Imitation the finest form of flattery. I am so delighted about the forthcoming Asad Khalil sequel, he is pure brilliance. Please never stop writing these wonderful characters. All The Best and Thank you, Anna-Maria
Sep 25, 2009 7:20 am

Guest (David) from Cape Town, South Africa says::
I have to compliment you on your style. I thought Dan Brown's boogs were the best until I have discoverred Neldon De Mille's books. The problem with his books are once you start reading them, you can not put it down until the last page!!!! WELL DONE
Sep 20, 2009 4:29 pm

Guest (Kathy) from NewYork says::
I am really glad we haven't heard the last of John Corey...He is my favorite...I have read all your books. You are the BEST
Sep 16, 2009 8:00 pm

Guest (Wes Hinkle) from Riverside, Utah says::
I NEED SOME MORE JOHN COREY!!!!! 2010 isn't to long of a wait, but I can't wait all the same. Great books!!!! Keep it up please.
Sep 2, 2009 2:59 pm

Guest (john baiocco) from crystal beach, ontario says::
No sooner did I thoroughly enjoy UP COUNTRY I was on a mission to purchase another copy of GOLD COAST to reread. I also purhased CATHEDRAL and am delighted to know that GATE HOUSE awaits. Obviously, Demille is a fave.
Sep 1, 2009 7:10 pm

Guest (Carol Gallagher) from Jamestown, NY 14701 says::
I'm hooked on all of his books and can't wait until the sequel of the Lion's Game comes out! John Corey is my favorite character.
Aug 28, 2009 11:31 am

Guest (susan) from new jersey says::
I love Nelson De Mille's writing. He is so talented. I have read all of his books (and not because we graduated from the same H.S.EMHS)but because of the interesting subjects he writes about. You are one talented and generous person. G_d Bless You.
Aug 26, 2009 9:03 am

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