You spend the second half of your life getting over the first half.
—LEON URIS, 1988
IN THE LATE 1980S, Uris’s life was overturned. From Aspen, where he had lived some eighteen years, he found himself in New York and then Eastern Europe. It was an unexpected journey that led to self-discovery and a renewal of his identity as a writer. But the process was difficult, more so for one who had spent hardly any time reexamining his past.
Relations with his publisher began to deteriorate in 1984 as soon as Uris started his new project, which would be his last for Doubleday. Under pressure to produce another title, Uris decided to revisit his past. Although not an introspective writer, he nonetheless thought it worthwhile to review letters and other materials he had deposited at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This would be an opportunity for him to look back and reconsider his story, especially his difficult relationship with his father. Earlier, he had taken the challenging step of encouraging his father to write an autobiography. The 1975 document became a crucial source in formulating the new novel, which Uris began to plan.
Doubleday tried to discourage an autobiographical work. McCormick told Sam Vaughan that when Uris mentioned it, he should put it off unless it had “a really pulsing theme,” adding, “He is best when he is mad and he’s terrific when he comes to grips with something great.”1 McCormick suggested terrorism as a topic, some sort of account of those who band together to kill themselves in attempts to blow up embassies. Months earlier there had been a variation of this: the Hezbollah truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and the response of the State Department to the crisis.2
Later that month—October 1984—Vaughan told Uris that it was time to focus on his next novel, undistracted by work on musicals or movies.3 He hoped that Uris would find a topic both important and attractive and explore it through one