Bestseller Dan Brown impresses at Royal Hall in Harrogate

Dan Brown mania wasn't quite on the scale of JK Rowling's visit a few years ago but fans did turn out in force at the Royal Hall in Harrogate for a UK exclusive appearance by Dan Brown.
Author Dan Brown at Harrogates Royal Hall. (Picture by Charlotte Graham)Author Dan Brown at Harrogates Royal Hall. (Picture by Charlotte Graham)
Author Dan Brown at Harrogates Royal Hall. (Picture by Charlotte Graham)

The prospect of the mega-selling American author of The Da Vinci Code talking in person about the latest instalment in the series saw the packed venue awash with people on Monday night clutching copies of his new book Origin.If Harrogate clearly liked the man whose modern-day thrillers about the age-old clash between religion and science have occasionally provoked the wrath of The Vatican, this charming and deeply intelligent writer liked Harrogate right back.Beneath a giant banner reading 'Harrogate International Festivals', the multi-million selling American author turned out to be as thought-provoking in person as his books are in print.Having hailed the Royal Hall as a "gorgeous place", Brown later went on to joke that "The Harrogate Code" would make a good title for one of his books.Brown may look like a mild-mannered university tutor in the flesh but his books have sold 200 million copies worldwide - with sales of The Da Vinci Code itself now said to be topping the 100 million mark.Unlike some literary talks, this one was genuinely enlightening and entertaining from start to finish, well handled to a tee by interviewer Alex Cann.The audience of knowledgable Harrogate readers, diehards who'd travelled hundreds of miles, PHD students and a smattering of Da Vinci Code 'nerds' learned a lot.And among what they learned was: Brown grew up in a household split between a very religious mother and a very scientific father.He resisted selling the movie rights to The Da Vinci Code to protect the book's integrity.At the film's wrap-up party at Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel, Tom Hanks helped him get his kilt on.He wrote his first book aged four.He still writes every day, a favourite time being 4am.The author does own a Mickey Mouse Watch, just like his famous fictional creation, Professor Robert Langdon.Work is ongoing for a movie of The Lost Symbol but the script is proving tricky.He does hide secret codes inside his books for readers, though he clearly wasn't going to say what they were.And he'd prefer the remaining Da Vinci Code books to be turned into mini-series on TV rather than movies on the big Screen.His new book Origin swaps the deciphering of religious iconology for the equally complex codes of modern art, artificial intellience and DNA, partly because genetic medicine helped his mother survive leukaemia for ten years before she passed a couple of months ago.Brown has begun proceedings at a lectern on stage amid the Royal Hall's red velvet, cool marble and glittering gold before moving to a cosy armchair, as these things tend to go in literary events.In what was a truly memorable occasion presented by Harrogate International Festival, the lengthy question-and-answer session provoked more raised hands and, frankly, smarter questions from any audience I've seen before.Then Dan Brown is a remarkably smart man.