For lovers of secrets, codes, symbols and conspiracies, books by Dan Brown are ultimate fixtures of excitement, ecstasy and exhilaration. Set in a 24-hour period, they engulf the mind, body, heart and soul of the readers completely, with their themes of cryptography, keys, symbols and codes. Interestingly, so much for the treasure hunts, reading them would not have been possible if Dan Brown hadn’t drawn inspiration from Sidney Sheldon’s ‘The Doomsday Conspiracy’ to become a writer! A musician by profession, Dan Brown switched to the vocation of writing full-time later on. However, his move was just the perfect one as he mastered the skill that thriller-based novels demanded and went on to become one of the most celebrated writers of the genre. In a writing career spanning a little over the decade, Brown has come up with classic novels some of which are ‘Angels & Demons’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘The Lost Symbol’ and ‘Inferno’. Amusingly, all the aforementioned novels have the same protagonist, Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbology expert. Additionally, they share historical themes and Christianity as motifs. Most of his works have garnered immense positive response from the publics and the critics, selling over 200 million copies as of 2012. Also, his books have been translated into 52 languages, while two of them, ‘Angels & Demons’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ have been adapted into films.
Childhood & Early Life
Dan Brown was born in Exeter, New Hampshire to Richard G. Brown, a mathematics teacher, and Connie Brown, a music professor. He was the eldest of the three children and was raised as an Episcopalian.
Since young, Brown was comfortable dealing with multiple disciplines, which the world assumed to be poles apart from each other. Growing up in a household where science and religion coexisted peacefully, Brown got the taste of best of both the worlds. While the foundation of science rested on proofs, claims, equations and codes, religion relied on faith alone.
Educationally, Brown completed his formal education from Philips Exeter Academy after which he enrolled himself at the Amherst College. At the college, Brown was an active student. He was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity and was also a writing student of visiting novelist Alan Lelchuk. He sang at the Amherst Glee Club and also played squash.
In 1985, Brown went to Seville Spain, to do an art history course from the University of Seville.
He completed his graduation from Amherst College, Massachusetts in 1986.
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Moving out from college, Brown took up music as his career option. He started creating effects with a synthesizer and also released a children’s cassette entitled SynthAnimals. The record included tracks like ‘Happy frogs’ and ‘Suzuki Elephants’. The cassette acclaimed decent success, selling about a few hundred copies.
The success of SynthAnimals lead Brown to form his own record company called Dalliance. In 1990, he came up with his self-published CD, ‘Perspective’. Unlike his previous release, his second album targeted the youth. It too sold a few hundred copies.
In 1991, Brown relocated to Hollywood to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter and pianist. However, since his musical career was not shaping up the way he assumed it would, for a steady income and some financial help, he took to teaching Spanish at the Beverly Hills Preparatory School.
Brown joined the National Academy of Songwriters and participated in many of its events. He gained much help from Blythe Newlon, who went out of the way in order to help him by promoting his projects, writing press releases, setting up promotional events, and putting him in contact with the who’s who in the industry.
In 1993, he released the CD Dan Brown, which included songs such as ‘976-Love’ and ‘If You Believe in Love’. Same year, Brown returned to New Hampshire. To support himself, he took up the profession of teaching. He taught English to students at his alma mater Philips Exeter Academy, and Spanish to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at Lincoln Akerman School.
In 1994, Brown released his next venture, a CD titled ‘Angels & Demons’. ‘Here in These Fields’ and the religious ballad ‘All I Believe’ are two of the many compositions that the CD possess.
A chance reading of the novel ‘The Doomsday Conspiracy’ by Sidney Sheldon changed the course of Dan Brown’s life completely. Inspired by the simplicity of the prose and the efficiency with which the storyline was dealt with, Brown resorted to switching to a writing career.
To pursue writing professionally, Brown started working on ‘Digital Fortress’, his first thrilled-based novel. He centred it at Seville, a place where he had spent a year in 1985. He quit teaching in 1996. Two years henceforth, in 1998 ‘Digital Fortress’ was released.
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Meanwhile, Brown came up with two humor books as well, ‘187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman’ and ‘The Bald Book’. While the former was published under the pseudonym ‘Danielle Brown’, the latter was officially credited to his wife.
Following years, i.e. in 2000 and 2001, Brown released his next two books, ‘Angels & Demons’ and ‘Deception Point’. It was in Angels & Demons that Brown first introduced the lead character of Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbology expert. Both his books did medium business, selling lesser than 10, 000 copies each.
It was Brown’s fourth novel that unleashed the success story of the author to never-experienced-before heights. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ not only outdid its predecessors, but went on to feature at the topmost position in the New York Times Best Seller list during its first week of release in 2003. It sold 81 million copies worldwide as of 2009.
Such was the feat of the novel that it pushed sales of Brown's earlier books as well. In 2004, all four of his books featured on the New York Times list in the same week.
Like ‘Angels & Demons’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’, Robert Langdon was the central character for Brown’s next novel, ‘The Lost Symbol’. Published in 2009, the book sold over one million in hardcover and e-book versions in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, prompting the printing of 600,000 hardcover copies in addition to the five million first printing.
Released in 2013, ‘Inferno’ is the latest book from the camp of Dan Brown. Like its predecessors, the book also has Robert Langdon as the protagonist. ‘Inferno’ raced to the top spot at the book charts in the US and the UK, selling 580,000 copies in its first two weeks alone.
Along with his siblings, Dan Brown has donated US$2.2 million to Phillips Exeter Academy in honor of their father, to set up the Richard G. Brown Technology Endowment to help provide computers and high-tech equipment for students in need. It was a homage paid to the 35 years of hard work and dedication that Richard G. Brown paid to the academy.
Brown and his wife Blythe have been actively involved in charitable works. They are active supporters of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Additionally, they have created the Dan /86 and Blythe Brown Scholarship Fund to celebrate his 25th reunion from Amherst College. It is a permanently endowed scholarship fund at the college whose income provides financial aid to students there, preferably those with an interest in writing.
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‘Angels & Demons’ set the stage for the best to come from Dan Brown. It was the first novel that introduced the character of Robert Langdon, which was subsequently seen in the future works of Brown. The book became 2000’s bestselling mystery-thriller novel.
‘The Da Vinci Code’ is till date the bestselling book from the Brown camp. With over 81 million copies sold worldwide as of 2009, the book topped the New York Best Seller list in its first week of release itself. Brown is estimated to have earned about $250 million from this book itself.
‘The Lost Symbol’ replicated the success story of ‘The Da Vinci Code’, selling over one million in hardcover and e-book versions in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. It was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction for the first six weeks of its release, and remained on the list for 29 weeks.
‘Inferno’ till date is the latest book released by Brown. It debuted as the bestselling book in the US and UK. In its first two weeks, the book had sold around 580,000 copies.
Awards & Achievements
Dan Brown was listed in the 100 most influential people of the year by the Time’s magazine in 2005. Same year, Forbes magazine placed Brown in their ‘Celebrity 100’ list.
Personal Life & Legacy
Brown’s relocation to Los Angeles in the year 1991 paid handsome results personally; as it was there that he met his lady love Blythe Newlon. Despite working in the position of Director of Artist Development for the National Academy of Songwriters, Newlon was instantly attracted to Brown who was 12 years his junior.
Blythe started helping Brown to promote his career using the power of her position. In 1993, when Brown moved back to New Hampshire, Newlon tagged along with him, thus proclaiming their love to the world for the first time.
The two tied the knot in 1997 at Pea Porridge Pond, near Conway, New Hampshire. Over the years, Newlon has been the pillar of strength and the backbone for Brown. She has assisted him in numerous projects, helping him in the research and like.
Interestingly, writing was not the first career option for this outstanding writer, who initially took to music and songwriting as the preferred vocational option.
The treasure hunt games played as a child during Christmas and holidays devised by his father lead him to inculcate the same in the books written by him so much so that Chapter 23 of the ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was inspired by one of his childhood treasure hunts
Characters in his books are often inspired from real life people. For instance, the protagonist, Robert Langdon is named after John Langdon, the artist who created the ambigrams used for the Angels & Demons CD and novel. Editor Jonas Faukman is named after the writer’s real life editor Jason Kaufman.