His second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, took eight years to write. It was about three editors at a Milan publishing house trying to link every conspiracy theory in history, including that now famous one about the medieval Knights Templar and the secret of the Holy Grail.
‘I know, I know,’ he says with a laugh. ‘My book included the plot for The Da Vinci Code. But I was not being a prophet. It was old occult material. It was already all there. I treated it in a more sceptical way than Dan Brown did. He had the excellent idea of treating it as if it were true. Millions of people believed him. They took it seriously, but it was all a hoax.’
The Da Vinci Code is one of the few novels to have sold more than The Name of the Rose, I point out. Must be quite galling, that. He shrugs. Has he read it? ‘Yes.’ Did he like it? He shrugs again. ‘It’s a page-turner.’
I’ve not read The Da Vinci Code myself and can’t comment on it. But I know who would win in a Brown vs. Eco deathmatch.by