9 September 2008

Given the date, 9/11

Given the date, and the fact that I am reading DEAD MAN'S FOOTSTEPS by Peter James, it seems appropriate to consider the effect of that event on my favourite genre.

Petrona and others have commented on the fact that 9/11 has sort of created a dividing line of before/after. The Age ran an article 3 years ago about various novels which explored the effects of 9/11 on the world that followed. Earlier this year The Washington Post suggested that the best 9/11 fiction might not come from the US. The UK Guardian seems to suggest that 9/11 is something to steer clear of.

I can remember S.J. Rozan creating a bit of a stir with the publication of ABSENT FRIENDS.
Published in 2004, winner of the Edgar Award, set in New York in the unforgettable aftermath of September 11, Absent Friends brilliantly captures a time and place unlike any other, as it winds through the wounded streets of New York and Staten Island...and into a maze of old crimes, damaged lives, and heartbreaking revelations. The result is not only an electrifying mystery and a riveting piece of storytelling but an elegiac novel that powerfully explores a world changed forever on a clear September morning. In a novel that will catch you off guard at every turn, and one that is guaranteed to become a classic, S. J. Rozan masterfully ratchets up the tension one revelation at a time as she dares you to ponder the bonds of friendship, the meaning of truth, and the stuff of heroism.

I have read the occasional crime fiction novel that has referred to 9/11 but very rarely any that incorporated it.
For example Alex Berenson's THE FAITHFUL SPY is a post 9/11 book rather than one that gave me any insight into what happened that day.
John Wells, a CIA agent who has been under cover in Afghanistan infiltrating al Qaeda for 5 years, is sent back to America by al Qaeda . He does not know what his mission there will be, but he is sure that he has one. In the time that he has been in Afghanistan John has converted to Islam and feels that he has earned the trust of the upper echelon of al Qaeda. This story goes right to the heart of what the CIA must fear most - a double agent whose loyalties are no longer known or are perhaps compromised. The CIA feel that they can no longer trust him but don't realise that John is the very key to a terrorist attack intelligence tells them is about to happen. Alex Berenson's first book. My rating 4.4

In Simon Brett's THE HANGING IN THE HOTEL there is a passing reference to the effects of 9/11 on the tourist and travel industry.

I haven't got very far in Peter James' DEAD MAN'S FOOTSTEPS. Ronnie Wilson from Brighton in England is in New York, near Ground Zero at the time of the twin towers collapse. He is there to call in a promise which should bail him out of his failed businesses and then he is swallowed up by the huge debris cloud when the first of the towers collapses.
The action in the book takes up six years later in October 2007 in Brighton when Abby Dawson steps into a lift that then malfunctions and the lift seems to hang suspended in the lift well by a slender thread.
At almost the same time Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to a storm water drain where a woman's skeletal remains have been found embedded in silt. Roy is still looking for his lost wife Sandy and this body looks a strong possibility.

9/11 has to rank right up there with those events that changed our world for ever. There seemed a feeling when Rozan's ABSENT FRIENDS was published, that it wasn't quite a proper setting for crime fiction. Perhaps we need more distance.

What books have you come across?

Image Attribution:

Original image: 'Across from Ground Zero'
by: Trey Ratcliff

Released under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, Kerrie. Michael Connelly has been writing about the effects of 9/11 on the security culture (in LA). His protagonist has to deal with increased bureacracy, secrecy, laws and "righteous refusal to provide information or cooperate" in many ways and in several books.
I think it works well because it is not directly about the events themselves but about one particular, enduring after-effect on society: how the police operate in catching common criminals, and how this can be impeded in the name of "national security". Good on Connelly (previously a journalist) for exploring some of these difficult moral issues.


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