What if? In the right hands, the question can generate great stories. In the wrong hands, it can generate bad stories. For inexplicable reasons, some of these stories hit the best-seller list.
Case in point: Marty Fugate’s latest potboiler, “9-11.” Reading through this "near future thriller" (as I am paid to do) several questions spring to mind :
What if a hack writer decided to steal the plot of “The Anderson Tapes,” and expanded it to a geopolitical proportions in a style blatantly lifted from Tom Clancy?
What if …
A neophyte American president was sitting in the Oval Office? A cunning cabal of Arab terrorists (yawn) with engineering degrees was hiding in caves and devising a fiendish plot? A perfect storm of interdepartmental rivalry and compartmentalized intelligence, preventing any law enforcement official from acting on obvious warning signs of this unfolding conspiracy — including the piteous prophecies of the obligatory Cassandra? (With this theft, Mr. Fugate goes a bridge too far. Great writers steal. Bad writers cut-and-paste.) What if a handful of Arab terrorists (armed with box cutters!) hijacked three fully-fueled airplanes and turned them into deadly missiles on a suicide mission?
All of which ends in a successful terrorist attack on …
Wait for it.
The World Trade Center towers!!!
And the Pentagon.
This carnage described in 23 pages of gory detail. A disaster movie Irwin Allen would find in bad taste. (A film adaptation the author dearly and clearly hopes for.)
What if (being symbolically inclined) the aforementioned masterminds launched their attack on the day which corresponds to the American phone number to emergency responders?
What if these supposedly cunning terrorists targeted the same building they tried to demolish two years ago? A presumably well-guarded structure. As opposed to, say, a fresh target? Not the Sears Tower, the Chrysler building, the Pan Am building, no, it has to be the World Trade Center!! Why? Is this terrorism or an extreme form of architectural criticism?
What if an author utterly lacking in shame built a best-seller on the bones of the six victims of the 1993 bombing?
What if enough shameless readers bought his lousy book—and actually read it? Even though they weren’t being paid?