Tuesday morning 9/11/2001: I had just come up from the subway next to the World Trade Center plaza. A small crowd had formed and were all looking up and pointing. I followed their gaze to up to flames and smoke and what looked like debris pouring out of the upper floors of the North Tower. The walk to my office in the World Financial Center would take me directly through that plaza. In a state of confusion, I decided I would skip the office and just go home. I turned to walk toward the Brooklyn Bridge when suddenly a huge explosion shook the ground. Everyone started screaming and running. The second plane had just hit the South Tower.
Getting back to the safety of my apartment, I watched from my tenth-floor window with utter disbelief as the South Tower disappeared into a cloud, followed shortly after by the North Tower. Lives, buildings, everything gone.
The depth of the tragedy and the sadness that followed is a clear marker for me and for all those who were touched by the events of that day.
On every anniversary, I look out my apartment window and see the two blue towers of light that mark the occasion. They shoot up and reflect off the clouds, providing a beautiful but eerie commemoration of what was and is now forever gone.
But time passes and provides perspective. Modern thrillers seize on the fears and realities of the post-9/11 environment and weave truth and fiction into frightening and sometimes illuminating experiences.
A great example of this is TRUE FICTION by Lee Goldberg, where the lead character, a thriller writer, is called on by what he thinks is the CIA to join colleagues to imagine terrorist schemes. The story is fast-paced with sarcastic, funny, and raunchy dialogue well-performed by narrator Adam Verner. The plot seems both totally ridiculous and based on plausible premises, leaving the listener just wondering if this could really happen.
Taking the truth/fiction mix even further are thrillers that seem several steps ahead of reality, as in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. In THE BLACK WIDOW, performed by Golden Voice narrator George Guidall, the headlines seemed ripped from the book where terrorists attack Paris and escape to Belgium.
Then you also have thrillers that explore the more personal impact of 9/11 on those who engaged in the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as in David Baldacci’s END GAME, where narrators Kyf Brewer and Orlagh Cassidy share with us the impact of these war experiences and address the aftermath of military service. This is a theme that Lee Child also explores in THE MIDNIGHT LINE, masterfully narrated by Dick Hill.
Our post-9/11 environment has spawned intense, gripping thrillers where the porous border between truth and fiction leaves listeners in a state of fear even when they put down their earphones.