Thursday, February 11, 2021

Miscellaneous thoughts about "the classics" part 2


For the reasons I mentioned in Part 1, I doubt that Wild Fire will be considered a classic in the future.  On the other hand, the DeMille novel I finished last night, Night Fall (published in 2004) may.  It takes as its starting point the crash of TWA 800.  After an extensive investigation, as one can read in Wikipedia, this crash was considered to be caused by a mechanical failure, but many witnesses said they saw a flash going up toward TWA 800 before it exploded.  Those reports were discounted.  ATTF (Anti-Terrorist Task Force) detective John Corey in Night Fall is warned not to investigate this five-year-old cold case, but he is tenacious and discovers a video of the explosion which proves that a missile caused it.  Agents in the CIA and FBI are attempting to keep him from exposing their cover-up.  As I read I couldn’t see how DeMille was going to manage a suitable ending.  I paused to check and the official cause of the TWA 800 crash is still describe as a mechanical failure.  Several attempts are made to get the evidence and the witness from John Corey; so to play it safe he agrees to meet them in a very public and safe location where he can provide the CIA and FBI with his evidence and ultimatum.  He chooses the Windows on the World for his venue.  It was on the top floors (106th and 107th) of the North Tower (Building One) of the original World Trade Center.  A caravan of cars drives to Building one.  John Corey is in the last car which becomes separated from the cars in front because of traffic.  His wife FBI agent Kate Mayfield decided to wait for John downstairs.  Thus the tape, witness, and those who want to keep the cover-up covered (most of them)  are tidily killed in the September 11, 2001 attack. 

DeMille does a very good job in Night Fall; much better than Ann Patchett does in Bel Canto using a comparable scenario.  She too uses a real event and sticks to the history, but in her case the history doesn’t seem integral to her story.  In DeMille’s Night Fall, it does (in my current opinion.)

Of the five DeMille novels I’ve read thus far, The General’s Daughter might become a classic.  The 850 page Up Country may become a classic as well.  Paul Brenner’s trek up through Vietnam held my interest and I was not in that war.  The downside may be that Paul, like John Corey in Night Fall is being opposed by those who want to keep the Vice President (who is sure to be elected President) from being exposed as a murderer.  CIA operative Susan Weber, converted to Paul’s point of view during their trip up country, claims to have hidden the evidence against the VP.  In actuality, the evidence was taken from them by a Vietnamese Colonel who harassed them during their entire journey.  Paul leaves Vietnam and flies home.  Susan stays behind to presumably enjoy what will happen when they learn that a Vietnamese colonel who hates America has the evidence against the Vice President. 

Night Fall is tidier than Up Country, but perhaps the latter can justify its length by means of Paul Brenner’s quest.  Up Country is based upon DeMille’s knowledge of Vietnam and his experiences in the war.  Night Fall is based upon the published accounts of the TWA explosion and crash.

Just as the Iliad described various battles; so did Up Country.  The Achaeans won their war and took Helen back to Athens.  The Americans lost their war and fled in helicopters. 

John Corey is a more humorous protagonist.  Perhaps John Corey is easier for DeMille to write about.  He has thus far written seven John Corey novels. 

My current plan is to read all of the Paul Brenner and John Corey novels.  I have read a number of detective series in the past.  I had never thought any of them would become classics, but maybe some of them (in addition to some of DeMille's novels) will.  Sherlock Holmes seems light-weight.  Back when it was first published some of his readers seemed more taken with Holmes than his author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  But now Sherlock has achieved one of the requirements of a classic.  He has lived on into several succeeding generations of readers.  Most of us seem to love a good mystery.  Why is that?  Sherlock Holmes is in some of the Franklin lists but not Agatha Christie, whose Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot seem destined to live as long as Sherlock.  Why is that? 

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