Nelson DeMille really brings home the saying that truth is stranger than fiction with his 2004 novel Night Fall. His remarkable weaving of known facts mixed with possible, fictitious, suppositions fill the reader with suspense, awe, and suspicion. I’m sure he intended the gnawing questions that this work of fiction, based on reality, leaves the reader pondering long after the book is finished.
DeMille admits to “dramatic liberties and literary license in cases where there is conflicting evidence,” but he also did his homework consulting with investigators who worked the case, scientists, and engineers. He also conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to the event. This he explains in an interview with the author, included in the recording.
Not having followed the case closely myself, I don’t know if the main line of the story (the videotape) is fact or DeMille’s “literary license” used to create the great suspense and suspicion. The Known Truth: On the evening of July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 left Kennedy Airport, NY, with 230 passengers and crew bound for Paris.
Eleven and one-half minutes later, it was a 2-piece fireball crashing into the ocean just off the coast of Cupsoque Beach County Park, Long Island, NY. There were no survivors—but there were several hundred eyewitnesses whose depictions of what they saw were routinely and adamantly denied validity by government officials.
The official consensus of the closed case is “mechanical failure.” A short circuit caused the vapors of the empty central fuel tank to explode. Explained away by FBI, CIA, and other officials were the eyewitness accounts of a rocket-like object rising up from the horizon and disappearing behind the plane—after which there was an explosion…and no more plane.
DeMille’s famous New York City Detective, John Corey, is now contracted to the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force (ATTF). His wife, Kate, works there too; she being bona-fide FBI while Corey is more or less on–loan. Kate was one of the original investigators of Flight 800’s case, interviewing witnesses until she was told to stop and consider the case closed.
She was not to bother herself with looking into the many unanswered questions, ever again. Five years later, after being commanded to cease any further investigation, she still can’t put the events out of her mind. She talks Corey into accompanying her to the yearly memorial service held on the beach every July 17 since the crash, where he discovers that his wife isn’t alone with her feeling that the case was closed before all the evidence was in.
In particular, there is rumor of videotape, made by an illicit couple, which inadvertently captured the whole event on tape. Almost against his will, Corey agrees to look into a few loose ends that haunt his wife. Corey’s prowess as a homicide detective—and the suspicious past handling of witnesses and evidence he comes across—draw him deeper into the case even while his and Kate’s careers (and their lives), become threatened.
We’ll be “unemployed and indicted” Corey tells her. What ensues is an unbelievable irrational attempt to thwart the possible revealing of determining evidence. This incites Corey even more. Who wants to keep the possible truth from being known? More importantly, why do they want to? With his usual talent for intrigue, and his main character’s usual gruff New York City attitude, DeMille nevertheless brings something extra into this book.
t is almost as if he is truly fighting for the truth to be known. He seems to have included an urgency into Night Fall that I did not sense in his other books. It is an exciting and thought provoking work. In the End: DeMille adds a note of acknowledgement to his son, Alex DeMille, for helping him find a way to conclude what really is an un-concluded issue.
Like father, like son, I would say, because the end is remarkably perfect for the book. Another Truth: On the morning of September 11, 2001, two jet planes crashed into the New York World Trade Center causing total devastation and ending the lives of over 3,000 people. Controversy surrounds this event and its investigation also.How the DeMille’s brought these two together is fantastic!
Scott Brick reads wonderfully. He adds just enough NYC toughness to Corey’s character without making him sound like a thug as other readers have done. He flawlessly changes from character to character with depth and emotion.