The Lion

Nelson DeMille

GLENN: One of the greatest fiction writers of our day is Nelson DeMille. He is the author of The Lion, which is on sale now, and I would like to thank Kevin Balfe who runs my publishing division, I’d like to thank him now for releasing the Overton Window just a few days after Nelson DeMille releases his. No, it’s good. That’s really good. Mr. DeMille, nice to have you here.

DeMILLE: Well, thank you.

GLENN: You bet. I want to talk to you about something because actually we’re doing a show, I think next Tuesday, and I’m going to trash your book on next Tuesday once mine comes out. Now I’ll tell you, buy his book because it’s great but buy it before Tuesday because all of a sudden it’s like it goes bad when it sits on the shelf after a week. But you are going to do a show with me next week and we’re going to kind of talk about fiction writers and how they can — I mean, it’s your job to war game and to take things that are possible and write a story. And, for instance, you wrote a story about — in 2000 about a Libyan terrorist taking an airliner, gassing everybody. After 9/11 they were ready to round you up and say, let’s talk about this. Right?

DeMILLE: Yeah. You know, I did a lot of research with the joint terrorist task force here in the city and they said to me — I said, what is the next target in the United States, what is the next target in America for terrorists? And they said, the World Trade Center. And this was in the year 2000. The World Trade Center had been attacked, if we remember, in February 1993 with a truck bomb in the basement. They said, look, they missed and they are going to do it next time. And they said to me — and this is 18 months maybe before it happened — it will be Leer jets full of explosive and gasoline flying into both towers with suicide bombers. That’s —

GLENN: You said that to them?

DeMILLE: No, they said this to me. We were sitting in 26 Fed, you know where it is, Glenn, looking at the World Trade Center. It was a year and a half before it happened. They were positive that this was the target because they missed in ’93. The bad guys had missed and they knew about the Mideasterners taking flying lessons and they were positive that it was going to be Leer jets full of explosive.

GLENN: Hang on just a second, Nelson. That doesn’t help, that doesn’t help me at all on the — I mean, I think our government is incompetent and — but I don’t think that our government was involved by any stretch of the imagination. But I mean, this shows that they really, they knew specifically.

DeMILLE: Yeah, they knew. It’s like anything else. The product is intelligence and here’s the product, what are you going to do with it. There was just nobody wanted to use that intelligence. The intelligence people gather it. They don’t make policy. And what happened, it was not a shock to me when it happened that morning because I had heard it a year and a half before.

PAT: Wow. Holy cow. And so then, have you ever been called a conspiracy? Because I mean, your job is to piece things together and then write a fictional story on it. But I mean, I do this. You know, this story that I’ve written for the Overton Window, A — and I’d like to know if this has ever happened to you. As I’m writing it, we had to go back and change things because they were moving at such a rapid pace, they were happening. Have you had that?

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DeMILLE: Yeah. Well, it also happens, and you saw that, when you write a novel and novel can take a year to write and events are starting to overtake the novel. As far as conspiracy, you know, you have to — and as you touched on before, you’d have to think that the government was competent enough to engage in a conspiracy.

GLENN: And then keep it quiet.

DeMILLE: And then keep it quiet.

GLENN: I just don’t think that’s possible.

DeMILLE: No, but I think there are private people who will and do engage in conspiracies who are maybe a little bit more effective than the government.

GLENN: Which is kind of what your new book, the follow-up here is, The Lion.

DeMILLE: Yeah.

GLENN: It’s a guy, and it’s weird. We were just talking about this and I said, you know, what are we fighting — what are we doing over in Afghanistan and Iraq? What are we doing? I mean, they are now putting syringes infected with AIDS into these bombs so when we go to find them, they either are infected by hitting the needle or they blow up and now it’s infected needles everywhere. And I said, we should get bacon bombs. I mean, you know, you should get a cloven hoof through the head if you are fighting against us. I’m just tired of it. You fight to win or you don’t do it at all. And this is really kind of the theory of, one of the characters in this story actually is a wealthy guy and says, let’s just go; what are we doing? Right?

DeMILLE: Yeah. I mean, this is — Afghanistan is now the longest war in history as you know and, you know, the war in Iraq is right behind it. And we don’t know what we’re there for and, you know, I served in Vietnam as you know, Glenn, I served in the same kind of war, this war without end almost. And you say, you know, you want to do your duty. You say, why am I here? Why am I here? I was here in ’68. It was already the fifth year of the war. I mean, by that time, I thought, you know, when I got drafted, jeez, the war is going to be over before — and it went on until ’73. Why are we there if we’re not going to win? You are there to win or you are not there. You have to make that decision.

GLENN: You can’t fight these things half ass.

DeMILLE: Right.

GLENN: I mean, I don’t understand how people don’t get it. Now, in The Lion, the lion comes back and he is going to build a truck bomb.

DeMILLE: Right.

GLENN: And did you — I mean, how many blocks does it — what is it, 25 blocks that it blows up?

DeMILLE: You know, I based this on the Oklahoma City bombing and this is, you know, the regular — I don’t want to give the formula away on the air but it’s ammonium nitrate and blasting caps and that type of thing. And again when I was doing research and the people at 26 Fed have been pretty forthcoming and anonymously but I said, you know, what’s the next thing? And they all said this is — and we all know this. They said a car bomb or a truck bomb in Midtown Manhattan.

GLENN: That’s what we had here in Times Square.

DeMILLE: That’s what we had here in Times Square. It didn’t go off but we’re forgetting about it. But had it gone off — and this is illogical because it’s a fairly easy thing to do, been done all over the world. Glenn knows it’s been done in Baghdad and it’s been done in Jerusalem.

GLENN: How big of a bomb do you need for 25 square blocks?

DeMILLE: I had a, gosh, like a 70 foot trailer, tractor trailer. I made the super bomb. This was not the van of the kind that went into the World Trade Center in ’93. This was like 40 or 50, 55 gallon drum barrels full of sodium — ammonium nitrate and the soap and the other stuff that they use.

GLENN: Do you believe that that can be done, Nelson?

DeMILLE: Yeah, sure, absolutely it can be done. I mean, it’s a fairly simple bomb to make once you have the ingredients. And it would level about 20, 25 blocks. Without giving away my plot, it’s planted in lower Manhattan where it’s going to cause massive destruction to Wall Street and the whole financial district.

GLENN: What do you think, what do your sources tell you and in your research and everything else, do you think we’re headed for another major terrorist? What do you think is the next?

DeMILLE: I don’t know about major but, you know, they have been expecting — my sources, a lot of them are retired now because I started doing this research like 12, 13 years ago and some of these people were not totally forthcoming with me and now retired. It’s funny, retired people tell you a lot more when they are working inside the organization. They are all saying car bomb. They are all saying — and they have been saying this for years. And so when it happened in Times Square about three weeks ago and the bomb did not go off, again I wasn’t shocked. I was — you know, and they are saying why didn’t this happen seven or eight years ago. It’s not that difficult to do. Are we very lucky or are we very good? I don’t know.

GLENN: Have you, have you done any war gaming in your head of the current situation on what this government does or what’s going on in the Middle East? I mean, I think the Middle East is being set up. I think Israel is being set up right now.

DeMILLE: Yeah.

GLENN: And I also think the media’s doing a great job to set up another Timothy McVeigh. They have been working on that one for about a year. What happens to us, Nelson, if we — I mean, what’s happening to us?

DeMILLE: Well, you know, first of all we’re not engaged in the war on terror, if you haven’t noticed.

GLENN: Yeah.

DeMILLE: I think, you know, a president — and it could have been Bush and, you know, any president — should have had the moral courage to go before congress and say we need a symbolic declaration of war on terrorism. And when we say that and they say, well, there’s no country, we can’t declare war on — of course you can. It’s a symbolic act. You say maybe Bush should have done this. Symbolic declaration from congress, making everybody stand up and be counted.

GLENN: Yeah.

DeMILLE: In saying we declare war on terrorism. And then all the nonsense that we’re getting in the mainstream media that this is not really a war on terrorism, you don’t have that anymore because congress has stood up. And nobody’s asked congress to stand up. Ask them to stand up, they are going to have to stand up and vote one way or the other. Are we at war; are we not at war.

GLENN: Yeah. Otherwise they just, they can play it any way they want.

DeMILLE: Exactly.

GLENN: They can be for it and against it, then for it and against it on the polls.

DeMILLE: Right.

GLENN: It’s a nightmare. All right. The name of the book is The Lion, Nelson DeMille. Buy it quickly this week. Buy all of the copies this week because then there’s another book coming out on Tuesday and Nelson’s going to crush us. Nelson DeMille, The Lion, available in bookstores everywhere.

[NOTE: Transcript may have been edited to enhance readability – audio archive includes full segment as it was originally aired]