Recommended by: Don Marsh
All I knew about Night Fall going in was that it’s about the TWA plane crash of 1996 that was determined to be a mechanical malfunction so I decided to read the book on a few flights across the country to confront my flying fears. Turns out, however, my fear of plane explosions was nothing compared to the fears of the things Demille suggests.
The investigative mystery thriller is a genre I am not familiar with, but I have been told it is a wonderful medium that entertains while discussing grander issues, sometimes psychological or cultural, but in this case current events and national security. Demille’s book is fiction in every way, but it is rooted in conspiracy and theory that like all good conspiracy reflects the truth that the possibility for corruption and deceit is entirely plausible even if the theory is false. It doesn’t matter if TWA Flight 800 was destroyed by a missile or a mechanical failure, what matters is, the latter could just as easily be the truth and the truth could just as easily be disguised all these years.
Night Fall, it turns out, is an early September 11th novel, as Demille leads us from the events surrounding the aftermath of TWA 800 towards September, 2001. The Septemeber 11th novel is a developing genre consisting of a plurality of voices, from children describing the aftermath, to corporate executives watching from the 2nd tower, to immigrants in Hell’s Kitchen thrown into national crisis. Many September 11th novels focus on the tragedy of the day or the themes of moving forward but Demille forces us to look backwards. And his contribution to this genre is important because it reminds us that the day in question was not an abstract singular disaster but the worst in a string of horrific world events. Whether TWA 800 is a part of that string is beside the point – the point is that it easily could have been.