Television producer and author Dick Wolf told Newsmax TV that the United States can never afford to misjudge our enemies in this age of world terrorism.
“One of the unfortunate realities is that we have to avoid consistency underestimating who we’re fighting,” Wolf, the creator of “Law & Order” series of dramas for NBC, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “We think of things intermittently; they think about this 24/7/365 — how to kill us. It’s a distinct threat.”
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Wolf, whose “Law & Order” programs remain the longest-running drama series in television history, has written his first novel, “The Intercept: A Jeremy Fisk Novel.”
The best-selling book is set in New York City around the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“The Intercept,” which Wolf had been working on for some time, actually developed from a miniseries that had been shelved when the terror attacks occurred, he said.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, one of the headlines on the front page of Variety was ‘Wolf Brings Terror to NBC,’ ” he said. “We were literally two weeks away from starting a five-hour miniseries that began in an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, with 10-year-olds saying, ‘God is great. Death to America.’
“The brother of one of them was going to America to become a great hero. Cut to him and three other young Muslims driving across the Canadian border into New York, setting off a bomb under the shuttle in Times Square, killing 3,500 people in rush hour and then releasing anthrax.
“So, needless to say we had to pull the plug on that on 9/11 — and the residual benefit for me is that I had made a lot of very upper-level contacts and friends in various counterterrorism organizations,” Wolf said. “The tactical advisor on the miniseries was John O’Neill, who had been chasing [Osama] bin Laden for years in the FBI had just retired and been head of security at the Trade Towers and died in the attacks.
“It was an amazing story. It was horrifying in its unique parallel to what we were doing, but the story never went away,” he added. “The idea of doing an in-depth thriller about another attack on New York was gestating for quite a long time.”
The book is rich in detail about the thinking of the New York law-enforcement community, including the New York Police Department and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Such specifics were critical, Wolf said.
“I had many conversations with two members of the intelligence division — one now retired, one still on the department — but there were other people like the NYPD, the FBI, I maintained relationships over the years, and they were happy to cooperate.
“But a lot of it is, ‘Look, I don’t want to be identified with this, but this is what happened’ — and, obviously, I’m not an expert on things like stenographic photography, but you can talk to people for a couple of hours and have a pretty good understanding of how important that ability is — especially since we know that this is a means of communication among terrorists.”
There’s also the element of “instant celebrity.”
“A lot of it pays off in the third act, but people who thwart events or terrorist events or hijackings do become heroes — and the reality is that a lot of this is the classic 15 minutes of fame,” Wolf said. “This is the nature of celebrity in America. Very few people get a half an hour, let alone an hour. The spotlights are turned on — and usually after a relatively short time, they’re turned off again and everything goes back to the way it was.”
Wolf said readers can expect more Jeremy Fisk novels.
“I’m well into the second one, which should be out within a year. And I don’t think it’s tipping a hand, but Jeremy Fisk gets involved with narcoterrorism,” he said, referring to the violence and intimidation by drug traffickers hinder enforcement efforts. “He’s a pretty good character. He’s not a weed in a TV series, because you couldn’t do 22 terrorist acts a year.
“But this is the ideal format to hopefully do one of these every couple of years — and I’d love it if there was an afterlife on whatever is substituting for film in the future.”
And speaking of films, Wolf — who wrote the screenplay for 1988’s “Masquerade” starring Rob Lowe and Meg Tilly — said the industry “seems to me to be on life support, the features business.
“And the fact is one of the most astounding quotes — which when I thought about it, I realized was absolutely true — is if you took Paul Newman’s entire filmography, probably the only picture they’d make today is ‘The Towering Inferno,’ ” he added, referencing the 1974 disaster film set in a 138-story hotel.
“There are no thoughtful, social-commentary features out there. There are thrillers, tent poles, superheroes. Nobody is doing ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ or ‘Day of the Jackal’ as features. They’re much more likely to show up as ‘Homeland.’ ”
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