In A History of the World Since 9/11 Dominic Streatfeild expertly combines history, biography and investigative journalism to show how a massacre on a clear September day in 2001 has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. In a series of brilliantly interlinked chapters he shows how an Afghani wedding party; and a gas station proprietor in Texas; and a planespotter in Mallorca have been affected, sometimes devastatingly, by the American response to the attacks on the Twin Towers. Streatfeild shows how the sleep of reason and good sense in successive US administrations post-9/11 has brought forth the monsters of extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, extrajudicial execution and wholesale contravention of international law. This is a work that informs as it entertains and induces outrage as it inspires.
Here’s how this one happened:
Just after the last book, Brainwash, came out, I was asked what I was going to do next. Did I have any good stories? As it happened, I did: a fantastic story of a calamitous Special Forces raid in Colombia. I spent a couple of months researching it, wrote a pitch and sent it off through my agent, Julian Alexander. Responses from all UK publishers were the same: ‘What a wonderful, terrible, story! No-one in the UK is interested in Colombia. Not for us.’ I was pretty surprised, and not a little depressed.
Out of the blue, Brainwash was then longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Julian got a call from Toby Mundy at Atlantic Books – requesting a meeting.
Unfortunately for the Colombia story, Toby’s views were the same as everyone else’s: no UK market. Not worth publishing over here. Perhaps, he suggested, if might make a Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone piece in the US. I tried to persuade him. He wasn’t having any of it.
‘No’ he shook his head in a final kind of a way. ‘This is not the kind of thing you should be writing. The kind of thing I want from you is something political. Something a bit angry.’
Then came the words that have wrecked my life for the last four years.
‘Something like – I don’t know – something like… ‘A History of the World since 9/11’.
There was a pause.
‘Actually’ he said. ‘That IS what I want from you. ‘A History of the World since 9/11.’
Julian, my agent, thought for a moment. ‘That’s a bloody good title’ he said.
I disagreed. I thought it was a crap title. What on earth would the book be ABOUT? Where would I start? Clearly, a real history of the world would be impossible. A snappy title with no substance inside would surely be a waste of time? The whole thing sounded gimmicky.
‘Go away and think about it’ said Toby. ‘Have a good think.’ Julian agreed. I went away and had a think. A good one.
Nothing came up.
A couple of months later, Brainwash moved from the Longlist (20 titles) to the shortlist (5 titles) for Samuel Johnson. I had no idea. The first thing I knew: an email from Toby Mundy of Atlantic Books, offering his congratulations. I was pretty impressed.
Brainwash didn’t win the prize, of course. Imperial Life in the Emerald City – a far better book on every level – did. Closely followed, I suspect, by Toby’s publication, Ian Buruma’s Murder in Amsterdam (also an infinitely better book).
Four months later, I came up with a hodgepodge of a pitch, typed ‘A History of the World since 9/11’ at the top, and sent it off to Toby. Tragically (for me) he accepted it, came up with some money, and told me I had 18 months.
I was in the shit.
Published by: Atlantic Books (UK), Bloomsbury (US)
… bleak… gripping… excellent… will mesmerize readers of current history… Library Journal
…meticulously researched…a collection of outstanding journalism… The Sunday Business Post
Anger crackles from every page of the book…as terse and readable as a thriller… Sinclair McKay, The Telegraph
Brilliantly written… Streatfeild’s “Brainwash – the Secret History of Mind Control” was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize – and this could go one better… The Bookseller
Dominic Streatfeild has now hit the mother lode of seriousness with his new work… If anger is indeed an energy, this book should have you ready to run a marathon by the time you’ve reached the final page. Brian Donaldson, The List
forceful…gripping reportage…vivid and insightful… Publishers Weekly
Wow! I don’t whether I should cheer or cry. I’m feeling both emotions right now as I consider the implications of the narrative you present in Chapter 4, cheering because it is the best, most thorough explanation of the ***** dispute I’ve seen ever, spot on, and crying because it convincingly demonstrates the breadth and depth of our mistakes, they were simply inexcusable. You couldn’t have picked a better time to remind us of how badly we performed, since we are still having difficulty as a Community accepting responsibility for our failures, clinging to the notion that our analytical practices are fundamentally sound, all we need is some tinkering on the margin. Chapter 4 makes an important contribution; one I hope will finally get peoples attention. Outstanding job. Senior US Intelligence Official
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