No truth: Oliver North tries hand at fiction
The obligatory disclaimer in the front of Mission Compromised (you know the one: “This is a fictional story… any similarity to actual events is coincidental”) is about as perfunctory as the recently discontinued line of questioning at US airline ticket counters (“Have your bags been continually in your presence since you packed them?”). We’re left nodding, yeah, yeah yeah.
When a novel about terrorism and national security hits the shelf in September 2002, along with hundreds of non-fiction commemoratives promising color pictures of terrorism’s smoke and ruins, you can be sure the story line is going to have some uncannily coincidental similarities with reality.
And if it’s a story cooked up by Oliver North, whose brush with infamy during the Iran-Contra hearings catapulted him from the shadows of the operative to the limelight of celebrity, you can also count on some overtly non-fiction references.
The plot of North’s 600-page fiction debut, written with the help of a professional writer, goes like this: Patriotic Marine (Major Peter Newman) is tapped for a top secret mission to stamp out terrorism, is betrayed by a dishonorable administration, reaches out to a mentor who has learned from his own face-off with the dark forces of the beltway how to navigate the professional, moral, and even mortal, dilemmas of the Marine code. Yes, even at the risk of “going down in flames like he did,” young Newman turns to none other than Lt. Col. Oliver North.
The action of Mission Compromised predates last year’s terrorist attacks (it is set during the Clinton administration), but Major Newman’s assignment– to take out both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as they gleefully plot evil together in Baghdad– is clearly born of contemporary foreign policy obsessions. The twisting plot is studded with other situation room notables, but only those who are universally accepted as bad guys get to keep their real names (except for the still-controversial North).
While it’s tempting to take a cheap shot about Ollie’s proclivity for turning facts into tall tales, it’s not warranted. In this instance, the pen is no match for the sword– for the chief villain of Mission Compromised is already the most vilified man in the western world.
Mission Compromised is published by Brodman and Holman, the press of the Southern Baptist Convention. North will sign copies on September 6 from 4-5pm at Borders Bookstore in Richmond. 9750 W. Broad St. 804-965-0733.