Picture this: on Christmas Eve, an LA skyscraper becomes a war zone as a gang of international terrorists face off against a single New York City cop – a one-man army who starts picking off the baddies with brutal efficiency (and all while not wearing any shoes).
Where did this happen?
If you answered Die Hard, congratulations on knowing your classics. Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: before John McLane, there was Joe Leland; and before the movie Die Hard, there was the novel Nothing Lasts Forever.
That’s right, ladies and gents: everybody’s favorite shoot-em-up is actually based on a book. In fact, one of the perks of reading it is the ability to walk around and begin conversations like this:
“Hey, you know Die Hard? I’ve got the book that inspired it.”
“Wait… there’s a book? Really?”
[feigning surprise] “Of course, silly. You didn’t know that?”
“Well… no… as a matter of fact I–“
[sadly] “I’m disappointed in you, _____, I really am.”
See how much fun you can have?
Nothing Lasts Forever may be the inspiration behind the 1988 film, but the two are remarkably different in several respects. The book features many of the same stunts – the elevator shaft sequence, for example, or the old throw-yourself-off-a-building-while-tied-to-a-firehose routine – and all the slam-bang terrorist-hunting mayhem is still there; what’s absent is the joviality, the wisecracking and humorous banter now so synonymous with the name of John McLane. Thorp paints his hero (anti-hero?) with darker colors. Leland, haunted by past mistakes, troubled by evil he’s seen in his career, is looking for redemption. He doesn’t find it.
Thorp is a good writer, especially when he’s writing action. The story gets off to an iffy start, but once everything kicks into high gear, it stays in high gear. Fights are sudden and frequently savage, and the lulls in between can hardly be called lulls, since the suspense rarely lets up. Fans of Die Hard will no doubt think they know how everything plays out. They’re wrong. Thorp throws a few curveballs in at the end that most readers will never see coming.
And that’s where things start getting iffy again. I won’t spoil anything; suffice it to say, our main man gets mired in some morally murky decision-making (alliteration, anyone?). When all is said and done, his hero status is questionable, to say the least.
This issue aside, I did appreciate the rest of the story; particularly the second act, jam-packed as it is with smartly written derring-do. Obviously, there are content issues to watch out for: namely, lots of violence and a fair amount of profanity (though there’s considerably less of it here than there is in the movie). Thriller fans would do well to give this oft-overlooked novel a read through, if only to see what Die Hard looked like before it was Die Hard.