A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright s remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
The Looming Tower achieves an unprecedented level of intimacy and insight by telling the story through the interweaving lives of four men: the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri; the FBI s counterterrorism chief, John O Neill; and the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
As these lives unfold, we see revealed: the crosscurrents of modern Islam that helped to radicalize Zawahiri and bin Laden . . . the birth of al-Qaeda and its unsteady development into an organization capable of the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on the USS Cole . . . O Neill s heroic efforts to track al-Qaeda before 9/11, and his tragic death in the World Trade towers . . . Prince Turki s transformation from bin Laden s ally to his enemy . . . the failures of the FBI, CIA, and NSA to share intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks.
The Looming Tower broadens and deepens our knowledge of these signal events by taking us behind the scenes. Here is Sayyid Qutb, founder of the modern Islamist movement, lonely and despairing as he meets Western culture up close in 1940s America; the privileged childhoods of bin Laden and Zawahiri; family life in the al-Qaeda compounds of Sudan and Afghanistan; O Neill s high-wire act in balancing his all-consuming career with his equally entangling personal life--he was living with three women, each of them unaware of the others existence--and the nitty-gritty of turf battles among U.S. intelligence agencies.
Brilliantly conceived and written, The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001. The richness of its new information, and the depth of its perceptions, can help us deal more wisely and effectively with the continuing terrorist threat.
About the Author
Lawrence Wright is an author and screenwriter, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.
He is a graduate of Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the American University in Cairo, where he taught English and received an M.A. in Applied Linguistics in 1969. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1971, Wright began his writing career at the Race Relations Reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years later, he went to work for Southern Voices, a publication of the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, Georgia, and began to freelance for various national magazines. In 1980, Wright returned to Texas to work for Texas Monthly. He also became a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. In December, 1992, he joined the staff of The New Yorker.
Wright has published six books: City Children, Country Summer (Scribner, 1979), In the New World: Growing Up with America, 1960-1984 (Knopf, 1988), Saints & Sinners (Knopf, 1993), Remembering Satan (Knopf, 1994), Twins: Genes, Environment, and the Mystery of Identity (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997; Wiley & Sons, 1998), and God's Favorite (Simon & Schuster, 2000).
His history of Al Qaeda, The Looming Tower, was published by Knopf in August 2006. A portion of that book, "The Man Behind Bin Laden," was published in The New Yorker and won the 2002 Overseas Press Club's Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting. He has also won the National Magazine Award for Reporting as well as the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism.
Wright is the co-writer (with Ed Zwick and Menno Meyjes) of The Siege, starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis and Annette Bening, which appeared in November 1998. He also wrote the script of the Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Bob Hoskins, which aired in April 2000. Currently he is working on a script for MGM about John O'Neill, the former head of the FBI's office of counterterrorism in New York, who died on 9/11.
Wright is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves as the keyboard player in the Austin-based blues band, Who Do.
Wright's brilliantly constructed narrative is head and shoulders above the rest. He knows important parts of the Muslim world (including Saudi Arabia) at first hand, he understands the motors of Islamist militancy ... Moreover, he is a fine writer with an eye for the telling detail. Even those who think they know the story intimately will feel they are reading it anew * New Statesman *
One of the best and most important books of recent years. A masterful combination of reporting and writing -- Dan Rather
Lawrence Wright's integrity and diligence as a reporter shine through every page of this riveting narrative -- Robert Caro