Saturday, October 20, 2012
Former Tabloid Journalist’s Latest Book Inspired by Capture of Palestinian Terror Highjacker
The Story of how a Palestinian being held in a London police station some 40 years ago inspired international journalist, Dan Wooding, to write his first novel, ‘Red Dagger’
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
EALING, LONDON, UK (ANS) -- Author, broadcaster and international journalist Dan Wooding was the Chief Reporter of a British suburban newspaper when perhaps the biggest story of his career so far landed in his lap in the Fall of 1970.
That story, the capture and arrest of a Palestinian hijacker, became the seed germ for Wooding's latest book, his 44th -- which happens to be his first novel -- a page-turner worthy of the likes of Tom Clancy (Op Center) or Joel Rosenberg (The Twelfth Imam).
The novel features a Palestinian terrorist who belongs to the Red Dagger terror group from Gaza -- a place that Wooding has visited several times -- an Irish double agent, and a drunken American journalist who moves to London and spends too much time in a pub called “The Stab in the Back.”
I asked Wooding, who is the founder of the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net ), why after more than 40 years as a journalist and 43 non-fiction books to his credit did he decide to write his first novel?
Wooding revealed that the germ of the idea for the novel came to him back in 1970 while working for the Middlesex County Times newspaper, a paper where I also later worked -- Wooding was the Chief Reporter on the paper and I was soon to work there as a Cub reporter. (While I covered Flower Shows and Girl Scout Jamborees, Wooding had bigger fish to fry).
Wooding told me he was sent by his editor, Bert Munday, a tall man from Cornwall, with a shock of pure white hair -- (whom I discovered had once worked with Winston Churchill during the war years as his shorthand writer) -- to the Ealing police station where Leila Khaled, a Palestinian highjacker, was being held.
On August 29, 1969, Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Athens, diverting the Boeing 707 to Damascus. After this hijacking, and after the now famous picture of her (taken by Eddie Adams) holding an AK-47 rifle and wearing a kaffiyeh was widely published, she was said to have underwent six plastic surgeries on her nose and chin to conceal her identity and allow her to take part in a future hijacking, and because she did not want to wear the face of an icon.
On September 6, 1970, Khaled and Patrick Argüello, a Nicaraguan, attempted the hijack of El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York City as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings, a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The attack was foiled, when Israeli sky marshals killed Arguello before eventually overpowering Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled said she had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight. However, Patrick Argüello, the co-hijacker, shot a member of the flight crew.
“The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow airport in London, where Khaled was arrested and held at the Ealing police station,” said Wooding.
On October 1, 1970, the British government released her as part of a prisoner exchange. The next year, the PFLP abandoned the tactic of hijacking, although splinter movements would continue to hijack airplanes.
Wooding said that some years ago, a fellow journalist told him that he should write a novel based on many of his experiences while visiting some of the world’s hotspots, and the germ of “Red Dagger” began to emerge as he thought back to that time outside the Ealing police station. The Ealing police station was at that time the most secure facility in which Khaled could have been held, just ten miles from the airport where she was arrested.
“So I made the main character a Palestinian member of Red Dagger,” he explained.
Wooding described the novel's three main characters.
“The main one is a Palestinian young lady from Gaza who was raised in a Christian home, but after her parents were murdered, she was adopted by a terrorist leader and eventually joined his 'Red Dagger' terrorist movement and put together a plan to kill many of the world’s leaders at a summit in Prague. The other characters are a Northern Ireland double agent, and a drunken American journalist who had moved to London to ‘dry out,’ but his drinking in the ‘Stab in the Back’ pub got even worse. Eventually, each one of them finds redemption.”
Some of Wooding's own particular experiences made it into the book. “As I said, it was mainly the drinking days in London, but I also incorporated some background from my two visits to Gaza, and also some of the material I gathered during my many trips to Northern Ireland,” he said.
“My main aim and goal for ‘Red Dagger’ was to show that even the worst of people, who have sunk to such a level that they care little about the lives of others, and will even callously kill their 'enemies' to further their aims, can be redeemed. I have tried to 'tie together' the lives of these three main characters so that eventually they all come together to literally save the world from destruction and, through that, find their own lives are changed for good. However, not all of them live to tell their story.”
Wooding explained the book took him over ten years to complete and he found it, at times, very difficult to write and, as a journalist, he finally had to ‘let go’ and allow his imagination take over.
“I am so used to writing stories that are journalistic in nature that, while writing ‘Red Dagger’, I had to make each character ‘real’ and fill in lots of background about their often tortured lives. So I spent months checking and re-checking facts about many of the places I was writing about and also used some of my own experiences as I imagined various parts of the story.”
Wooding had the following advice for other journalists who want to write fiction books.
Wooding still hard at work. Here he is reporting from the Press Box at an LA Galaxy soccer game
Wooding added: “Fiction is so much more difficult to write for a journalist -- although I can imagine some readers may feel that some of the material served up by some of the media is 'fiction.' I would say to any budding fiction writer, take your time and polish and polish until you are finally ready to bring your novel out.”
Wooding shared that he has had some interest from producers about a possible TV or movie deal.
“I don’t have any ideas for actors who could play the main characters, but I would certainly be glad to hear from any of our readers who they would suggest could play the various roles -- once they have read the book. (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
As Wooding's longtime friend, I wondered if there is another novel in the works -- and whether I would be part of it ? Having been seriously considered as a teenager for the part of Cloistermouth in British film director David Hemmings' thriller "Unman, Witerring and Zigo," I was curious if I'd get to play the role of myself in the movie of Wooding's next novel.
“I would like to write a novel about the life of a tabloid journalist with lots of humor in it, but so far I have not taken this any further,” said Wooding, adding: “Certainly, you (Michael) could be one of the main characters!”
To purchase a copy of “Red Dagger,” go to: www.lulu.com/product/11050174?cid=060610_en_email_SUMMERREAD305 . It is also available as a file download.
If you live in the USA and would like an autographed copy of the book, just send a check for $20.00 (which includes postage) made out to Dan Wooding, and mail it to Dan Wooding, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609. Please put in the memo section of the check, “For Red Dagger.”
Note to the media: Dan Wooding is available for interviews about the book. Just e-mail your request with your contact information to him at email@example.com
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