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Dick Wolf writes novel after 9/11 thwarted his miniseries

“The first 25 pages are similar teaser TV show” says Dick Wolf about novel writing. “I’m not selling it as

“The first 25 pages are similar to the teaser in a TV show,” says Dick Wolf about novel writing. “I’m not selling it as great literature, but hopefully it’s a great ride.” | Frederick M. Brown~Getty Images

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:21AM

In September 2001, TV producer Dick Wolf was weeks away from starting principal photography on a miniseries about a terrorist attack on New York City. When the Twin Towers fell, he canceled the project, but it never curbed his craving to tell a story wrapped in domestic terrorism.

Eleven years later, he’s releasing his debut novel, “The Intercept,” about a detective’s single-minded determination to thwart a New York City bombing.

The miniseries would have opened at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. “It was a class of 10-year-olds with their fists raised, saying ‘God is great’ and ‘Death to America,’” says Wolf. “The older brother of one of them is on his way to America to become a great hero” by setting off a bomb under Times Square, killing 3,500 people.

Then, 9/11 happened. “I remember talking to Barry Diller and saying, ‘Thank God we weren’t shooting this when this happened,’ and he said, ‘No, Dick, thank God it didn’t air and then this happened.’”

Wolf tells a different story in “The Intercept,” which kicks off with passengers and a flight attendant thwarting the hijacking of a commercial airliner.

New York celebrates dodging a bullet, but Jeremy Fisk, a detective in the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, has a bad feeling the hijacking may have been a diversion. Especially after a passenger disappears after deplaning. What follows is a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game.

Early reviews have been positive. Kirkus Reviews writes, “Storytelling pro Wolf knows how to ratchet up tension and sustain it until the end.” Publishers Weekly notes “the stunning plot twists, graphic violence, and frantic pace of the novel are more reminiscent of a season of ‘24.’”

“Anybody who says writing is writing, it’s not true,” says Wolf, 66, about writing a novel. “The canvasses get completely different-sized. I’ve written features, and those are sort of like big paintings, and television episodes are slightly smaller paintings, and novels are the Sistine Chapel ceiling.”

He’s learned a lot about story structure over the years. “The first 25 pages are similar to the teaser in a TV show. You do learn after 1,300 hours of television that people like certain things. I’m not selling it as great literature, but hopefully it’s a great ride. That’s what I set out to do.”

Fisk, who Wolf says is “an amalgam of a lot of people I’ve met over the years,” will be featured in another novel, to be published late next year. This time, the plot will center around narcoterrorism.

In addition to “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” in its 14th season, and this year’s debut drama “Chicago Fire,” Wolf is working on other TV projects. He’s awaiting NBC’s go-ahead on two new series: an American adaptation of the BBC miniseries “Injustice,” which starred James Purefoy as a high-powered defense attorney who kills a client, and “The Church,” about a family who discovers that the upstanding organization they belong to is really a cult.

Also in development are a project for USA about an insurance investigator and a docudrama for TNT about cracking cold cases

But right now it’s all about promoting “The Intercept.”

“You won’t be disappointed,” Wolf says.

Gannett News Service

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