High atop a Los Angeles skyscraper, an office Christmas party turns into a deadly cage-match between a lone New York City cop and a gang of international terrorists. Every action fan knows it could only be the explosive big-screen blockbuster Die Hard. But before Bruce Willis blew away audiences as unstoppable hero John McClane, author Roderick Thorp knocked out thriller readers with the bestseller that started it all.
Title: Nothing Lasts Forever | Author: Roderick Thorp | Publisher: Graymalkin Media | Pages: 245 | ISBN: 9781935169185 | Publication date: 1979 | Source: self-purchased
As good as it is (and it is good), ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is one of those books that would probably have vanished from the shelves completely if it hadn’t been made into a blockbuster movie. It was written in 1979 and is the sequel to a 1966 book called ‘The Detective’ (which itself was filmed with Frank Sinatra). In 1988 it was filmed as ‘Die Hard’. Yep, that’s right, ‘Die Hard’ is based on a book and is the sequel to a Sinatra movie. I first came across a copy of the novel in my local library in the late 80s/early 90s, thought I’d give it a try because I liked the movie (who doesn’t?) and was surprised to find something which is very similar to the film in many ways but also quite different.
Rereading it with a few more years under my belt I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did first time around, but it’s still a gripping read. If you’ve seen the movie you know the plot (and if you haven’t, go watch the movie!). A New York cop travels to LA to visit his ex-wife at the Christmas party in the office where she works. The office is taken over by terrorists and the cop fights back, taking them down one by one. The plot in the book is pretty much identical for the first three quarters at least, and many of the incidents are exactly the same. We get the desperate lift shaft climb, the bloody feet, the dead terrorist with the “now I have a machine gun” sign around his neck, and a whole a load more.
Some key details are different though. The hero is Joe Leland not John McClane and he’s a lot older, a veteran of WW2 who is visiting his daughter rather than his ex-wife. He’s also a security consultant rather than a cop, and therefore has inside knowledge on the terrorists. The main difference though is the tone. ‘Die Hard’ the movie, as gripping and violent as it is, is also light-hearded and fun. Bruce Willis famously cracks wise as he takes down the bad guys. By contrast, Joe Leland is an angry man and the ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is an angry book.
The age of the character plays a large part in this, as does the 70s origins of the book. Leland harks back to his glory days as a pilot in the war and it feels like the world has got away from him in the decades that has passed since then. Like Clint Eastwood in ‘Dirty Harry’ or the hero of Brian Garfield’s ‘Death Wish’ he is a man who is bitter that the world isn’t what he expected it would be. The terrorists in the book are all Europeans, as in the film, but here they are repeatedly described as naïve youngsters trying to make a better world without having a clue about how the world actually works. Leland feels like a man who is trying to save his way of life, not just his nearest and dearest, and that desperation comes across again and again as he ruthlessly dispatched the baby-faced villains.
That reactionary anger gives the book an entirely different feel to the movie. It’s just as tense and action-packed, but it’s far darker and ultimately quite depressing. Thorp is an accomplished thriller writer and the book moves at lightning speed, with sparse prose to match. That makes for a gripping quick read, but don’t go into it expecting anything life affirming. It is, in fact, just as bleak as the title suggests.