The Novel That Imagined a Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack

Slate's Culture Blog
April 16 2013 12:52 PM

The Novel That Imagined a Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack

heartbreakhill

According to a story in today’s Boston Globe, a 2003 Massachusetts State Police report “warned that the [Boston] Marathon could be a ‘possible prime terrorist target’ because it involves such a large number of runners and spectators, draws a live worldwide television audience, [and] coincides with the Patriots Day holiday in Boston.”

That idea didn’t just occur to state police. In 2002, a writer named Tom Lonergan published Heartbreak Hill: The Boston Marathon Thriller—a sort of Black Sunday set in the world of distance running. Here’s the synopsis from the book’s back cover:

The trouble with most terrorists is they think too small. This is the message Boston police receive days before fifteen thousand runners and two and a half million spectators descend on the city for the marathon. Even bin Laden only killed thousands. What if the target was larger? What if millions were at risk?
Sgt. Mike Quinn, Vietnam vet, homicide detective and addicted marathoner, is called in to help when domestic terrorists, looking to piggy-back onto the World Trade Center disaster, threaten a race day bloodbath. How real is the threat? On Sunday, October 28, 2001, six weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Boston Globe printed a call-to-arms by Rocky Suhayda, the chairman of the American Nazi Party: “if we were one-tenth as serious as the bin Laden terrorists, we just might start getting somewhere.”
Quinn is a divorced, forty-something year old history buff, who loves his city and its marathon. He’s run the race six times. And when marathon director Ronnie Silk is killed, Quinn is assigned to protect Raven, the red hot rock ‘n roll diva and the marathon’s first-ever celebrity entrant. Raven is a magnet for trouble. And Quinn scrambles to keep up with her during the final miles of the race while trying to flush out the maniac terrorists.
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Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

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