Lawrence Wright is an author of numerous books, a screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book, The Terror Years, chronicles the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the growth of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the rise of ISIS in recent years. Wright’s fascinating and relevant lectures draw from the meticulous research of his books, exploring faith, history, and contemporary international relations.
Other books in Wright’s impressive body of work include Thirteen Days in September, a gripping day-by-day account of the 1978 Camp David Conference which appeared on numerous best books of the year list in 2014; Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, which was turned into an Emmy award-winning HBO documentary; and The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 25 languages. He is also the author of Saints & Sinners and the recently republished memoir In the New World: Growing Up with America from the Sixties to the Eighties (originally published in 1987), among other titles.
Wright is currently producing a dramatic television series for Hulu with director Alex Gibney based on his book The Looming Tower. His play Camp David, about the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace negotiations, premiered in Washington, D.C., in April 2014. In 2006, Wright’s one-man play, My Trip to al-Qaeda, premiered at The New Yorker Festival. The play enjoyed a sold-out, six-week run off-Broadway, and was made into an HBO documentary film by the same title, also directed by Alex Gibney, and won the 2008 Academy Award for Feature Documentary.
With the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright became generally acknowledged as one of our major journalists writing on terrorism in the Middle East. Here, in ten powerful pieces first published in The New Yorker, he recalls the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the recent beheadings of reporters and aid workers by ISIS.
The Terror Years draws on several articles he wrote while researching The Looming Tower, as well as many that he’s written since, following where and how al-Qaeda and its core cultlike beliefs have morphed and spread. They include a portrait of the “man behind bin Laden,” Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the tumultuous Egypt he helped spawn; an indelible impression of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of silence under the control of the religious police; the Syrian film industry, at the time compliant at the edges but already exuding a feeling of the barely masked fury that erupted into civil war; the 2006–11 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, a study in the disparate value of human lives. Other chapters examine al-Qaeda as it forms a master plan for
its future, experiences a rebellion from within the organization, and spins off a growing web of worldwide terror. The American response is covered in profiles of two FBI agents and the head of the intelligence community. The book ends with a devastating piece about the capture and slaying by ISIS of four American journalists and aid workers, and our government’s failed response.
On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, The Terror Years is at once a unifying recollection of the roots of contemporary Middle Eastern terrorism, a study of how it has grown and metastasized, and, in the scary and moving epilogue, a cautionary tale of where terrorism might take us yet.