Dick Wolf hasn't quit his day job.
The creator of Law & Order is still in the business of making television.
But the prolific producer, whose iconic arrest-and-trial series ran for 20 years (1990-2010) and spawned several hit spinoffs, has ventured into new territory.
The Intercept, in bookstores Wednesday, is Wolf's debut as a novelist.
His book introduces Jeremy Fisk of the New York Police Department's Intelligence Division, an anti-terror unit that was formed to prevent a repeat of the 9-11 terror attacks.
The story involves an easily foiled hijacking of a commercial jet bound for New York. Fisk suspects it was too easily foiled. He is one of the few who believes the failed attempt might actually be part of a bigger and more sinister post-Osama bin Laden al-Qaida plot.
We talked with Wolf about his new literary career and about terrorism in general.
What compelled you to write a novel, why this particular novel and why at this time? Was it something you were always itching to do?
It was aspirational. I like to read thrillers. I've been a voracious reader my entire life. So yes, I have always, in the back of my mind, wanted to write a novel. The story of The Intercept had been gestating since 2001. So it seemed like the right time to get it on paper.
As you know, writing a novel is time-consuming. And as I've been very busy as a producer, it took some discipline to step back and write a story as a book, rather than a teleplay or screenplay.
What was it about this particular story that felt like it should be a novel?
In September of 2001, I was in pre-production on a five-hour miniseries called Terror for NBC. The miniseries was going to incorporate cast members from the Law & Order-branded series in a stand-alone story about terrorism in New York City.
The opening scene was an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan where 10-year-olds were being groomed to be terrorists. Then we cut to a scene where three terrorists enter the U.S. through Canada, with the intent to blow up the New York City subway and release anthrax.
Remember, this was written before Sept. 11. On Sept. 10, my location crew was trying to decide whether to scout the World Trade Center or Randall's Island. They chose the latter location. Needless to say, if they had chosen the former, there would have been a different outcome.
So the network and studio, Universal, obviously pulled the plug on the miniseries. But the idea has been gestating for a decade. And I felt the time was right to bring the story to life, as a novel.
Is The Intercept the first of many Jeremy Fisk thrillers?
The intent is that this is the first of potentially many Jeremy Fisk novels. As far as what's next, I already have some ideas for book No. 2. Hopefully, it will be out next year.
It is safe to say that it's good for me as a storyteller and bad for world peace in general that we will probably never run out of terrorist villains and terrorist stories as material.
As I've said for many years about Law & Order, people are never going to stop killing each other in unique ways.
Did you meet and/or shadow a real-life Fisk type with the NYPD's Intelligence Division for this book?
I consulted with several top NYPD investigators, none of whom wish to be named. But after working rather intimately with the department for 25 years, I obviously know some people who know some things.
So I believe the book is very accurate, yet I don't feel that anything in the book violates anyone's confidence, or our national security, in any way.
Based on your research, does al-Qaida (or any other terror group) pose a credible threat here in the States today?
John O'Neill, our technical adviser on the miniseries, was the former head of security at the World Trade Center and died in the attacks. No one can predict if the future is safe.
The only thing we know for sure is that there are evil forces of many stripes, none of whom wishes us well.
How great is the danger of breaking news making the book obsolete almost as soon as it's published?
Having been through this once, with the miniseries in 2001, nothing would surprise me. As with the Law & Order series, we would literally do a story and it would happen in real life after the episode was shot and in the can.
The line between fiction and reality has blurred, big time.