Amis flies into fresh controversy with story of 9/11 hijacker

Whether it be his teeth, his relationships or his writing, he has a seemingly endless capacity to provoke controversy.

And the fevered commentary that constantly attends the writer Martin Amis is unlikely to be diminished this autumn, given the subject matter covered in his new book.

House of Meetings, his first since the widely derided Yellow Dog two years ago, begins with a straightforward novella, the title story, a gothic love triangle involving two brothers and a Jewish girl across four decades in post-war Russia.

But in the first of two short stories that follow, Amis will once more court the kind of controversy for which he is now famed. It imagines the final movements of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker of the 11 September attacks in America.

As explained by his publisher, Jonathan Cape, the tale can be summarised like this: "Accompanied by one of the 'muscle' Saudis, Mohamed Atta drove to Portland, Maine, on 10 September 2001. Noone knows why. In 'The Last Days of Mohamed Atta', Martin Amis provides a rationale for Atta's insouciant detour, and for other lacunae in the 'planes operation'. We follow Atta on that day: from his small-hour awakening in the budget hotel room in Portland, all the way to 8:46am - and beyond."

Atta, the Egyptian whose plotting began in Germany as documented in the Channel 4 film, Hamburg Cell, was on American Airlines Flight 11 - one of the two planes commandeered and steered into the World Trade Centre in New York.

His fellow hijacker Abdul Alomari, a Saudi who had been living in America, was seated alongside him on the flight.

Although the publicity for Amis's version of events suggests no one knew why Atta went to Portland, one explanation was forthcoming in the wake of the attacks. A guide, entitled Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants, was reported to recommend that attackers should start from smaller airports - such as Portland - where security was more likely to be lax. At Boston, Atta and Alomari transferred on to the plane used to help destroy the World Trade Centre.

The final story in Amis's latest book also draws on contemporary world events. "In the Palace of the End" is narrated by one of the doubles for a Middle Eastern tyrant - clearly a figure such as Saddam Hussein or his demented son and heir, Uday.

"The double divides his day between epic torture and epic lovemaking with picked beauties - all of it filmed for the delectation of the dictator," according to the publisher's blurb.

It continues: "He also has a third obligation: he must duplicate on his person the wounds sustained by the dictator in the almost-daily attempts on his life."

Rumours have long circulated in the Middle East that Saddam Hussein, the now deposed Iraqi dictator, did, indeed, have up to four doubles, though none has ever surfaced.

The publisher said of the new work, which will be released in September: "These themes and settings may look like unfamiliar ground for Martin Amis. But in fact he is returning to his central preoccupation: the nature of masculinity, and the connections between male sexuality and violence."

Amis has previously used world events, such as the Holocaust, in his writing. The son of the novelist Kingsley Amis, he has written nine novels, two collections of stories and six collections of non-fiction.

Once feted as the voice of his generation with novels such as Money, critics and the public alike seem to have taken great delight when he has faltered since.

Yellow Dog, a satire on the post-September 11 world order, was not well received. The Times Literary Supplement said his prose had become "a nightmare of pointless periphrasis, fruity pomp and numb tautology".

But it has been his perceived personal failings which have been most discussed. He was widely mocked for spending $20,000 (£11,400) on fixing his rotting teeth but angrily rebutted claims of vanity. The work was not cosmetic, he insisted.

More damning for some were his decisions to leave his wife, Antonia, for a younger woman and to fire his literary agent, Pat Kavanagh - the wife of his friend Julian Barnes - in favour of a mercenary American, Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice