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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
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
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz