Sunday, April 02, 2006

Who is Osama bin Laden?

"Who is Osama bin Laden?" is no longer an interesting question.

Where is Osama bin Laden, and why is he still alive? Now that's an interesting two-part question.

When was Osama's first appearance in a work of fiction? Not a very interesting question, but it's the sort of thing that's easier to find out in the Internet Age than it was not that long ago.

(I remember asking the first question, back in the late 1990s, when well-informed Friend of the Blog Kurt van der Walde mentioned the terrorist. I was a little embarrassed when Kurt enlightened me, but it wasn't as if Osama was a major figure in the media back then.)

As far as I can tell, Osama's first appearance in the Washington Post was on the front page in 1996: "Saudi Islamic Radicals Target U.S., Royal Family," by Edward Cody; August 15, 1996.

The New York Times picked him up a little earlier: "Sudan Linked To Rebellion In Algeria," by Chris Hedges, December 24, 1994. Datelined Khartoum, The Sudan, the article opens:
The Sudan's Islamic Government, censured for its human rights violations and its support for various armed Islamic militant groups, is now helping Muslim fundamentalists in their effort to topple the Algerian Government, according to Western intelligence reports.
Then, thirteen paragraphs down and after more prominent mention of Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist who Sudanese officials had tried unsuccessfully to expel, came this passing mention:
Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi financier who bankrolls Islamic militant groups from Algeria to Saudi Arabia, also lives under heavy guard in Khartoum.
But when did Osama first appear in a novel?

My entry:
"Please ... Please ..." The FBI, the police, drug-lord hit men, Osama bin Laden, and probably Mossad--they were all at that very moment converging on Buddy's position.
These lines appear in John Ridley's, Everybody Smokes in Hell, published August 17, 1999.

Ridley is one of my favorite writers of contemporary noir fiction and I recommend this novel if you appreciate the genre.

Do you know of an earlier mention? Let me know (email: bolling dot binx at gmail dot com) and get your reading knowledge, or your sleuthing skills, praised here on the blog.

--Marshal Zeringue