NYPD Detective Joe Leland is retired from the force and traveling to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to visit his estranged daughter, Stephanie Genarro. On his flight to LA, he stirs up a relationship with an airline stewardess named Kathi before landing. He is then picked up in a limo and taken to where Stephanie's Christmas party is, at the top floor of the Klaxon Oil Building, an enormous skyscraper downtown. After meeting Stephanie and the other executives, Joe goes to clean up. To help combat the effects of jet lag, he takes off his shoes and begins rubbing his feet, and leaves a message on Kathi's answering machine. At this time, twelve politically motivated European terrorists, led by psychotic Anton "Little Tony the Red" Gruber, arrive on the floor and take all 72 guests as hostages, including Stephanie and her children. Joe takes his Browning pistol, and slips away. Joe must then walk the fine line between taking out the terrorists, coordinating with the LAPD, and keeping himself and the hostages alive.
Primary Characters: Edit
- Joseph Leland
- Leland is an aging, retired NYPD detective on his way to Los Angeles to visit his daughter for her company Christmas party. He currently resides in New York City in a garden apartment. He is also a military veteran, having flown a fighter plane in WWII and was responsible for over 20 Nazi kills. Drawing on his experiences in the force and the military, Leland also became a security consultant. He played a roll in creating the most of the current airport and flight security protocols currently instituted by the FAA. Although retired, he still habitually carries his Browning pistol with him everywhere, using a false police badge to bring it onto his flight to LA. On board, Joe makes a connection with a stewardess named Kathi, who he talks to throughout the novel over the telephone and radio. When the building is seized by terrorists, he uses his background experience, including his foreknowledge of Anton Gruber's dossier, in an attempt to take out the terrorists and rescue the hostages. Joe refers to himself as Lucky Lindy, though it is not entirely clear where the nickname came from. Emotionally, he is depicted as a disturbed hero from his war, possibly suffering from PTSD and is further emotionally shattered due to his relationship failures. Leland struggles with the failure of his marriage and the subsequent death of his ex-wife which has exacerbated the relationship between himself and his daughter. It is implied that had a short bout of alcoholism. In Die Hard, this character is John McClane and he is portrayed by Bruce Willis.
- Stephanie "Steffie" Gennaro
- Stephanie is the only daughter of Joseph Leland and the assistant to the vice-president for international sales for Klaxon Oil. It is implied that she may be doing cocaine and sleeping with another executive named Harry Ellis. She invited her father in hopes of potentially reconciling with him and being around him for the holidays. She and her children are eventually taken hostage by Anton "Little Tony" Gruber and his team of terrorists. Near the end of the novel, Leland shoots Gruber next to a high rise window and Anton grabs her wrist as he falls through the window, causing Stephanie to fall to her death. In Die Hard, instead of the daughter being held hostage, it is McClane's wife named Holly Gennero and is portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia.
- Anton "Little Tony The Red" Gruber
- Anton Gruber is a dangerous, 30 year-old German-born, politically motivated terrorist. The son of a former SS officer and war profiteer from World War II, Anton was a well-educated child of privilege and more broadly part of a German generation which rejected the sins and possessions of their parents. Like many of them, he became caught up with fringe leftist institutions and in particular the Baader-Meinhof gang. His political motivations provide cover for his borderline sociopathic fascination with "presenting the gift of death." His murderous calling card is 'pinning a black boutonniere,' wherein he dresses up his targets and then executes them by shooting them through the lapel of their suit coat. In the novel, Gruber is intent on exposing Klaxon's illegal activities with the Junta regime in Chile, and thus leads a group of terrorists to take over the Klaxon Oil Building skyscraper. Anton is his real name but he is also known as Antonio Rojas and Little Tony the Red. In Die Hard, the character is Hans Gruber and is portrayed by the late Alan Rickman. The character in the film is loosely based on Anton and he is referenced in the film by a terrorist named Tony.
- Sergeant Al Powell
- Al Powell is a 22 year-old LAPD Sergeant that is sent to the Klaxon Oil Headquarters to check on an emergency call made by Leland and is soon thrown into radio contact with him and monitored by Anton Gruber. Al Powell tries to talk Leland into keeping calm and not to lose his cool and sees Leland as the true hero that he is. Al Powell ends up saving Leland from Karl and getting him into an ambulance. In Die Hard, he is older and is portrayed by Reginald VelJohnson.
- Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson
- Dwayne Robinson is the deputy chief of police and is sent in to take charge of the situation at hand. He automatically dislikes Leland for what he is doing and feels that he is only making things worse for the hostages. He tries to convince himself that Leland could be one of the terrorists or a nutjob but is soon on Leland's side when he finds out what Leland's been doing. Dwayne jumps in front of Joe Leland to protect him from Karl, only to be shot dead by Karl. He survives in the film adaptation, and never sides with John McClane. In Die Hard, he is portrayed by the late Paul Gleason.
- Kathi Logan
- Kathi is a 35 year-old flight attendant and a native Californian, currently based out of San Diego. She grew up on the beach and experienced a "semiliberated" lifestyle. She had gotten into a serious relationship with a boxer who was a welterweight world champion. She had enjoyed the trips to Las Vegas initially, but their relationship soured and her life "went crappo." She is an alcoholic and hit rock bottom when she ended up in Clark County Jail in Vegas. In the book, she and Leland immediately connect romantically on his flight from St. Louis to Los Angeles. They trade stories, share a kiss and she gives Joe her number. As the situation escalates at the Klaxon building, the police actually bring her to the scene at Leland's request so he can communicate with her over the radio.
- Karl is Anton's right hand man. Near the beginning of the novel, Leland kills his younger brother, Hans, and throughout the remainder of the novel, Karl wants nothing but Leland's blood. He is the last surviving terrorist and the only one Leland didn't manage to kill. He appears at the end of novel, drawing his AK-47 assault rifle in a last ditch effort to kill Leland. However, he is shot to death by Al Powell. In Die Hard, he is portrayed by the late Alexander Godunov, and is first seen killing the guards in the lobby.
- Mr. Rivers
- Mr. Rivers is a Texan, war veteran from the Pacific theater and the executive vice president of sales of Klaxon. He is roughly the same age as Joe and arranged the ride in for Leland and was the host of the Christmas party. Both Rivers and Ellis give Leland a sort of hollow, salesman vibe. Rivers is eventually taken hostage by Anton to get the safe code hoping to break into it. Unfortunately, Mr. Rivers refuses to give the code and Anton shoots him in the lapel, killing him. In Die Hard, this character is Joseph Takagi and is portrayed by the late James Shigeta.
- Harry Ellis
- Ellis is a sleazy executive in the Klaxon Oil Building who is sleeping with Stephanie Leland Gennaro and does drugs such as cocaine, which makes Joe Leland dislike him. In the middle of the novel, Ellis tries to help the terrorists and help himself by trying to talk Leland into giving himself up. When Leland refuses Ellis' proposal, Anton kills Ellis, which makes Leland feel responsible for his death. In Die Hard, Ellis is almost identical to the characterization of the novel and he is portrayed by Hart Bochner.
Secondary Characters: Edit
T.E. Johnson - Patrolman at St. Louis airport
R.A. Lopez - Security officer at St. Louis airport
Tesla (referenced only) - Drifter and alleged and convicted muderer from the previous novel 'The Detective.' Committed suicide only to later be exonerated
Teddy Leikman (referenced only) - Original victim from 'The Detective'
Billy Gibbs (referenced only) - Leland's former wingman from WWII
Karen Leland (referenced repeatedly) - Leland's ex-wife. They had a rocky relationship and eventually separated. Eventually she died. His personal/family life falling apart haunts Joe throughout the novel.
Mike - Joe's former business partner at his detective agency. He had relationship problems similar to Joe only due to his wife cheating on him. Eventually their business collapsed as well.
Joan - Mike's former wife.
Gennaro (referenced only) - Steffie's former husband and father of her children. He lives in Encino and they don't hear much from him.
Differences between the book and the movieEdit
Plot/Structural Differences Edit
- Narratively speaking, Joe's thoughts are presented as stream-of-consciousness, often crudely and abruptly transitioning between thoughts. The book is told entirely from his point of view, with his thoughts being interrupted externally by action and dialogue. Since a majority of the novel takes place in Joe's head, a number of the characters are only ever referenced in his thoughts and/or memories.
- The book begins in St. Louis, where Joe is in a taxi to catch his flight to Los Angeles. His taxi driver accidentally hits another car en route to the airport, but since Joe is running late, he continues on towards the arrivals area. The other driver threatens the taxi driver if he doesn't pull over, prompting Joe to pull out his Browning and point it ominously at the other driver. Leland's decision to pull a gun is the first of many decisions that he later questions throughout the rest of the day, and offers a glimpse into his demeanor and sometimes casually reckless attitude.
- 'The watch' that Steffie/Holly wears on her wrist is a plot point in both the book and the movie. Ellis says, "Show him the watch," in both versions, however in the book, Steffie says she bought it for herself to celebrate their success, whereas in the film Ellis is the one who bought it for her as a 'token of appreciation.'
- In the book, the skyscraper is the Klaxon Oil Building and company is the Klaxon Corporation. Klaxon is an American oil company with a diverse portfolio of holdings and developments. They are complicit in selling arms to a oppressive military dictatorship in Chile. In the film the building is Nakatomi Plaza and the company is the Nakatomi Corporation. The Nakatomi Corporation is a Japanese company which appears to in part, invest in and sell large civil engineering projects. There are no implications of the company's morally dubious wrongdoing in the film.
- In the book, the terrorists are genuinely politically motivated, and want to expose Klaxon's profiteering and illegal arms sales to a murderous military dictatorship in Chile. They want to dump the documents exposing these sales and all related monies from the vault out the window and into the public. Joe doesn't necessarily disagree with their objections and realizes that Stephanie may have been complicit with Klaxon's greed, but fights the terrorists anyway in an attempt to save her life. Joe eventually dumps the money and documents out the window himself after Stephanie's death, as he partially blames the Klaxon corporation for her death. In the movie, the villains are merely posing as terrorists to draw attention away from a theft of millions in bearer bonds.
- The terrorists in the book carry the all-purpose assault rifle, the AK-47. Leland also takes a WWII-era .45 ACP Thompson submachine gun, also known as the "Tommy Gun". In the film, the terrorists carry more contemporary, sophisticated and exotic European weapons, the Heckler & Koch MP5 and the Steyr AUG.
- In the book, in addition to setting off the fire alarms and throwing a terrorist out the window, Leland attempts to contact the authorities by sending an SOS message in Morse code by flicking the lights on and off on one of the floors of the building.
- In the book, after killing his first terrorist, before sending him down the elevators, Leland writes across his shirt, 'Now we have a machine gun.' He was attempting to mislead the remaining terrorists into believing that there were multiple people fighting back, still at-large in the building. In the film, McClane writes 'NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN HO - HO - HO' across Tony' s chest.
- In the book, the FBI is never involved in the rescue negotiations. The helicopters that are sent to the roof of the building are police choppers and a result of the further hubris of Deputy Robinson.
- The movie ends at dawn on Christmas morning. The book lasts until nearly eleven on Christmas morning.
- The book has an ambiguous ending, where Joe drifts away and thinks about flying. This could either mean that he rested, glad that it is all finally over, or succumbed to his wounds and died, and drifting away reminds him of flying. The movie has more of a happy ending.
- The movie does however make a brief nod to Nothing Lasts Forever, where John McClane is checked out by an airline stewardess. This is a reference to the larger subplot in the novel where Leland fosters a relationship with Kathi Logan.
Character Differences Edit
- While McClane had marital issues of his own, Joe's adult family life was far less stable. Joe was seemingly married to his job (perhaps as an escape) and his actual marriage ended in a divorce. Some years later, his ex-wife passed away, further stressing an already estranged relationship with his daughter Stephanie. He further laments his later struggles at relationships with other women.The book also delves further into Joe's distrubed, war-scarred psyche.
- John McClane is a young officer with a sometimes wreckless do-or-die attitude. He is forced to improvise a plan to save the hostages and take out the terrorists without knowing who they are. Joe Leland is an aging retiree who has such a vast and experienced background in security consulting procedures, that he was already familiar with the file on Anton Gruber and knew how to deal with his ilk. While he is forced to be inventive due to his environment, he is much more calculated in his demeanor.
- In the movie, Hans Gruber is a highly successful thief who has great knowledge of world politics as well as finance. He has a taste for wealth and luxury and reads Time and Forbes magazines. He is attempting to obtain the negotiable bearer bonds in the Nakatomi safe. In the book, Anton Gruber, though likewise well-educated, is a socialist and has rejected the wealth of his father, who was a former SS Nazi officer and war profiteer. In addition to exposing Klaxon's transgressions, Anton seems to sincerely enjoy murdering his targets.
- In the movie, the leading lady is Holly Generro, McClane's wife. In the book, the leading lady is Stephanie Genarro, Joe's daughter.
- In the movie the limo driver is a young African-American by the name of Argyle. He and McClane have an in-depth conversation and he becomes a main part of the plot later by ramming the ambulance in the parking garage and later driving the happy couple away. In the book, the driver's name is never mentioned, but he is a black, 70-plus-year-old, mustached man. He and Leland converse very little and he is a much smaller part of the plot. Leland even feels guilty for Stephanie hiring an old man to heft his luggage around on Christmas Eve night.
- In the movie, John McTiernan attempted to make Joe Takagi a tragic character. As Hans reads ominously through his life-history, the viewer learns that Takagi came from humble beginnings as a blue-collar immigrant. He went from an internment camp, to putting himself through elite schools, to the top of the Nakatomi Corporation. His counterpart in the novel, Mr. Rivers, is essentially an older more seasoned version of Ellis, though no less sleazy. He is also a war veteran.
- In the movie the Jack and Lucy McClane are at Holly's home, allowing them to be a plot device to further alert the viewer to Thornburg's sleaziness. In the book, the kids are Judy and Mark and are already at the Christmas party and are hostages for a period of time with the others.
In 2013, on the heels of the 25th anniversary of the release of the original film, and during the run-up to the release of A Good Day to Die Hard, Graymalkin Media issued a reprint of the novel. The reprint updated the cover of the book and added tertiary elements to it in an effort to draw in a new market for the novel. Graymalkin's David Zindel commented, "My designers and I completely modernized the book from the inside out, but stayed true to the author’s vision. We had a lot of fun adding details like using a Sharpie font for a handwritten list – an homage to the scene in 'Die Hard' where Bruce Willis writes the names of the terrorists on his arm."
Updated Synopsis: "High atop a Los Angeles skyscraper, an office Christmas party turns into a deadly cage-match between a lone New York City cop and a gang of international terrorists. Every action fan knows it could only be the explosive big-screen blockbuster Die Hard. But before Bruce Willis blew away audiences as unstoppable hero John McClane, author Roderick Thorp knocked out thriller readers with the bestseller that started it all."
Similarities between the book and the movie EditThe Graymalkin Media website includes a page with a chronological point by point comparison of similarities between the film and the novel, entitled "How Much of Nothing Lasts Forever is in Die Hard." http://graymalkin.com/how-much-of-nothing-lasts-forever-is-in-die-hard/
The list is reproduced below verbatim:
- The detective’s plane lands in Los Angeles. Page 22
- An African-American driver picks up the detective at the airport and drives him to the office building. Page 24
- The detecive arrives at the forty story office building. No other buildings are nearby. A guard at the front desk unlocks the door and lets him in. Page 31
- He takes an elevator up to the office Christmas party. Page 35
- The detective finds his daughter whose name is Ms. Gennaro with Ellis and the boss in Ellis’ lavish office. They are celebrating a big deal. Ellis tells Ms. Gennaro to show him the watch she received for the deal. The detective notices a rolled up dollar bill on Ellis’ desk. Page 37
- The detective goes to his daughter’s office to freshen up. He takes off his shoes and socks, and wriggled his toes, remembering a tip a businessman told him once. Page 43
- A truck pulls into the building. Detective is on the phone, then the line goes dead. Page 44
- The music stops. A woman screams. Detective draws his gun. Page 45
- Barefoot he runs to the staircase door. He sees the terrorists with machine guns rounding up the party-goers. Upset he can’t do more, he goes upstairs. Page 46
- The detective explores the upstairs floors. Page 47
- The main terorrist named Gruber walks through the lush executive floor which has a model of a bridge. The detective moves in for a closer look. Gruber is talking to the head of the company, then Gruber shoots the boss in cold blood. The detective gets up and runs for his life. Pages 62
- He decides to signal for help. He flashes the lights in morse code. (In the movie he activates the fire alarm.) Page 69
- One of the German terrorists arrives in the elevator to catch whoever is signaling. The German says, “We’re not going to hurt you!” Page 70
- The detective fights with the German and ultimately breaks his neck. He goes through the terrorist’s shoulder bag, takes his automatic weapon and handheld radio. Page 73
- He puts the terrorist in a chair and wheels him into the elevator. The detective climbs up onto the roof of the elevator and sends it down to the 32nd floor which has the hostages. The door opens, a woman gasps. “Now we have a machine gun” is written on the dead man’s shirt. The detective looks down and watches Gruber and another terrorist discuss the body. “Maybe a security guard we overlooked?” “We have to tell Karl his brother is dead.” Page 74
- The elevator car rushes up and the detective steps onto the catwalk. He discovers the small metal door that leads to the air conditioning shaft that drops all the way to the ground. The detective goes out to the roof. Page 76.
- The detective uses the radio on the roof. Terrorists figure out where he is and send three Germans after him. The detective runs from them, and uses the radio to call for help. “Mayday. Tell police foreign terrorists have seized the Klaxon Oil building… Many hostages…” Page 86
- Cornered, the detective is forced to go into the air conditioning shaft. Using the machine gun as a T-bar brace, he lowers himself down by a strap. “Oh god, please don’t let me fall.” He falls, but manages to get into an air vent. Page 94
- The detective kills a terrorist and throws him off the side of the building to get the cops’ attention. Page 106
- The detective kills a terrorist in the board room. She has plastic explosives and detonators, which he takes. Page 108
- “We want our equipment [meaning the detonators]… We will start shooting hostages,” says Gruber. Page 112
- Cop car rolls by outside real slow. Page 117
- The detective gets glass stuck in his foot — a trap laid by the terrorists. He is bleeding bad. There is a shoot out with a couple terrorists and he kills them. Page 118
- The detective limps to a bathroom and cleans the glass out of the wounds on his foot. He gets on the radio and chats with Al Powell, an African-American policeman. “If the person who radioed for help can hear me, acknowledge this transmission if you can.” The detective gives Al the lowdown on what’s going on. Page 122
- Police make an assault on building despite the detective’s warnings not to. Terrorists start shooting at the police. The detective takes a chair, puts the plastic explosive on it, shoves a detonator in it, piles on an electric typewriter, and ties the typewriter to the chair with the cord. Using an ax, he opens the elevator door, and rolls the chair bomb down the elevator shaft and it blows up. The building shakes. Page 128
- Backstory on Gruber — he grew up rich and privileged. Page 133
- After the explosion, Al Powell tells the detective, “They’re going to have to tear this sucker down.” Al says his people saw two terrorists in the elevator when the blast hit. Page 135
- Al Powell hands the radio to Captain Dwayne T. Robinson who gets on the radio and threatens the detective. Al Powell gets back on the radio and says, “I hear you, partner.” Page 136
- Ellis gets on the radio in front of Gruber to negotiate. “They want you to tell them where the detonators are… or they are going to kill me.” Ellis doesn’t mention his daughter, saying that the two men go way back. When the detective doesn’t give into the demands, Gruber shoots Ellis. Gruber says, “We will shoot someone else, perhaps this time a woman.” Page 139
- Dwayne T. Robinson gets on the radio and says to the detective, “You let that man die.” Page 141
- The detective surprises a terrorist. She has the jump on him, he kills her, but gets shot. (Similar in many ways to the scene in the film when Hans meets McClane face to face.) Page 148
- “Hey partner,” the detective says to Al Powell on the radio. Page 153
- Cornered up on the roof, the detective ties a firehouse around his waist. Helicopters are now flying to the roof for an assault. The terrorists fire missiles at the helicopters. The detective jumps off the roof just as the helicopters explode, and he swings into the building through the broken glass window. Page 175
- The weight of the hose starts to pull him out the window. He claws at the belt and opens it, freeing himself of the hose just in time. Page 180
- “But you can blow [a building] up from a distance with the right kind of transmitter. And if you can threaten to blow it up from a distance, you might be allowed to go on your way.” This hints at the plastic explosive used on the roof in “Die Hard.” Page 191
- Reporters interview the detective’s girlfriend on TV. Reporters are outside the building covering the story. Inspiration for Thornberg, the ruthless reporter in “Die Hard.” Page 206
- “Karl [the brother of the terrorist who got his neck broken] was a big guy with shoulder-length blond hair: he looked like a drummer in a rock and roll band.” (Good casting job for Alexander Godunov who played Karl.) Page 192
- Gruber figures out who the detective’s daughter is and gets on the radio with her. Page 208
- The detective shouts at the the hostages to go downstairs, and they leave. Page 211
- With his pistol taped to his back, the detective surrenders to Gruber. The detective quickly draws, surprising Gruber, and shoots him. Gruber goes out the window, but he’s holding onto the watch belonging to the detective’s daughter. Page 223
- The detective throws six million dollars of the company’s money out the window. This is the inspiration for all the paper we see flying through the air at the end of “Die Hard.” Page 233
- The detective gets to the street. Reporters and police swarm the detective. A door swings open and Karl shouts and fires at the detective. The detective is knocked down, and Al Powell shoots and kills Karl, saving the detective’s life. Page 242