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on 4 October 2013
I would have thought an account of being trapped inside one of the collapsed towers of the World Trade Centre would have practically written itself, but somehow Richard Picciotto and Daniel Paisner managed to annoy me far more than they enthralled. Whether this is Picciotto's fault or that of co-writer Paisner I'm unsure, but the latter should have at least brought writing ability to this project. But when certain words and phrases are re-used over and over and over again, and the writing veers from competent to poor, I'm wondering exactly what Paisner's contribution was. Why, for example, do we have have the word "bullhorn" cropping up so very often when synonyms like megaphone and loud hailer are obvious substitutes? Then there is the expression "in a beat", or "in a couple of beats": why, exactly, do we get this expression on almost every page of Last Man Down when it could have been mixed up with "in a moment", "in a second", "in a minute", etc? These are just the most blatant acts of lazy repetition.
But then we come to the subject of Picciotto's personality. Is he really this full of his own importance? Does he really look down his nose at anyone who isn't a fireman, or does it come over that way because of Paisner's lousy writing? The text may have Picciotto frequently referring to "these good people" (ad infinitum) but I got the distinct impression he doesn't like non-fireworkers very much and sees them as people who blunder around like sheep and get in his way. If Picciotto really is so obnoxious, perhaps Paisner could have reigned him in a bit. If Picciotto is actually a great guy, rather than the loose cannon we see on these pages, he ought to have brought in someone to replace Paisner for the next draught.
What ought to have been a mesmerising account of an infamous tragedy is instead a rather dreary read, punctuated with occasion insights (very occasional), poor writing, and an overriding feeling from the main author of his own self importance.