Tuesday: Cathy Scott-Clark: “The Exile—The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda In Flight”

June 6

If newspaper journalism is history’s rough draft, the second draft is written by journalists too, acting as quasi-historians a few years after the fact, pumping out books like “The Exile.” British journalists Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, long-time reporters for The Guardian and the Times of London, respectively, have written several such books, exploring the 2008 siege of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, the 1995 kidnapping of hikers in a Kashmir meadow, and the fraught and bizarre relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Their latest book tells the story of bin Laden’s long holing-up after 9/11, much of it from the perspective of his entourage: four wives, countless children, deputies, and his spiritual advisor. The reporters find and interview them, as well as their hunters in Pakistan’s Inter-Intelligence Service, the CIA, and others. The result is a stunning human portrait. Osama’s first wife, Najwa, for instance, was a cosmopolitan beauty from a Syrian beach resort who, before her marriage to the evilest man on the planet, was a stand-out soccer player and fast driver—and Osama’s first cousin. As Scott-Clark writes, she “never thought she would end up in a shack in Kandahar, wearing an Afghan burqa, cooking on a ‘one-eyed camping burner’ and plugging the bullet holes in her hut with raw wool to keep out the bitter wind. ‘I never stopped praying that everything in the world would be peaceful,’ she said later, ‘and that our lives might return to normal.’” Her, and us too. 6:30 p.m. Maryland State Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, 415 Park Ave., (410) 230-2424, prattlibrary.org, free (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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