Black Sunday (novel)

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Black Sunday
First edition cover
AuthorThomas Harris
CountryUnited States
GenreCrime novel, thriller, psychological thriller
PublisherG.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
LC ClassPZ4.H3163 Bl PS3558.A656

Black Sunday is a 1975 novel by American writer Thomas Harris.[1]

The novel is a thriller about a plot by terrorists to commit mass murder during the Super Bowl in New Orleans, and law enforcement efforts to stop them. Harris wrote the novel after watching the 1972 Munich Olympics hostage crisis, where Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage and murdered them.

It was the first novel by Harris, and achieved only moderate success[1] until it was sold to Hollywood. The 1977 film adaptation was a moderate critical and financial success, and sparked interest in the novel. Black Sunday is one of the two books by Harris not to involve the serial killer Hannibal Lecter.[2] In his introduction to a new printing of the novel in 2007, Harris states that the driven, focused character of terrorist Dahlia Iyad was an inspiration for and precursor to Clarice Starling in his later Lecter novels.[3]


Michael Lander is a pilot who flies the Aldrich Blimp over NFL football games to film them for network television. He is also, secretly, deranged by years of torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a bitter court martial on his return and a failed marriage. He longs to commit suicide and to take with him as many as possible of the cheerful, carefree American civilians he sees from his blimp each weekend.

Lander conspires with Dahlia Iyad, an operative from the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, to launch a suicide attack using a bomb composed of plastique and a quarter million steel darts, housed on the underside of the gondola of the Aldrich Blimp, which they will detonate over Tulane Stadium during a Super Bowl between the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins. Dahlia and Black September, in turn, intend the attack as a wake-up call for the American people, to turn their attention and the world's to the plight of the Palestinians.

American and Israeli intelligence, led by Mossad agent David Kabakov and FBI agent Sam Corley, race to prevent the catastrophe. They piece together the path of the explosives into the country, and Dahlia's own movements.

In a spectacular conclusion, the bomb-carrying blimp is chased by helicopters as it approaches the packed stadium.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1977, a film was made based on the novel starring Robert Shaw and Bruce Dern and directed by John Frankenheimer.


  1. ^ a b Cowley, Jason. "Creator of a monstrous hit," The Observer (Nov. 18, 2006).
  2. ^ Cowley, Jason. "Profile: Thomas Harris, Creator of a monstrous hit. The Guardian, November 19, 2008.
  3. ^ Dern, Bruce and Robert Crane. Things I've Said, But Probably Shouldn't Have ... Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley, 2007. ISBN 978-0-470-10637-2, p. 155.