Nothing Lasts Forever (Thorp novel)

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Nothing Lasts Forever
Thorpe - Nothing lasts forever.jpg
AuthorRoderick Thorp
CountryUnited States
GenreThriller novel
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
LC ClassPZ4.T55 No 1979 PS3570.H67
Preceded byThe Detective 

Nothing Lasts Forever is a 1979 American action thriller novel by Roderick Thorp, a sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective. The novel is mostly known through its 1988 film adaptation, Die Hard. In 2012, the book was brought back into print and released as an ebook for the 25th anniversary of the film.


Retired New York Police detective Joe Leland is visiting the 40-story office headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, where his daughter Stephanie Leland Gennaro works. While he is waiting for his daughter's Christmas party to end, a group of German Autumn–era terrorists take over the skyscraper. The gang is led by the brutal Anton "Little Tony the Red" Gruber. Joe had known about Gruber through a counter-terrorism conference he had attended years prior. Barefoot, Leland slips away and manages to remain undetected in the gigantic office complex. Aided outside only by Los Angeles Police sergeant Al Powell and armed with only his police-issue pistol, Leland fights off the terrorists one by one in an attempt to save the 74 hostages, and his daughter and grandchildren.

The terrorists plan to steal documents that will publicly expose the Klaxon corporation's dealings with Chile's junta. They also intend to deprive Klaxon of the proceeds of the corrupt deal by dumping $6,000,000 in cash out of the tower's windows. Leland not only believes their claims, but also that his daughter is involved.

Leland kills eleven of the terrorists, but in the end he fails to save his daughter, who falls to her death with Gruber after he was shot by Leland. Blaming Klaxon for the terrorist attack, Leland throws the cash out of the window himself. As Leland is leaving the building, the last terrorist Karl, who was presumed dead earlier, returns and starts a shooting rampage, killing the police chief Dwayne Robinson in the process, before Powell finally kills him. Thus Leland is left bitter and broken from the night's events.


A Browning Hi-Power pistol, the main sidearm of Joe Leland
  • Joseph Leland - an aging, retired New York Police detective on his way to Los Angeles to visit his daughter for a Christmas party hosted by her boss, Mr. Rivers. Although retired, he still habitually carries his Browning Hi-Power pistol with him everywhere, paranoically carrying it onto planes by using his old badge in fear of a terrorist attack. On the plane, Leland begins a relationship with a stewardess named Kathy, who he talks to throughout the novel over the phone. Leland is still somewhat depressed that his wife had left him and then died eight years later, and the relationship between him and his daughter is strained. He hopes that this visit will help the relationship, but when the building is taken over, he uses his experience with terrorists to kill them all and save the hostages. He is depicted as a disturbed hero from his Second World War fighter pilot days, and it is hinted that if he never got involved, fewer people might have been killed. In Die Hard, he is significantly younger, renamed John McClane, and portrayed by Bruce Willis.
  • Stephanie Gennaro - the only daughter of Joseph Leland and an important executive to the Klaxon Oil building. She is sleeping with another executive named Harry Ellis. She invited her father to the party in the hope of seeing him and wishing him a Merry Christmas, but she soon falls hostage to Anton "Little Tony" Gruber and must believe that her father can do the impossible. The book ends with Stephanie falling to her death after Leland shoots Gruber next to a high rise window and he grabs her as he falls through the window. In Die Hard, instead of the daughter being held hostage, it is McClane's wife named Holly Gennero and portrayed by Bonnie Bedelia. Also, the movie ends instead with Gruber attempting to do the same to Holly only to fail due to McClane's intervention.
  • Anton "Little Tony The Red" Gruber - of German heritage, is the leader of the terrorists who have taken over the Klaxon Oil Building, and one of the few who can speak English. Gruber is his real name but people (including Leland) often refer to him as "Little Tony" or "Tony" as a nickname. Gruber is a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to complete his goal, no matter whom he has to kill. In the end, Leland shoots Gruber multiple times, until he falls out a window. Gruber grabs Stephanie, however, and both fall to their deaths. In Die Hard, his name is Hans Gruber and he is portrayed by Alan Rickman.
  • Al Powell - a 22-year-old Los Angeles Police sergeant who 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 Gruber. Powell tries to talk Leland into keeping calm and not to lose his cool and sees Leland as the true hero that he is. 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.
  • Dwayne Robinson - 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 lunatic but is soon on Leland's side when he finds out what Leland's been doing. Robinson is killed when he takes a bullet meant for Leland, during Karl's final attempt at revenge. In Die Hard, he is portrayed by Paul Gleason and is not killed, maintaining his 'stuffed suit' demeanor and dislike for McClane throughout.
  • Karl - 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, having been thought dead by Leland, drawing his rifle in a last-ditch effort to kill Leland, but is shot dead by Al Powell. In Die Hard, he is portrayed by Alexander Godunov, and is first seen killing the guards in the lobby.
  • Mr. Rivers - the president of the Klaxon Oil Building, he hosted the Christmas party and arranged the ride in for Leland. Rivers is soon disliked by Leland and is taken hostage by Gruber to get the safe code in order to get the millions of dollars in the safe. Unfortunately, Rivers refuses to give the code and Gruber shoots him in the lapel, killing him. In Die Hard, Rivers' name is Joseph Takagi and is portrayed by James Shigeta. Hans executes him by shooting him in the head.
  • Harry Ellis - a sleazy executive in the Klaxon Oil Building who is sleeping with Stephanie Leland Gennaro and does drugs such as cocaine, which makes 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's proposal, Gruber kills Ellis, which makes Leland feel responsible for his death. In Die Hard, Ellis is portrayed by Hart Bochner and has no relationship with Holly, despite making clumsy efforts to flirt with her.

Background and film adaptation[edit]

In 1975, author Roderick Thorp saw the film The Towering Inferno, which is about a skyscraper that catches on fire. After seeing the film, Thorp fell asleep and had a dream of seeing a man being chased through a skyscraper by men with guns. He woke up and later took that idea and turned it into The Detective sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever.

Roderick Thorp decided for the book to be a sequel to The Detective so it could be made into a follow-up film starring Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland. But when Sinatra declined the role, it was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and a number of other actors until Bruce Willis signed on for the role.[1]

The film does not follow the source material closely. Some of its memorable scenes, characters, and dialogue are taken directly from the novel. But the story was altered to be a stand-alone film with no connections to Thorp's novel The Detective. Other changes included the older hero of the novel becoming younger, his name changed from Joe Leland to John McClane, his daughter becoming his wife, and the American Klaxon Oil Corporation becoming the Japanese Nakatomi Corporation. The "terrorists" are actually professional thieves that are after $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds kept in the building's vault and are posing as terrorists to draw attention away from the robbery. In the film, they are also not only German, but of varying ethnicities, although most remain European. The tone of the novel is far darker with underlying themes of guilt, alcoholism and the complexity of the disturbed human mind. The novel also features women among the terrorists. The ending of the novel is also different from the film in that it suggests that Joe could possibly succumb to his wounds and die.

Some of the most famous action sequences from the film are taken from the book:

  • McClane crawling through HVAC ducts.
  • McClane dropping a C-4 bomb down an elevator shaft.
  • McClane jumping off an exploding roof with a fire hose attached to his waist and then shooting through a window to gain re-entry.
  • McClane taping his gun to his back at the climax.

Similarly, Willis explained in a 1988 interview with KXAS-TV's entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant that he acted out McClane with enough fear, anxiety, and vulnerability to make audiences believe that he could indeed possibly be killed because of what happened in the story, as Joseph Leland could possibly have died of his injuries in the book.[2]


The Los Angeles Times called Nothing Lasts Forever "a ferocious, bloody, raging book so single-mindedly brilliant in concept and execution it should be read at a single sitting."[3]


  1. ^ "'Die Hard': How Bruce Willis Changed the Movies". The Daily Beast Archive. 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  2. ^ "Classic Interview: Bruce Willis for "Die Hard" 1988". The Bobbie Wygant Archive. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  3. ^ "The 25th Anniversary of 'Die Hard' – How John McClane Changed Action Movies (and Us) Forever". ScreenCrush. Retrieved 2018-12-13.