In the world of book publishing, Joel Rosenberg is known as a franchise. Of course, in his community, he’s known for far more: humanitarian, watchman and so on.
Yet if the criterion for success is numbers of books sold, Rosenberg is a major hit. He is a rare bird in that as a Messianic Jew, and he is also a major force in mainstream media. He is regularly seen on History Channel specials that touch on biblical prophecy, and his Epicenter conferences are widely viewed.
It is in the world of writing, however, that Joel Rosenberg really shines. Gifted with the ability to write both fiction and non-fiction, he has seen his books at or near the top of numerous bestseller lists for the last few years. His specialty is Middle East issues, and as a former advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, he’s been in the cat-bird seat often.
His latest book, “The Twelfth Imam,” capitalizes on the author’s knowledge of global jihad and how that fits into the Muslim view of eschatology (yes, Muslims also believe in end-times events).
Rosenberg shot to fame with a “prophetic tale,” “The Last Jihad,” months before 9/11. For years, writers like Avi Lipkin and Steven Emerson had been sounding the alarm about radical Islam, especially the various imams in the U.S. spewing their message of hate. No one had put it together in a fictional package, however, until Rosenberg. The result is a very entertaining read wrapped in an informational package.
“The Twelfth Imam” weaves international intrigue with the movements of CIA operative David Shirazi – whose family had fled Iran during the 1979 revolution. A native Farsi speaker, Shirazi is well-placed to infiltrate the regime and work to disrupt its nuclear program (although one must admit that evildoers have been portrayed for years in movies as ultimate dopes who allow “newcomers” into the inner circle).
Rosenberg puts his considerable communications skills to good use in producing this pulsating thriller. Frankly, Rosenberg’s sophisticated, international experience makes “The Twelfth Imam” (and his previous thrillers) quite realistic, and that’s refreshing when one considers that other fiction writers often rely on research that, while good, is second-hand. Rosenberg has been in exotic places, and dangerous places and his writing reflects that.
It should be noted too that while “The Twelfth Imam” will resonate most with conservative Christians, Rosenberg’s writing is top-drawer and will be appealing to a wide-ranging audience, regardless of religious (or non-religious) conviction. Simply put, this latest novel is outrageously entertaining.
A key plot point in “The Twelfth Imam” is the emergence of a mysterious religious cleric in Iran, one whose miraculous healings and other signs and wonders develop messianic fever among the Islamic true believers to a fever pitch. With the Israeli prime minister and American president duplicating their real-life roles (urging the stoppage of Iran’s nuclear program and urging negotiations, respectively), the insertion of the messianic cleric adds considerable fuel to the fire.
Again, Rosenberg’s sophistication and experience in Middle East countries caps “The Twelfth Imam” with quality, both in terms of plot and dialogue. For example, Chapter 24 opens in Baghdad, Iraq, in the winter of 2002, a full year before the American invasion. Yet Rosenberg, who has actually been in Iraq, weaves a section of dialogue that captures realistic Iraqi names with “the central reading room of the University of Baghdad library.”
Rosenberg also displays a real understanding of the conditions that would need to exist for Islam to truly pose a conquering challenge to Western civilization: the unification of the Sunnis and Shia, whose internecine conflicts have prevented Islamic scholars from imagining a scenario in which followers of the Prophet and Allah could truly unite to take over the world.
This type of realism will be appreciated by fans of the genre, many of whom tolerate insufferably bad character names and implausible plot points.
As “The Twelfth Imam” reaches a sweaty-palm conclusion – and American and Israeli spy operatives learn of a nuclear test in Iran – readers will also understand that Rosenberg is weaving in an understanding of apocalyptic teaching among various religions. That he manages to pull that off against the backdrop of the ultimate game of brinksmanship is a testament to his considerable abilities.