'Striking Back' says 'Vengeance' botches history

Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” has sparked a subplot worthy of the Mossad itself, as “Vengeance,” the book that serves as the film’s source material, has come under fire in a new book by an author upset by the tome’s role in the movie.

After some initial uncertainty, “Vengeance,” the controversial book by Canadian journalist George Jonas, now is credited in the film as the account on which scribes Tony Kushner and Eric Roth based their screenplay.

But Random House says that book — and by extension the pic — botches the history of the targeted assassinations after Munich. It is releasing “Striking Back,” a new book by Time magazine Israel correspondent Aaron Klein, to “correct” the account.

Filmmakers “can say whatever they like, but it doesn’t change the fact that both the PLO and the Mossad think ‘Vengeance’ is bullshit,” said “Striking Back” editor Will Murphy. In what it is dubbing a “reverse tie-in,” Random House will release its book next week, several days before the movie opens, and make the controversy a cornerstone of its campaign.

Random House will attempt the tricky feat of capitalizing on general interest prompted by the Universal pic while disagreeing with the explanation of events that pic offers. Klein will appear on shows such as ABC’s “Nightline” to make his case.

A main disagreement between the two books is whether the Mossad’s assassinations of the Black September leaders that followed the 1972 Olympic attacks was an emotional reaction against the attackers, as “Vengeance” and “Munich” both assert, or whether, as Klein argues, it was also a strategic response to break up a terrorist network.

“Striking Back” was actually in the works at Random House several years ago, before Spielberg revealed he was working on the film, and wasn’t set to come out until next year. Random House rushed publication when it learned of the film’s release.

Simon & Schuster, the original publisher of “Vengeance,” is re-releasing that book to tie in with the movie and has added a reference to “Munich” on its jacket.

But Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy seemed to put some distance between film and book, saying the credit was a contractual obligation.

He also told Daily Variety the filmmakers acknowledged the controversy, and he said the reliance on the book was born of necessity. “It was really the only source material besides the news accounts. If there were other books, we’d have used those, too.”

But he added the filmmakers stand by their version. “We never set out to make a documentary,” he said. “There was literary and dramatic license. There were a lot of things in (‘Vengeance’) that aren’t in our movie.”

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