Paul Laity reviews Worst Cases by Lee Clarke, in the London Review of Books:
If you’re feeling vulnerable in these cataclysmic times, stay clear of Lee Clarke, the Eeyore of American sociology and author of the forthcoming study of disaster, Worst Cases (Chicago, £16). ‘Doom is everywhere,’ he says, ‘catastrophes are common.’ Viruses as deadly as Ebola could circle the globe in 24 hours, ‘on the planes that don’t crash’. And ‘it’s not a question of if but of when terrorists will detonate a nuclear device.’
Bad things happen all the time, but once in a while the bad thing is so unlikely as to be almost inconceivable. In 2001 a hunter in the middle of a wood in Pennsylvania fired his gun: the bullet failed to hit a single tree, travelled through the window of a house, went through a door and a wall, and killed a woman standing in her bedroom. A few years before, on Long Island, Andres Perez, testing his new .22 rifle, pointed it into the sky and fired. A minute or so later, Christina Dellaratta, sunbathing in her backyard nearby, felt a nasty sting.
For Clarke, five hundred airline passengers are five hundred potential casualties.