The Arab millionaire is charming but determined. He has made a bet to persuade four young Christian women from four different Western countries to become his wives simultaneously in accordance with the Islamic law that allows polygamy. The girls are American, British, French and German.
The man making the collective proposal is Salem Bin Laden, eldest brother of the better-known Usama, the al Qaeda terror mastermind. The girls are not streetwalkers or run-of-the-mill gold diggers. They come from "good families." One is even a trained medical doctor.
And yet: None reject the offer.
After all, the Saudi suitor is offering luxury villas, jewels, and expensive cars. Having won his bet, Salem dismisses the girls. He has proved that, provided you have money, you can buy anyone and anything in the West.
Steve Coll's marvelous new book, "The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century," which relates the episode, is presented as a collective biography of the infamous family, some 50 or so sisters and brothers begotten by a single illiterate, poor, one-eyed Yemeni bricklayer, later a Saudi millionaire, from his numerous wives and concubines.
But the book is something more. After all, the Bin Ladens are typical of rags-to-riches families living lives that resemble television soap operas. Their passion for fast cars, yachts, horses, private jets, jewels, trendy seaside resorts, glamorous escorts and trophy wives would not have justified an entire volume.