Most definitely is not fiction. I found out the hard way last (Memorial Day) weekend that the water pump on my 2002 M Coupe had decided to go. All at once, I hear the most ungodly screeching/clunking/gurgling sound, the battery light goes on, power steering dies, and smoke/steam come shooting out from under the hood--all in the middle of downtown San Francisco traffic.
When I finally got pulled over and opened up the hood, it looked like a bomb had gone off in there. Shards of fan blades, cut hoses, dangling belts, and fluid streaming out from under the car....This being a Saturday on a 3-day weekend, all the mechanics were closed, so I ended up waiting nearly a week to get everything fixed up and it ended up costing nearly $2000. Grrrrrrr.....