His last novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, was hailed as "a relentlessly crackling mystery and adventure tale" (The Baltimore Sun) and "a new standard for war-based thrillers" (Los Angeles Times). In this electrifying new thriller, Dan Fesperman takes us to present-day Afghanistan-the global capital of death long before it became a battleground for America-where the fates of an American journalist and a Pakistani translator become dangerously intertwined with the fortunes of warlords, spies, and dubious corporate interests.
A burned-out war correspondent hoping for a last hurrah in Afghanistan, Skelly arrives on the Afghan border just as American bombs begin falling on the ruling Taliban. Seeking the scoop of a lifetime as witness to the capture of "the biggest fish of them all," he links up with an exiled warlord's quixotic expedition. Guiding Skelly's way is Najeeb, a tribal Pakistani with his own objective-U.S. visas for his girlfriend and himself, promised by Pakistani intelligence if he acts as an informant.
A harrowing crossing into Afghanistan is only the beginning of trouble for the two men. Their journey quickly escalates into a race for their lives as they are pulled into a vortex of intrigue, betrayal, and violence. Finally, only their loyalty to each other holds out the possibility of survival for either of them.
Fast-paced, timely, and galvanizing from first to last.
Fesperman, author of Small Boat of Great Sorrows, a critically acclaimed espionage thriller set in Bosnia, now turns his sights on war-zone journalism in this chilling, timely novel. Newspaper reporter Skelly (aka Stan Kelly) is a former hotshot war correspondent, now a burned-out hack covering town meetings for a Midwestern daily. Five weeks after 9/11 he is given a chance--his last chance to get back in the game, he believes--to cover the war on terror, the Taliban and Afghanistan. In Peshawar, Skelly hires Najeeb, a bright fixer who speaks English and mountain dialects. What Skelly doesn't realize is that Najeeb is an outcast from his tribal clan and an unwilling informer for the Pakistani secret police; Najeeb is also involved in a dangerous, illicit affair with Daliya, who's being punished by her family for resisting an arranged marriage. Battling the pollution and bureaucratic corruption of Peshawar, Skelly and Najeeb try to find a way into Afghanistan. They finally manage to join a warlord's entourage, but just before they leave, Daliya goes missing. Forging ahead, Skelly and Najeeb develop an enduring friendship, tested by their harrowing journey into Afghanistan. Capture, escape and shocking revelations finally save one man and condemn the other in this gripping portrayal of shameless media frenzy and hopeless geopolitical gamesmanship.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
September 19, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Warlord's Son by Dan Fesperman
It seeps--an egg-white smear that brightens the eastern horizon behind a veil of smoke, exhaust and dust. The smoke rises from burning wood, cow patties and old tires, meager flames of commerce for kebab shops and bakers, metalsmiths and brick kilns. The worst of the exhaust sputters from buzzing blue swarms of motor rickshaws, three-wheeled terrors that careen between horse carts and overloaded buses.
But it was the dust that Najeeb Azam knew best. Like him, it had swirled down from the arid lands of the Khyber and never settled, prowling restlessly in the streets and bazaars as if awaiting a fresh breeze to carry it to some farther, better destination.
In the morning it coated his pillow, a faint powder flecked with soot. In the evening he wiped it from his face and coughed cinders into a handkerchief, never quite able to flush it from either pores or lungs. Wherever he traveled it went along for the ride, a parasite, a little gift from his adopted home. He was respectful of its mysterious cloaking powers, because things had a way of disappearing in Peshawar--people, ideas, entire political movements. They would be loud and noticeable one day, only to vanish without a trace the next, and with each new day someone or something else always seemed to have gone missing.
A Peshawar dawn nonetheless had its charms, and Najeeb liked to rise early to savor them. So, on a warm morning in mid-October he stood in the darkness of his small kitchen a half hour before sunrise, brewing tea while listening to Mansour's horse cart leaving for the bazaar. He knew without looking that the old man stood like a charioteer on a narrow wooden flatbed, reins in hand, pomegranates and tomatoes piled behind him, the baggy folds of his shalwar kameez flowing ghostlike in the pale light. The lonely clip-clop was soothing, yet also a sort of warning, like the ticking of a bomb. It was part of Peshawar's daily countdown to chaos. Soon enough the narrow streets would explode with vehicles, animals and people, beggars and merchants elbow to elbow as both cried out for rupees.
The loudspeaker of a nearby mosque crackled to life. Najeeb strolled to the living room, setting his teacup on a shelf and kneeling, lowering his forehead to the rug in prayer. This, too, was a ritual of tranquillity, yet it never seemed quite peaceful enough here.
In the tribal lands of his boyhood the muezzin's cry had been a solitary call, haunting and lovely. He used to pretend the message was for him alone, and to Najeeb there was still no grander expression of power than the words Allahu akbar, "God is great," when carried on a morning breeze across empty countryside. But in Peshawar there were more muezzins than he could count, and their calls became an unruly conversation--one voice trumping another in a war above the rooftops. Cats yowling over turf. Or perhaps Najeeb was turning into an infidel, a worldly backslider. A Kafir, as his father's Pashtun tribesmen would have said. Life never seemed half so holy now as it once had, and in a country where not only a man's calling but also his marriage was generally set in stone by age eighteen, Najeeb was still a work in progress at twenty-seven.
As a boy he'd roamed a wonderland of extremes, a rural princeling at play among bearded, turbaned men with rifles slung on their backs, all of whom owed their allegiance to his father. After breakfast he might sprint barefoot through the dew of waist-high poppies, dodging marauding boys from the village with slingshots round their necks. As the sun climbed higher he sought the refuge of high defiles to watch smuggler parades of camels and horses, teatime caravans swaying and clanking through the passes. Then, off to bed on the verandah of his father's hujera, the men's guest house, where he gazed up at stars so icy bright that it seemed they might pierce his skull. Pleasantly weary, he stretched out on a rope bed, eavesdropping on his father's guests and supplicants --smoky, piratical gatherings in the hujera's great room, with hubble-bubble hookahs and high-caliber bandoleers, lulling him to sleep with the streamside murmur of their mutter and growl, and the whine and hum of their radio, beaming news from the great beyond. Occasionally a burst of laughter or an angry shout shouldered into his dreams, but by morning there were only him and the muezzin beneath another clear sky.
Yet that world also had its special cloaking magic. It was a place where he learned quickly to conceal his thoughts and dreams, and from his earliest years Najeeb's elders taught him to hold in his emotions, sheathing them like a weapon.
At the age of eighteen he abruptly left that world behind, dispatched across the seas to a university in the United States. It was his father's idea, a vain stab at worldliness to impress a few haughty ministers in the government corridors of Islamabad. Najeeb went reluctantly, and for months he held himself sternly under wraps, bookish and brooding through a North Carolina winter amid airless dreams of home.