The spellbinding story of an American lawyer who takes on a nearly impossible case--the defense of an African freedom fighter against his corrupt government's charge of murder
Damon Pierce's life has just reached a defining moment: a gifted California lawyer, he's being divorced by his wife and his work often seems soulless. Then he receives a frantic e-mail from Marissa Brand Okari--a woman he loved years ago--and decides to risk everything to respond to her plea for help.
Marissa's husband, Bobby Okari, is the charismatic leader of a freedom movement in the volatile west African nation of Luandia, which is being torn apart by the world's craving for its vast supply of oil. Bobby's outspoken opposition to the exploitation of his homeland by PetroGlobal--a giant American oil company with close ties to Luandia's brutal government--has enraged General Savior Karama, the country's autocratic ruler. After Bobby leads a protest rally during a full eclipse of the sun, everyone in his home village is massacred by government troops. And now Bobby has been arrested and charged with the murder of three PetroGlobal workers. Still drawn to Marissa, Pierce agrees to defend Bobby, hoping to save both Bobby and Marissa from almost certain death. But the lethal politics of Luandia may cost Pierce his life instead.
Culminating in a dramatic show trial and a desperate race against time, Eclipse combines a thrilling narrative with a vivid look at the human cost of the global lust for oil. Here is Richard North Patterson at his compelling best, confirming his place as our most provocative author of popular fiction.
This stellar legal thriller from bestseller Patterson (Exile) both informs and entertains. On the eve of getting a divorce, Damon Pierce, a 40-year-old partner in a huge San Francisco, Calif., law firm, who specializes in international litigation, e-mails Marissa Brand, a woman he was once in love with in college, to update her on his life. Marissa is married to Bobby Okari, a firebrand reformer whose Nigeria-like country, Luandia, is awash in oil. With these riches come the usual scenarios: ecological disasters, a brutal dictator with murderous henchmen, a rapacious foreign oil company and an oppressed populace. After everyone in Okari's village is slaughtered, Bobby is arrested for the lynching of three oil workers. Damon, because he's a good man and because he's still in love with Marissa, signs on to defend Bobby from the bogus charge. Patterson has exerted all his considerable skill in creating a nightmare atmosphere that will cling to readers long after the last page is turned. Author tour. (Jan.)
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Henry Holt and Co.
January 05, 2009
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Excerpt from Eclipse by Richard North Patterson
The Devil's Light
In a West African village, Marissa Brand Okari watched her husband prepare to risk his life for the act of speaking out.
It was night. Hundreds of villagers, old and young, gathered in the center of town, their faces illuminated less by moonlight than by the huge orange flame that spewed out of the vertical stem thrusting from an oil pipeline. Torchlike, the stem backlit the line of palms behind the village, its thick residue of smoke blackening the air, its roar a constant ominous presence. Every day in the life of any villager under thirty, this terrible eruption--the flaring of gas from the oil extracted by PetroGlobal Luandia from beneath the deep- red clay--had never ceased, its searing, poisonous heat denuding trees, killing birds and animals, and turning the rainfall to acid, which corroded the roofs that sheltered the people's thatched homes.
The "devil's light," Bobby Okari called it. Now his people, the Asari, bore him on their shoulders to a rough- hewn platform at the center of the village, past the open- air school, its four poles holding up a canopy of wood and palm leaves; the white wooden Pentecostal church, where boisterous celebrants sang and prayed each Sunday morning; the marketplace, now dark for the night, where women peddled an ever- dwindling harvest of fish and fruit, the legacy of oil spills that fouled the oceans, creeks, and farmland.
To Marissa's anxious eyes, her husband looked elated, as though the festive scene that typified Asari Day, the annual expression of Asari heritage and harmony, carried no undercurrent of fear. The young men around him, Bobby's core cadre of followers, held him higher, his burgundy African shirt resplendent, his reading glasses hanging from a gold chain around his neck. On this Asari Day, as ever, the villagers had gathered here at dawn for the singing, drumming, and dancing by groups of girls and women in bright dresses, their celebration pulsing from morning to night. But this Asari Day was different: at Bobby Okari's urging, in every village in Asariland, people had come together--three hundred thousand Asari in all--to protest the devastation caused by the partnership between PetroGlobal Luandia and the regime of General Savior Karama, which, in Bobby's pungent phrase, "drills and kills without remorse."
This village, Goro, was Bobby's ancestral home. His father, Femi Okari, was its chief; though Bobby's fame as a novelist, and then as a spokesman for his people, had taken him to many lands, he still kept a home here to maintain his tribal roots. On this day, Bobby and Marissa had driven here from their compound in Port George, and his followers sang or chanted or beat their sheepskin drums to announce his advent. Now, as the young men thrust him atop the platform, the throng pressed forward to hear him--some men in shirts and pants, others, mostly elders, in the traditional round cap and long robes; the women adorned in head scarves, earrings, and beads set off against bright blouses, the young women's dresses single- wrapped in contrast to the double wrapping of the matrons. As suitable for a married woman, Marissa, a matron at thirty- six despite her slim body and lineless skin, wore a double wrapping, in contrast to Omo, the fifteen- year- old girl whose hand she held and whose beautiful eyes shone with adoration for Bobby Okari.
"Ma'am," Omo said simply, "your husband is a great man."
Looking into the girl's face, still so innocent, Marissa tried to quell the sense of danger she had felt ever since Bobby had conceived this, the first mass protest in the history of Asariland. In its place came a fleeting amazement at the choices that had brought her, an American of mixed race, to this life and this man; to this astonishing and deeply accursed country; and to the Asari, a mere half million people among Luandia's two hundred and fifty ethnic groups and two hundred and fifty million citizens, whose perverse blessing was that beneath their land lay the richest oil reserves in one of the world's most oil- rich regions, the Luandian Delta. Until Bobby Okari, the Asari had endured the consequences in silence, robbed of heart and hope. But now Bobby, through his eloquence and relentless work, had summoned a grassroots movement, offering the restless young a vision beyond that of the armed militia groups that hid in the swamps and creeks that made the delta a trackless maze. It was Bobby's strength--or blindness--that his belief in the movement he had summoned from nothing overcame his fear of an autocracy whose leader, General Karama, caused those who displeased him to die or disappear.