Excerpt from Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Father of Lions

One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo

by Louise Callaghan

Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan X
Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 400 pages

    Jan 2021, 416 pages


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Print Excerpt

Soon, he began to wonder whether they'd just forgotten about him. The cars were still honking, and the air pressed even hotter. He chanced a look behind him. The soldiers were standing around the line of cars, looking through their windows and occasionally opening the boot and checking underneath the chassis with a mirror. No one was looking at him.

He turned back to face the wall. The soldiers were impossible to talk to. He would have to wait.

As the minutes passed, he sank into a heat-struck fog. This was worse than the usual treatment: being screamed at and called a son of a bitch by the soldiers.


Someone shouted his name from across the road. Keeping his hands on the wall, he turned around. His cousin Mustafa was standing opposite the stream of cars snaking in both directions, looking extremely confused.

Mustafa was a student about a year younger than him, pale-faced and cheerful. They'd planned to go to the gym together that afternoon. He seemed to ignore the group of armed men imprisoning his cousin. Cutting through the swathe of traffic, he ran up to Hakam.

'What is going on?' he asked, as much to his cousin as to the soldiers.

The men looked up and sauntered over. Mustafa handed over his ID card, and the young men stood together, staring at the soldiers.

'So you know this guy?' one of the soldiers asked, sounding extremely bored.

'Yes,' Mustafa pleaded. 'He's my cousin. He lives just down the road.'

The soldier mulled things over for a moment. 'Fine,' he said. 'You can go.'

A few minutes later, Hakam was back on his bike, shaking like a tuning fork as Mustafa followed him away from the checkpoint. He'd been there for almost half an hour.

'Screw this,' he thought, cycling towards the gym.

Excerpted from Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Copyright © 2020 by Louise Callaghan. Excerpted by permission of Forge Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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