Excerpt from The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Vortex

A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation

by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian

The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian X
The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2022, 528 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 14, 2023, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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Print Excerpt


The problem was that Hafiz avoided politics like the plague, so being a politician like his dad was out of the question. His only other real option was to pursue a desk job in the government's bureaucratic elite. Maybe he would receive an ambassadorship one day if he worked hard enough. So Hafiz spent his time between rigorous team training sessions getting his bachelor's and then master's degree in political science at the prestigious Dacca University. And now he'd reached the educational end of the line. In a few weeks, he was due to sit for the country's annual civil service exam, a test that would determine his career and the rest of his life.

Although he'd tried to study hard so that he could live up to his father's expectations, he hated the exam-prep books. Every time he reached for one of those dry four-hundred-page tomes, filled with finely printed protocols, arcane regulations, and legal theories, his hand always seemed to drift toward the pulp detective novels set in Calcutta on the shelf below instead. It was useless. But it was his path.

When Hafiz jogged back out after halftime, it was not the roar of the crowd echoing in his head but rather his father's scolding voice: "Football is not a career. You can't do this forever. Someday you are going to have to be serious." He took his place on the field, trying to ignore the sullen stares of his benched Punjabi teammates.

In the second half, the Soviets sliced through the Pakistanis with ease, scoring four unanswered goals. Pakistan's best defenders watched helplessly from the sidelines.

We weren't supposed to win anyway, Hafiz told himself as he passed through the midfield handshakes after the 5–1 loss. It was little consolation. If the Awami League hadn't gotten involved maybe the Pelé of Pakistan would have gone out on top.

Despite the loss, Hafiz's fans roared in appreciation when he took center circle for a quick wave. Tears fell down his cheeks as he soaked it all in. Barring a miracle, his boyhood dream of living in the sporting spotlight, traveling the world, and maybe even running his own football club would die when he took off his jersey.

Hafiz left the field and trudged into the locker room. Inside the cramped chamber, an army major who was the head of the Pakistani Football Federation greeted each player with a handshake and a pat on the back, consoling everyone on their hard-fought battle.

"Hafiz!" he said as his eyes landed on his intended target. "Have you thought about my offer?"

"Not here!" Hafiz whispered. The absolute last thing he wanted his football comrades to think was that he was abandoning them for this guy. The major had nagged Hafiz for two years now and wouldn't take no for an answer. It was time to set him straight once and for all. "Madhur Café, in an hour."

The major understood. He always appreciated Hafiz's dedication to discretion and patted a few more backs on his way out.

Hafiz changed into street clothes and gathered his belongings one by one. Only someone who'd lived through the feeling of those last moments in a locker room before leaving it behind forever would truly understand.

Hafiz waited for the crowd to thin, then ducked out of the stadium and headed to where he'd parked his light blue Vespa. He was proud of the small Italian scooter. It was an expensive luxury in a country where most people still had trouble scratching enough money together for their daily meal. Zooming through Dacca's lackadaisical streets gave him an odd sense of purpose. It was as if the next adventure was just a curve in the road away.

Today, Hafiz decided, he'd take the long way back to the university. He gunned the engine and expelled a bird's-egg-blue puff of two-stroke smoke behind him. The wind blew his hair back as he cruised down a riverfront that travelers from around the world once hailed as the Venice of Asia. He passed money changers, tea sellers, and hawkers offering roasted nuts and sweetmeats. Occasionally, a sharp youth caught sight of Hafiz and yelled his name, but the baby-blue scooter would be gone before they could catch him for an autograph.

Excerpted from The Vortex by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Copyright © 2022 by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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