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Reviews of The Warlord's Son by Dan Fesperman

The Warlord's Son

A Novel

by Dan Fesperman

The Warlord's Son by Dan Fesperman X
The Warlord's Son by Dan Fesperman
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2005, 336 pages

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Book Summary

A burned-out war correspondent hoping for a last hurrah in Afghanistan arrives on the Afghan border just as American bombs begin falling on the ruling Taliban in this fast-paced, timely, and galvanizing novel.

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.

Chapter One

The sun does not rise in Peshawar.

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 ...

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Reviews

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This is Dan Fesperman's third book, following the generally well received novels, Lie in the Dark (2000) and The Small Boat of Sorrows (2003), both set in the former Yugoslavia - Fesperman, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, worked in its Berlin bureau during the years of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Afghanistan.  

In The Warlord's Son, Fesperman turns his attention to Afghanistan.  Stan Kelly, known in the business as Skelly, used to be an ace war correspondent but in recent years has been reduced to covering local news for a Midwestern daily; that is until a few weeks after 9/11 to cover the 'war on terror' from Afghanistan.  Shortly after arriving in Parkistan he hires Najeeb, an English speaking Afgan 'fixer' (a fixer being the necessary human ingredient that enables a foreign journalist who doesn't speak the language, know the people or the customs, to have any chance of reporting on any issue larger than his hotel room). However, Najeeb has a complicated life of his own - he's an outcast from his own clan, involved in an illicit affair and an informer to boot, albeit unwilling.  

Together they make the harrowing journey into Afghanistan and manage to join up with a local warlord, but soon their newly formed friendship is put to the test...continued

Full Review (364 words)

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Media Reviews

Baltimore Sun
Compelling . . . I knew I could not sleep until finishing it.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A thrilling odyssey into Afghanistan during the waning days of Taliban rule . . . a kind of post-modern Heart of Darkness.

Entertainment Weekly
A first-rate geopolitical yarn . . . Fesperman combines his strong eye for detail with bleak film-noir cynicism, managing to make plot twists that could have felt contrived seem depressingly believable.

Patrick Anderson - The Washington Post
The Warlord's Son offers a brilliant picture of what might be called the journalistic condition -- specifically, the joys, absurdities and horrors of the foreign correspondent's life -- and it will teach you more than you ever expected to know about tribesmen for whom violence is a given and betrayal is an art … [it} deserves the attention of anyone who is open to first-rate fiction about war, journalism and the dark, dangerous worlds called Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sunday Telegraph
A new book by Dan Fesperman is becoming a major literary event . . . Fesperman's experience as a war correspondent, together with his powers of description and characterization, produce an utterly compelling thriller and quite simply the best I've read all year.

The Economist
In The Warlord's Son, Dan Fesperman, an American foreign correspondent who covered the war in Afghanistan, succeeds in writing a convincing, accurate thriller . . . This book is worth reading if only for the passage where the hero, Skelly, glimpses Osama bin Laden at a public hanging; the scene both convinces and frightens.

Kirkus Reviews
Bleak and gritty, but thoroughly believable, especially the reporting scenes.

Library Journal - Jane Jorgenson
Caught up in events that are both monumental and intensely personal, reporter Stan Skelly Kelly and his fixer, Najeeb, cross from Pakistan into war-torn Afghanistan.

Publishers Weekly
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.

Booklist - Alan Moores
Plot-driven fans might not see this slowly paced book to the end, but Fesperman offers a level of cultural and political nuance not always found in adventure thrillers.

Author Blurb Larry Gandle,author of Deadly Pleasures
Dan Fesperman has written two superb novels concerning war-torn Yugoslavia from two different perspectives of time . . . Lie in the Dark won the Creasey Award for best first crime novel and The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller. Now he returns in by far and away his best work to date. In a sense it is sweeping in grandeur like Doctor Zhivago, yet intimate enough to be reminiscent of a Graham Greene and as a thriller intelligent enough to be in the same ranks of John LeCarre. However, I predict Dan Fesperman will ultimately equal them in fame writing his own type of stylistic war novels. This one is a masterpiece.

Reader Reviews

mhd

from a student point of view
I am a 10 grade student and read this book rather quickly. I found all parts of the book very interesting and also think most of it is true. As much as I like this book and thought it was fast moving and very mind-grasping I thought there were ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

With so much focus on Afghanistan's troubles over the last quarter decade it's easy to forget that this is a country with a long and cultured past.  At a time when most of Western Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages, following the fall of the Roman Empire, Afghanistan's location made it a pivotal meeting point between the countries of the East and West.  Although most of the cultural treasures from that era have either been destroyed or have disappeared from the country, some have been recovered, including a cache of 20,000 golden objects which were thought to have been lost.  National Geographic had an ...

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Read-Alikes

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