The Warlord's Son
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.
Dan Fesperson’s captivating third novel, The Warlord’s Son, begins cinematically with a dusty sunrise in Peshawar, Pakistan, the clamorous calls of competing muezzins, and the buzz of a scooter. In a classic premise worthy of John Le Carre, an aging American war correspondent named Skelly has been sent on what he fears will be—one way or another—his final assignment: the war zone of Afghanistan during the American bombings after 9/11. His ticket into Afghanistan is Najeeb Ajam—an Afghani-born “fixer,” a local guide for foreign correspondents, expected to translate the region’s languages, arrange passage to difficult areas, and secure introductions to valuable contacts, government clerks, street merchants, warlords. But Ajam is working for higher stakes than his daily cash envelope. His journey with Skelly takes him back to his tribal lands, where he must reckon with the powerful father he left and betrayed years earlier.
Like the works of Graham Greene or Paul Bowles, The Warlord’s Son can be read purely for atmosphere, since it beautifully conveys the rigid hierarchies, harsh living conditions, and casual violence of the region. As a thriller, it has some weak points, but Najeem’s world is depicted so convincingly that we can allow Fesperson a few liberties with plausibility. —Regina Marler