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Friday, 6 June 2014

FFB - A Hostile Place

Some writers just command attention, their writing steeped in authority for the period or locale and this is the case for John Fullerton’s story about Afghanistan after the downfall of the Taliban. Fullerton knows what he’s writing about because he’s been there, reporting for Reuters from both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indeed, Fullerton’s book The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan (1984) was cited in Ken Follett’s bibliography for his own Afghan adventure Lie Down with Lions (1985).

Fullerton’s style is reminiscent of Hammond Innes as the first person narrative suggests he’s been there and even done much that the hero Thomas Morgan relates. And Morgan is tough, a mercenary with links to MI6 and the tense fast-paced denouement has echoes of the sadly missed Adam Hall’s super-spy Quiller. On this outing alone, Fullerton could easily take on the Quiller mantle.

With a broken marriage, two children and an overdraft, Morgan, the former SAS soldier, sometime spy and occasional thief has to bargain for his freedom with the cold fish government man Quilty. One last job, to ambush the escaping Osama bin Laden and assassinate him in Afghanistan – and share the 25-million dollar reward.

Betrayed by his one-time associate Abdur Rahman, Morgan now finds he has to work with him as he’s the only one who seems to know the whereabouts of bin Laden. Morgan’s also helped by his case officer, Mathilde, his former lover.

Steeped in gun lore, trade-craft and an intimate knowledge of the land and its people, this is a riveting above-average thriller. Throughout, the story is peppered with little insider snippets to lend authenticity. ‘She pointed at me, using her thumb, because to point a finger directly at someone is considered downright rude, as it is in the Arab world.’ Reminds you of those HSBC adverts...

Afghanistan has always been a dangerous place, even when flower-power travellers went on the hippy trail to find enlightenment and drugs. It’s just moreso now. ‘This foreigner did not know her people. Did not know their cruelty, how easily and thoughtlessly, after twenty-four years of war, they could snuff out a life.’ Life is cheap here, but here too Morgan undergoes an epiphany when meeting the mysterious woman Amarayn.

It’s very satisfying to find a thriller writer who’s new to you, someone who engages you with the characters and the storyline, someone you can trust to get things right. Fullerton has published three other fiction books, The Monkey House (1996) and This Green Land (previously titled Give Me Death, 2004) and White Boys Don’t Cry (2007).


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