It’s almost twenty years since I first shared my fiction beyond the confines of family or classroom. I found three trusted readers during the months of pre-service training as a Peace Corps Volunteer. What else to do on the dusty plains of Central Malawi beneath the boiling sun, the cloudless sky? I wrote my first novel.
I wrote by hand on copy-books, small blue rectangles, the sheets bound with staples. Grit, dust troubled the flow of ink from the cheap pens we had. The novel fit on six books and is nestled now in an old cigar box. Two decades ago, I troubled three companions to take an interest. They were kind to read my amateur rubbish, worse than boredom itself.
One reader became my wife. Another remains a friend we still see now and then–we owe a visit. A third, Rand Wise, recently reviewed my debut novel—a thoughtful and comprehensive look at Two Pumps.
“…layer after layer of wry humor and irony, much of it stemming from pressure from “the fourth branch” (a secretive entity high up in the U.S. government, clearly a nod to Dick Cheney) to produce intelligence to further the case for invading Iraq…”
Two Pumps for the Body Man (2016) by B.A. East… is the Catch-22 of the war on terror. Set in a U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia (post 9/11 but before the invasion of Iraq), the novel features a large cast of characters including an attractive and narcissistic Consul General, intelligence officers, visa-denying clerks, and logistics people.
The closest thing the novel has to a main character is Jeffrey Mutton, the chief of security for the consulate who has to reconcile his security concerns with the demands of the CG to host high profile parties (and she holds a moment of weakness involving the titular shoe fetish over him).
The story develops slowly, fleshing out the cast of characters while adding layer after layer of wry humor and irony, much of it stemming from pressure from “the fourth branch” (a secretive entity high up in the U.S. government, clearly a nod to Dick Cheney) to produce intelligence to further the case for invading Iraq. (More great fiction about the former Veep in “Dicked…“)
East deftly handles the comedies of errors that result from the miscommunications, manipulations and power plays between characters, with perhaps the funniest example being an investigation of one of the consulate officers who is suspected of having undue access to the POTUS, even though his intelligence reports are manufactured and mostly plagiarized from news magazines.
The novel takes a serious turn when the consulate is attacked, and the aftermath features the key insights of the novel and its most impassioned prose. Whether you are looking for a comic sendup of consular life or an insightfully cynical look at the war on terror (or maybe both), this book is for you.