Trump’s In Flight Entertainment

What are Trump & Co. reading as they wing their way to Saudi Arabia tonight?

Two Pumps for the Body Man!

This black comedy set in Saudi Arabia does for American diplomacy what Catch 22 did for military logic: The enemy in the War on Terror can’t kill us if our own institutions kill us first.

Jeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns and knives, grenades and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. The fool!—his foot fetish has him in hot water again.

Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within.

Available in print and electronic versions from New Pulp Press through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online vendors. Review copies available upon request.


 “A wonderfully wacky consular bash in a place called The Kingdom, a nightmarish place straight out of Catch-22 where bureaucrats use very acronym under the sun… haywire bureaucracy at its finest.”
                                  -Robert Bruce Cormack, You Can Lead a Horse to Water    
                                                                         (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)

Coming Out Ahead

I just bought a dozen Cadbury Creme Eggs at nine cents apiece. $0.09!

Now, to Malta!

“I don’t buy eggs from Malta,” he confessed… “I buy them in Sicily at one cent apiece and transfer them to Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the price of eggs up to seven cents when people come to Malta looking for them…”

“Then you do make a profit for yourself,” Yossarian declared.

“Of course I do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has a share. Don’t you understand? It’s exactly what happens with those plum tomatoes I sell to Colonel Cathcart.”

Buy,” Yossarian corrected him. “You don’t sell plum tomatoes to Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. You buy plum tomatoes from them.”

“No, sell,” Milo corrected Yossarian. “I distribute my plum tomatoes in markets all over Pianosa under an assumed name so that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn can buy them up from me under their assumed names at four cents apiece and sell them back to me the next day at five cents apiece. They make a profit of one cent apiece, I make a profit of three and a half cents apiece, and everybody comes out ahead.”

One Year on the Beat

A year ago this week I put Jeff Mutton on the beat.

Assigned to keep America’s diplomats safe in Saudi Arabia, he proved a tough match for tyrants as well as terrorists. He endured vacuous conversations during diplomatic soirees and survived quack psychiatry at the hands of State Department shrinks. He introduced us to a secretive government entity known as Fourth Branch. He helped the man with no lips from the office that wasn’t there collect intell to support the War on Terror, even when there wasn’t any.

Happy birthday, Jeff! Here’s a list of top ten things that haven’t happened in the year since your story was revealed:

10. Two Pumps hasn’t been used as fuel for any book-burnings.
9.   There are no known fatwas on the author’s head.
8.   The story remains uncorrupted by Hollywood.
7.   There are no reports of this book being sold without a cover.
6.   About the cover: Two Pumps‘ only bad review was an insult to the jacket.
5.   About reviews: No 0- or 1-star insults!
4.   Saudi Arabia hasn’t declared the author Persona non-Grata.
3.
2.   The author has avoided slick-road car-wrecks and fan captivity.

And, the #1 thing that hasn’t happened in the year since Mutton’s story was revealed

1. No Oprah Book Club controversies! Thank you, Oprah!

Author Event Made Easy

You may attend this author reading in your PJs.

That is all.

Between No Ferns

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) included this discussion of  Two Pumps for the Body Man in their new Digital Exclusives series. Unlike the great programming by Zach Galifianakis, the AFSA studio had no ferns and only one bamboo.

AFSA writes:

Foreign Service Officer Ben East brings to the table a satirical look at diplomatic service in the Middle East in his neo-noir, Two Pumps for the Body Man. The novel follows Jeff Mutton, a diplomatic security agent who must deal with an outlandish boss, hidden government agendas, deadly threats, and a unique personal affliction. East also takes time to explain how parts of the book were heavily informed by his own harrowing experience in Saudi Arabia as his consulate was attacked.

I’d Rather Be Writing (or maybe talking about it)

ferns

The American Foreign Service Association filmed a few short clips featuring my reflections on Two Pumps for the Body Man, the inspiration behind the novel, and my thoughts on the writing process. It isn’t exactly Zack Galifianakis Between Two Ferns (more like Some Guy and Bamboo) but I hope viewers will enjoy it when it becomes available.

afsaWhile the footage gets some much-needed editing, I thought I’d share the text of one short segment now. Here’s how I framed my thoughts on the novel writing process (because I’m a writer and not a TV personality, the film version is unlikely to measure up to the prepared remarks).


My novels get written in one of two ways. There’s the linear way, from start to finish, and then there’s the other way. The linear way itself takes two forms: either I’ve laid out some kind of synopsis or outline from the very beginning and tracked closely to it, or I’ve freewheeled it chapter by chapter, letting the story find its own way into the world. The linear model seems to be neater, quicker, and more coherent—but not necessarily the most satisfying.

The other way, the way Two Pumps was written, was like working on a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces scattered all over the floor and the house and moved from house to house and country to country over the ten years it took to complete and publish. The job was to join disparate episodes, to shave this piece and build that one, to seek and identify episodes from years ago and connect them seamlessly to material written last night. The process was slow, cumbersome, and the trajectory of the narrative—even the primary point of view—didn’t emerge until years later.

Though tedious, and sometimes self-defeating—two steps forward, three steps back—the process was rewarding.

My only other thought on the novel writing process is that it’s as much about sitting down with pen and paper or keyboard and monitor as it is about state of mind. For me the so-called process is really a reaction—both inherent and trained through discipline—to experience. Do the people, places, events, details, etc., reach you only in the moment and as part of the world in which they actually occur? Or do they come at you with a richer, displaced value, something best discovered later on, in the attic?

The state of mind more fit for the novelist is the latter.

Beyond all that, the writing process is simply a numbers game: how many minutes and hours can you make yourself do it? But as my oldest fan tells me, that’s a question of discipline. Not process.

December 06, 2004

Remembering those we lost. Remembering those who survived. Remembering this awful day and its  protracted aftermath.

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It’s the aftermath that sticks most. The long period that stretched through weeks when our broken mission pulled itself together again. We pulled ourselves up from piles of ash and dust; from the pulverized concrete and glass shattered by bullets fired into the chancery; from the smoldering heap of a Marine house burned to the ground.

I remember the rifles mounted on alien tripods behind sandbags and concertina wire that popped up around the compound with the arrival of a Marine detachment. I remember the flickering lights along darkened corridors that cast jittery shadows for weeks as we made our way through routine in an effort to restore ourselves to normal.

I came upon this essay about the day itself in the third edition of Inside a U.S. Embassy (2011).  I don’t need to read to remember, or to know that every day our diplomats put their lives on the line. Some wear a bigger target on their backs than others; some for longer periods. But we all serve in harm’s way, at some point.

jedd-att

Two more pieces worth reading. Two Pumps for the Body Man is a satire about diplomatic life on the front line of the war on terror.

two-pumps-banner

Shattered Glass–The Story of a Marine Embassy Guard is non-fiction by the Marine standing Post as the attackers breached our gate.

GM Shattered Glass

For those of you who continue to walk this overlooked beat: we remember.

Billy Lynn’s Long Thanksgiving Slog

billy_lynn_book_Thanksgiving. The most American day of the year. More American, perhaps, than the Fourth of July.

Throw in a hyperbolically American venue—Texas stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys—and you’ve got Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (also now in theaters).

For the heroes of Bravo squad, barnstorming the U.S. on a brief victory tour to rile up the natives before returning to the front lines of the War on Terror, there is nothing more American than this. Even the stadium concourse reflects Americana: “Your Taco Bells, your Subways, your Pizza Huts and Papa John’s, clouds of hot meaty gases waft from these places and surely it speaks to the genius of American cooking that they all smell pretty much the same. It dawns on him [namesake protagonist Billy Lynn] that Texas stadium is basically a shithole.”

Basically a shithole.

Here’s a grunt deeply scarred by the memory of squatting in the roadside reeds next to his dying buddy, covered in blood, half-wondering if any of it is his, “His bloody hands so slick he finally had to tear open the compression bandage with his teeth.” Yet Texas Stadium’s the shithole.

This early passage about sums up the point of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Not a war novel so much as a warrior’s rebuke of the country he’s fighting for, a blazing satire of patriotism on the home front while the national treasury is raided in pursuit of a wholly unnecessary, errant, distracting war.

“The Catch-22 of the Iraq War”
–Karl Marlantes

It’s an accurate premise but a flawed approach, a long-ass slog covering maybe six present-time hours while the he-roes of Bravo squad (there is no such thing as Bravo squad) sit on their hands and drink with wealthy Texas hot-shots and wait to watch one of the dullest games on earth (football is still better than curling). Long before the end Ben Fountain’s satiric display of Americans at their worst is collapsing under its own weight. Anyone hoping for a better understanding of what the soldiers in Iraq have gone through should choose The Yellow Birds instead. This story tells us what we witness every day: the worst of America.

That isn’t to say Ben Fountain hasn’t got a few sticks of dynamite up his sleeve. There’s magic in the neat line he draws between the game of football and the game of war, the equipment production of a pro football team and war-time’s production of death. “Soon after kickoff Billy intuits the basic futility of seizing ground you can’t control.”

More than his own heroic actions, gunning down the enemy while simultaneously applying pressure to his buddy’s bleeder, that have made Bravo squad the toast of Amurica, Billy’s got Shroom on his mind. Shroom, the magical, mystical figure who embodies the warrior-poet (in contrast to Dime, the tough Sgt. In charge). Shroom foretells his own death and its simple as that: “I’m going down.”

When the grateful citizens meet him, “His ordeal becomes theirs… some sort of mystical transference takes place and its just too much for them… One woman bursts into tears, so shattering is her gratitude. Another asks if we are winning…”

Another grateful American man suggests the proper response: “You and your brother soldiers are preparing the way.” The question is—and we now know the answer—Preparing the way for what, exactly?

Full Review

Two Pumps for the Librarian

Six months back, guy walks into the library. Hands over his Foreign Service novel.

“Here ya go.”
“What’s this?”
“It’s a book. Go ahead. Put it on the shelf.”
“Not so fast, sonny. Two Pumps for the Body Man? Sounds dirty.”
“You don’t want this novel for your patrons?”
“We want four copies of that novel for our patrons. And it must pass a review.”
“A review?”Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.13.53 AM
“You know. To keep out the funky shit.”
“Did you just cuss in the library?”
“Sir, I must ask you to keep your voice down. And please fill out this form to submit your book for review.”
“It’s a pretty funky book.”
“Funky how?”
“Terrorism. Foot fetishism. It mocks Dick Cheney. It’s a farce and a fiasco all in one.”
“Sounds great. Can’t wait to add it to the collection!”
“How soon will that be?”

It’s been a long wait. But I’m glad to say Two Pumps for the Body Man is finally part of the Fairfax County Library collection! Put it on your reading list today!

2 Pumps hi rezJeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns and knives, grenades and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. The fool!—his foot fetish has him in hot water again.

Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within.

B.A. East

NovelistEast Photo

Foreign Service Officer

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

B.A. East taught English Lit and Composition in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer, at Brooklyn College Academy in New York, and at the American School of Asuncion in Paraguay. Later he joined the State Department’s Foreign Service, taking assignments in Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Ghana, Mexico, and Washington DC. New Pulp Press released his debut novelTwo Pumps for the Body Man, in March 2016.


Views expressed on this blog are my own & don’t necessarily reflect the views of my employer


Email: chambepeak@gmail.com

Twitter: @hBenEast