11:15 06-Dec-04

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=33&v=wWWxlbspbOs The next-to-last time I saw Mohamed—11:15, Dec 6, 2004—a blast-resistant window separated me from the Afghan businessman with good English, admiration for the U.S., and a carpet enterprise in Virginia. The last applicant of the morning at our visa counter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mohamed was alone in the waiting room when the high-low alarm … Continue reading 11:15 06-Dec-04

The Annapolis Bookstore

A short block from Maryland's historic State House, down a white brick street narrow with specialty shops, The Annapolis Bookstore is exactly what a bookstore ought to be: jammed with literature, old and new, on shelves that climb from creaking wood floor to high plaster ceiling. Close with the antiquated must of well-turned pages, yet … Continue reading The Annapolis Bookstore

Swamp Talk

Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

A dozen years ago when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the government had a habit of referring to domestic terrorists as 'deranged' and calling them 'mental deviants.' We mocked the Saudis mercilessly for it. The Royals were denying reality. They failed to acknowledge and confront the extremist forces at loose in the Kingdom, extremist views … Continue reading Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

Cake Talk

Of all the artists --- musicians, painters, actors & stand-up comedians, even poets --- I put my own kind at the very bottom. Novelists ask too much of their audience. These others thrive on immediacy, accessibility, and entertainment. Musicians bang it out live in short bursts or cast long, sweeping arcs; the audience has only to … Continue reading Cake Talk

Stand Up Comedy

In an effort to prove why writing is easy and speaking is hard, I decided to do live stand-up at the library in Oakton, VA. Drop by to find out why I write instead of preach, and what's behind that title---Two Pumps for the Body Man. Register here.

Diplomatic Casualties

The morning of December 6, 2004, five heavily armed terrorists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I remember loud pops from the AK-47s and the muffled thud of improvised explosive devices; I remember hours hunkered under a desk and a scramble for protection when the Marine called “Gas!; I remember crouching through our … Continue reading Diplomatic Casualties

Diplomats and Terrorists

Last month American Diplomacy included my review of Ambassador James R.  Bullington's Foreign Service Memoir, The Road Less Traveled. The book recounts a career that began with the U.S. military build-up in Vietnam and took the author to Burma, Chad, Benin, and Burundi, where he served as Ambassador, and Niger, where he served from 2001-2006 as Country Director … Continue reading Diplomats and Terrorists

The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade

I want loyalty, I need loyalty No writing has influenced my work more than Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Not the Bible. Not the Constitution. Not even The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is a pretty great book and should be thrown full force at anyone who tries to ban it. I wrote my first novel, Two … Continue reading The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade

More Foreign Service Fiction

The latest release from ex-Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren, author of controversial Iraq reconstruction expose We Meant Well, is set during World War Two. We may find ourselves in 1940s Japan, but Hooper’s War aims its barbs dead-center at the contemporary conflagrations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The men and women in Hooper confront the complex ethical decisions of war, … Continue reading More Foreign Service Fiction