I am happy to announce that my first novel is now out: “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan.”
I’ve long had an interest in the role of fiction in bringing certain kinds of political, social—and human—realities to life as compared to the drier and distant quality of so much of non-fiction. Fiction can portray the “real lives” of people more intensely than do “objective” or theoretical geopolitical studies that often overlook the impact of policies and wars upon the lives of real people and their destinies. I wrote about this theme of politics-in-fiction in an earlier blog– http://grahamefuller.com/trying-my-hand-at-a-novel-on-the-middle-east/
As the title of my new book implies, this novel is indeed about espionage—and politics—among many other things. Its protagonist, Alex Anders, is born in Pakistan as the son of an American missionary family. After graduation from university in the US he is recruited into the CIA. It’s about his life, first as an operations officer in Pinochet’s Chile with painful personal consequences, and later, after he is assigned against his better judgment to Pakistan. As the subtitle implies, the novel details Ander’s gradually developing “crisis of conscience” while serving in the US Embassy in Islamabad as he observes the crises of US policy in Pakistan, a direct reflection of the US ordeal in neighboring Afghanistan and overall US foreign policy in the Muslim world.
My choice of a CIA operations officer as the protagonist of the novel was a logical one since I myself was a CIA operations officer for 20 years, including as Chief of Station in Kabul in the mid-1970s. I know the subject and the region first hand, as it were, but the novel is in no way autobiographical.
Although it is not a classical thriller as such, the novel may be of interest to readers on multiple levels. It portrays numerous scenes of life inside a CIA Station and in an American Embassy, including many scenes with the Chief of Station and Ambassador. Although the book touches on Pakistani politics, it is also set more broadly against a background of Pakistani culture, family life, food, music and lore; many of the scenes take place in diverse parts of the country—particularly in the Pashtun/Pathan border regions with Afghanistan. Its Pakistani characters reflect the diverse practices of Islam in its Sufi, Barelvi, Deobandi and jihadi aspects. It sets Anders’ life against the background of a childhood friendship with Majeed, who later plays a leading role in ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. The novel also explores burning issues of identity, patriotism and loyalty on several sides. The deeper nature of the Russian-American relationship is explored as well in some close interrelationships Anders has with a KGB officer. Two early chapters in Chile set the tone in the harsh setting of General Pinochet’s Chile in the aftermath of the US overthrow of Chile’s socialist President Allende. The novel reflects tensions between thinking in Washington DC, and by many professionals in the field on the role of Islam, and the immense blowback potential of US military and drone operations in Pakistan.
Characters and settings in Pakistan include Sufi pirs, ISI intelligence officers, Pakistani smugglers, Taliban and jihadi activists, fundamentalist preachers and jihadi recruitment, training camps, visits to Sufi shrines, US Embassy life, Pentagon and contractor “experts” from Washington visiting the field, espionage operations, a Pakistani feminist, and Pakistani student life. There are numerous dark events that influence the thinking of both Anders and his earlier boyhood friend Majeed.
I was gratified to receive the following comment on the novel from Anatol Lieven, author of “Pakistan: A Hard Country” who wrote: “This is a truly fascinating book, which probably only Graham Fuller could have written. It is a unique mixture of moving personal story, thriller, revealing account of the internal workings of the CIA, acute political analysis, and a deeply felt and highly intelligent discussion of the meaning of loyalty and patriotism. Its insights into the profoundly tragic nature of the relationship between the USA and Pakistan also make it essential reading for anyone concerned with this most dangerous of issues.”
Mark Perry, an historian and biographer who knows the Middle East wrote: “From Chile to Pakistan, Breaking Faith takes us on a whirlwind tour of the human soul, where readers are given a taut, edge-of-your-seat plot set against a “beautiful, sad, haunted and tortured region” – and a compelling set of moral questions that inevitably challenge us all. .. A virtuoso performance and addictively readable… characters vividly rendered, landscapes compulsively drawn, scenes so haunting that they echo in both our waking lives and dreams – of language so textured that it remains with us long after the book is closed…. Breaking Faith shines an unforgiving light on our present.… a tale that symbolizes America in the new century.”
Graham E. Fuller, “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan.”
Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle e-book.