Meet Mahmoud and His World

The Mirhapli Mosque in Bursa, Turkey
The Beautiful Mirhapli Mosque in Bursa, a key location in the novel

It’s October 2015. Meet Mahmoud al Ramadi, 23, an Iraqi victim of Isis who has become a freedom fighter. The antihero of my unconventional thriller is soft-spoken yet militant, someone who by almost anyone’s definition could be a terrorist. After floating to Greece among other displaced people, he plunges into conspiracy with an assortment of foreigners and infidels to plot a diabolical and perilous operation. All that they encounter reshapes their mission, Mahmoud’s sense of himself, and his quest for revenge and redemption in unexpected ways. It changed his life, and perhaps reading it will change yours too.

You’ll learn a lot about Mahmoud and his comrades. That’s because what distinguishes this novel from typical thrillers is that it takes their point of view. See, in my book there are no “good guys” to set things right, no wish-fulfillment fantasies like the retired-spy-who-saves-the-day scenario, just an eventful unwinding of tragic consequences that so regularly devolve from recent geopolitical realities, as seen from inside out.

If you want to know more, including what moved me to write something like this, read on. If at any point you decide you want to check it out, skip to the bottom (or click here) to request chapter 1 to read at your leisure.

Or, you can spare yourself the trouble and simply listen to me read the chapter here (20 min):

Sneak over here to access additional audio files.

Donald Trump’s America is girding its spastic loins to kick away asylum seekers from seven majority-Muslim nations. Strong feelings, agitation, and lawsuits swirl around that proposition. There’s a good chance you have an opinion about it.

Refugees from Syria floating to Lesvos, Greece

Do you worry that giving refugees from conflict regions safe harbor could lead to terrorist incidents? Or that an influx of Muslims could presage impositions of Sharia law to threaten your freedoms? Or, perhaps you worry more about exaggerated outbursts of Islamophobia that scapegoat good people as evildoers without accomplishing anything useful for either us or them. Suppose you were told that all such fears are equally valid? How would you sort out what’s a real threat from what’s not and the odds of it happening?

Imagine that you live in Greece, whose debt-ridden economy has stagnated, leaving millions impoverished and unemployed. Greece, where strikes and demonstrations erupt almost daily and to which tens of thousands of undocumented migrants have made their way. Surely at least some of those of them are bent on bringing death and destruction to infidels and Western institutions.

Piraeus Neighborhood

You’ll find a few of them in a dimly lit crash pad in the port city of Piraeus, where four men sit around a Formica table plotting the simultaneous demise of multiple world leaders. Two of them are recent recruits, both in their early twenties; one self-exiled from Turkey after illegally publicizing military misdeeds, the other an Iraqi refugee fresh from battling ISIS in Syria, and both have scores to settle with various authorities for pain and suffering inflicted on their families. Also at the table is a large man they call the Greek Geek, a who hacks cell phones and government data systems, as he says, for freedom. The fourth man, the one in charge, is older; a taciturn expat Turk who calls himself George and cloaks his past. All are leftist radicals of one stripe or another out to inflict as much damage on the capitalist world order as they can.

What life experiences have driven them to pursue violent revolution, and what are their lives like living in the shadows, under constant threat of being found out? Even though their motivations are as personal as they are political, they must run deep. What dude, after all, wakes up one morning thinking he must smash the state because he got fired or his girlfriend dumped him?

Not the Iraqi dude Mahmoud, whose jihad has ricocheted across a thousand miles after infidel invaders almost ruined his life and then others professing his faith actually did. When the commander of his socialist brigade on the Turkish-Syrian frontier sent him to join George’s team, he accepted the mission because he was tired of war zones and was sure Allah had willed that he do this. And now, from his new leader, he learns what the next phase of his jihad will entail:

…”Let’s get on with it, comrades.” George removed a folder from a messenger bag on the floor and extracted a map—a Turkish topographic map, he told them, not an easy item to come by as the military controls their distribution. They lifted their glasses to let him spread it out, revealing part of Antalya province near the Mediterranean coast. He pointed to a location out in the countryside labeled Aspendos.

Roman Amphitheater at Aspendos, Turkey

        “You may know that a summit of the G-20 nations will take place in Antalya next month. High level officials from many nations along with bankers and CEOs will assemble to hammer out arrangements for fitting Turkey and other emerging economies into the financial world order. First on their agenda a welcoming ceremony under the stars. A convoy of buses will take the delegates to Aspendos, a big Roman amphitheater that still hosts many events, located here, twenty kilometers east of Antalya city. The event will take place starting at 1730 on November fifteenth and will last two or three hours.”
        “You’re sure of that?” said Mahmoud.
        Ottovio piped up. “You want to see the delegates’ program I skimmed off the G-20 Website? They didn’t do a very good job securing it.”
        George handed around a photograph of the imposing stone amphitheater. “This is the venue. Delegations will bring security details and Turkish soldiers will patrol the area. They will probably sweep the amphitheater for explosives and wireless devices, so we can’t use any of those. And of course we can’t just charge in there, blasting away. There will be as many security forces as delegates”
        “How about a truck bomb?” asked Mahmoud. “Could we make one?”
        George clearly had other ideas. “See that massive front wall? A truck bomb would hardly dent it. Couldn’t even get near it. So no bombs, no guns. Instead, we’ll set up a doom machine and be long gone when it goes off.”
        “So, you want to kill them all without explosives or any of us nearby?” Mahmoud asked. “How is that possible?”
        “With this…” George said, pulling from his bag a short length of white plastic tubing about two centimeters across, “and a few other things.” He handed it to Mahmoud.

Mahmoud and comrade “Michael” are to lay the trap well before the event. Their doomsday machine will be triggered at a set time by devices Ottovio has constructed. The two men will be long gone when mayhem erupts. George will be even farther away.

Besides finding out what makes that doom machine tick, you might want to learn what struggles lay ahead for him and his comrades, how they ingeniously work around them. You will be surprised by how their mission improbable comes to pass and what becomes of Mahmoud’s jihad and the lives of his comrades. Check out the cast, the bit players and the set locations here. And as a bonus, find more audio chapters here.

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The Backstory

Chapter 1 of Mahmoud’s Jihad, including a preface, is available as a free 15-page PDF download. If you would like to read it, please fill in and send the form below.

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