I’m pleased to announce my next novel, Brave Deeds, will be published by Grove/Atlantic in August 2017.
Spanning eight hours, the novel follows six U.S. Army soldiers who have gone AWOL as they move across war-torn Baghdad on foot in order to attend the memorial service for their platoon sergeant. Here’s how it begins:
We walk, we walk, we walk.
We head into the fireball sun, packed in battle armor, baking from the inside out, throats coated with dust, hearts like parade drums, adrenaline spiking off the charts. We’re alone, cut off from the rest of the brigade back at Taji, and now thanks to a busted drive shaft weakened in last week’s IED blast along Route Irish, we are without a humvee. We’ll have to finish this on foot.
We double-time across Baghdad on our twelve feet, a mutant dozen-legged beetle dashing from rock to rock, confident in its shell but always careful of the soft belly beneath. We are six men moving single-file along the alleys, the edge of roads, the maze of beige buildings. We keep moving: ducking and dodging and cursing and sprinting. We wonder how it could have gone so wrong so fast.
This book was inspired by a 2007 Washington Post article by David Finkel that told of a nail-biting march across Baghdad by 27 soldiers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (the battalion later featured in his brilliant and devastating book The Good Soldiers). Like the men in Brave Deeds, their mission was to attend the memorial service for one of their fellow soldiers who’d been killed in an IED attack a week earlier. I was struck by the apparent simplicity of the mission (“get 27 soldiers from Point A to Point B, from their neighborhood combat outpost to an Army base four miles away,” Finkel wrote) counterbalanced by its deadly nature—venturing into an area “twitching with daily gunfire, mortars, rockets, grenades and, most of all, roadside bombs, all targeting U.S. soldiers.” I saved that article and scribbled a note to myself in the margin: “There is DEFINITELY a story—if not a novel—in this.” This seed of an idea germinated for several years, growing its roots slowly. Though this story bears little resemblance to that original mission by Alpha Company, I hope some of the unit’s can-do spirit and bravery remains in my men.
I am pleased to be once again working with Peter Blackstock, my editor at Grove/Atlantic, and I’m humbled by the kind words he wrote about this novel soon after accepting it for publication:
I’m really excited to have acquired David’s next book, Brave Deeds–one he’s been working on for many years. It’s a brilliant piece of writing–moving, thoughtful, funny, and smart, a literary exploration of the existential experience of being in a platoon of soldiers, a unit of society that has been in existence since ancient times. It’s a testament to the melting pot that is the modern American Army and written with the humor and pathos that made Fobbit such a remarkable piece of writing. I’m so happy to be working on this wonderful book and to have a second book from David to publish!
Thanks, Peter...and thanks to everyone else who has kept faith with me over the years as I worked on this book—especially my wife, Jean, who remains my greatest cheerleader after nearly 33 years.