From the Publisher
“Skillfully plotted . . . tautly written . . . will stimulate thought as well as get the adrenaline flowing.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Thomas E. Ricks knows what happens at the Pentagon perhaps sometimes better than those who work there. . . . A Soldier’s Duty . . . thrill[s] and entertain[s] while giving readers a fascinating glimpse inside a culture shrouded in secrecy.”—Chicago Tribune
“Tremendously literate and full of searing observations about life in uniform today. Best of all, it offers a great story.” —National Review
“A powerful, prophetic page-turner. A huge tell-it-like-it-is thriller of a novel that captures the U.S. military’s pain and frustration in the twenty-first century. Epic storytelling that’s as exciting as it is suspenseful.” —Colonel David H. Hackworth (U.S. Army, ret.), author of About Face
“Tom Ricks has done a masterly job with his first novel. His knowledge of the military, vast experience and association with military organizations, and keen insights into the military culture clearly come out in this superb book.” —General Anthony Zinni (U.S. Marine Corps, ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command
“Timely and extremely relevant . . . A Soldier’s Duty offers a fictional glimpse into what a politicized officer corps might look like, and what factions and crises it could create. It is a warning we should reflect on.”
—Marine Corps Gazette
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this brisk and assured fiction debut, set in a near-future Washington, D.C., Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Ricks (author of Making the Corps, an account of boot-camp training) crafts a taut, stimulating tale of contemporary military dilemmas, public and personal. The central issue is the military's role in a democracy: given an unpopular commander-in-chief and an even more unpopular commitment of U.S. troops as peacekeepers in Afghanistan, what is a self-respecting general to do? Ignore his military sense and say yes to a bad political decision, like stolid, hard-drinking army chief-of-staff John Shillingsworth? Or defy orders and attack the position of the civilian government, like flashy, Custeresque B.Z. Ames, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? As the two debate the issues with their romantically involved aides, Majors Cindy Sherman and Buddy Lewis, U.S. troops get bogged down in Afghanistan, lives are lost, officers are court-martialed and a shadowy group of officers called the Sons of Liberty slowly moves from e-mail dissent to outright treason. Ricks uses a crisp, reportorial style to get into the heads of all his characters, and by making them passionate about their positions, he succeeds in creating a genuine debate in which both sides make good sense. Only when the actions of the Ames side become murderous does the book flirt with predictability, but it never goes too far, thanks to Ricks's control of the narrative. This engrossing read will satisfy those who want ideas as well as action it's an unusually thoughtful military thriller. (May 22) Forecast: The intrigue here is mostly D.C-based and often intellectual, and may not appeal to readers of mainstream thrillers. But those who appreciate a more challenging perspective will be in their element. A five-city author tour and national advertising are scheduled. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This first novel by Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist, is an intriguing, thoughtful, and exciting tale of today's U.S. military. When a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan goes tragically wrong, officers led by Gen. B.Z. Ames form a treasonous group called the "Sons of Liberty" to unravel American foreign policy and further General Ames's position. Army majors Cindy Sherman and Bud Lewis are newly assigned to the Pentagon, where they become involved in both sides of the developing problem. Although it does share themes with Fletcher Knebel's classic Seven Days in May, this work is unique in its take on a military that is sworn to uphold the Constitution but must deal with a White House that has little regard for life. Though occasionally preachy, Ricks's debut is an interesting and fast-paced commentary on the complex problems confronting the military and the civilian government. For all general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/01.] Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Before dawn, Friday, July 8
The U.S. military is headquartered in Washington, but it is not of Washington. Its heart lies a thousand miles away, or more-in the Army, at Fort Leavenworth; in the Air Force, along a dozen different runways in the South and Southwest; in the Navy, in Norfolk, San Diego and Pearl Harbor. For most in Washington, Congress is the engine that drives daily life. When Congress is in session, there is an extra energy in Washington's downtown. When Congress is "in," people work later hours, and spouses are often missing at dinner parties. But even so, the pace is generally the pace of Congress-rising late and not engaging the world until about ten in the morning. The military sticks by its own timetable in Washington, one that pre-dates democracy. It is a schedule set on thousands of battlefields, where the most dangerous time of day is just before sunrise, when it is light enough to attack but still dark enough to conceal many movements. Even in Washington, the military rises in the darkness most of the year and is at work by dawn. The effect of this is that the military has the city largely to itself at that time of day.