The Contractor

The Contractor

5.0 1
by Charles Holdefer
     
 

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George Young is a devoted family man and a Gulf War veteran. After a hometown business venture flops, George accepts work overseas as a contracted civilian interrogator for the U.S. government at Omega, a secret holding facility for suspected terrorists.

The work pays well, but his personal life is crumbling. His wife, with whom he is forbidden to talk about his

Overview

George Young is a devoted family man and a Gulf War veteran. After a hometown business venture flops, George accepts work overseas as a contracted civilian interrogator for the U.S. government at Omega, a secret holding facility for suspected terrorists.

The work pays well, but his personal life is crumbling. His wife, with whom he is forbidden to talk about his work, is becoming more and more enamored of gin and tonic. Worse, during a "routine" interrogation, a detainee dies in George's hands. Frightened and confused, the detainee repeatedly asks, "Who are you?" just before dying. These words echo throughout the novel and send George on a painful journey of self-interrogation and discovery. In order to defend his country and his family, must George betray his humanity?

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
By placing this familiar theme in a new (and very timely) setting, Holdefer gives us additional layers of emotional depth: George isn't just trying to figure out who he is; he is trying to figure out what his country is, and whether he is a good guy or just another terrorist wearing a different suit of clothes. A compelling mix of thriller, psychodrama, and, yes, political commentary.

Publishers Weekly

Though billed as a critical examination of the interrogation camps run by the U.S. military, this dramatic thriller is more a finely tuned character study of a man in personal crisis. George Young, a private contractor, interrogates prisoners in a remote island fortress known as Omega. Young appreciates the challenge of his job, but dislikes the many uncomfortable strategies he must employ and is haunted by his role in the death of prisoner #4141. The professional anxieties only aggravate his personal troubles: a vanished libido, a wife who drinks too much, a young son whom he fears may be homosexual. Holdefer (Nice) shows a polished touch with detail and dialogue. The rare humorous moment is dry and often tragic, and the interrogations are so vivid as to make the reader squeamish. A valuable entry in the Gitmo field, all that's missing in this well-wrought novel-or simply lost in the intricacies of Young's story-is the promised critique of state-sanctioned torture. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A novel about what it's like to be a professional terrorist-interrogator. George Young never meant to become a freelance inquisitor. But after his plans for the family apple orchard founder, this Gulf War veteran, eager for a fresh start, is recruited by the U.S. government as a civilian interrogator (years earlier he idly claimed facility with Arabic). Soon he finds himself sweating enemy combatants at a top-secret facility, Omega, on a tiny dot in a tropical archipelago. George lives with his baffled wife and two children on a nearby island and travels to Omega by launch-the commuting idyll of the accidental torturer. The novel begins as a prisoner, #4141, drops dead while George and his partner, a brutal pro, are softening him up. How to dispose of a corpse that doesn't officially exist? Holdefer delivers smart meditations early on about the nature of terror and about the unlikely but plausible string of decisions and accidents that landed George here. Neither pasteboard villain nor plaster saint, George is thoughtful and likable, and Holdefer makes his self-interrogations convincing without letting them become ponderous. Unfortunately, the family's extended trip stateside for Christmas-with its attendant misadventures, marital, financial and otherwise-occupies more than half the novel. By the time we return to Omega for the powerful finale, #4141's corpse has been on ice, both literally and figuratively, for too long. A little diffuse, but stylish, fiercely funny and frightening.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781579621735
Publisher:
Permanent Press, The
Publication date:
07/01/2007
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

Margaret Satterthwaite
"An impressive and moving portrayal of the secret detention and interrogation system from the perspective of an interrogator. By illustrating the systematic dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators inherent in this system, the novel demands engagement by its readers in the most important moral dilemmas facing the United States in the 'War on Terror'."--(Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law )

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The Contractor 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Contractor by Charles Holdefer Reviewed by Jonathan Harrington ¿Who are you?¿ This is the question that prisoner #4141 asks his American interrogator, George Young, just before he dies in Young¿s custody. George is both the narrator and main character of Charles Holdefer¿s third novel, The Contractor. ¿Who are you?¿ he asks himself over and over since the death of prisoner #4141 and it is the question, in essence, that Holdefer asks the reader throughout this powerful and unsettling novel about the jails where prisoners of America¿s war on terror are held and interrogated. Holdefer¿s timely look at what these contractors do would be reason enough to buy this book. But this is not a ripped from the headlines thriller nor a political screed. The Contractor is a psychological portrait of a regular, good, conscientious American family man whose job is to interrogate prisoners using any methods within the bounds of official protocol to extract intelligence. Holdefer¿s character expresses things that most of us do not wish to hear, much less admit to. George Young is a First Gulf War veteran and after viewing the smoldering remains of Iraqi troops caught in American strafing as they flee along the road to Basra he observes, ¿I was shaken and sickened¿but it also taught me something¿what we take for granted and hold precious and celebrate remains viable because of our willingness to do this.' This is the moral dilemma that many of us in the West face whether we care to admit it or not. How do we enjoy the benefits and security of the developed world while deploring the means by which they are maintained? Holdefer asks some very tough questions in this probing analysis of a man¿s conscience. And there are no easy answers. The macabre ending of this book will leave everyone slightly disturbed. But intelligent readers will find that The Contractor is well worth whatever discomfort it may cause.