My Gun Is My Passport: The First American Gunfighter in Afghanistan

My Gun Is My Passport: The First American Gunfighter in Afghanistan

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Lauric Press, 2010

No, this is not a novel about our troops fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan.  Many readers might not be aware that the United States is only the latest power to become involved in the geographic area known the "graveyard of empires" because no country has successfully conquered or controlled it.

As western readers know, the genre has greatly matured and expanded in both themes and setting beyond the traditional West of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour.  If Matthew Quigley can go down under to Australia, why can't a Texas gunfighter journey to Afghanistan or to what the British called the Northwest Frontier?  As one reads this swashbuckling derring-do tale, one can't help but think of Kipling, the "glorious lad" and “empire" books of Marryat and Henty, Conrad, H. Rider Haggard's classic, King Solomon's Mines (1885), or the popular "Richard Sharpe" novels like his India trilogy beginning with Sharpe's Tiger (1997) (see  Timbuktu, the Amazon, Samarkand, Bombay, the Congo, Tahiti, the Hindu Kush, and the legendary Khyber Pass -- Emily Dickinson had it right, "There is no Frigate like a Book to take us Lands away...."

It's 1906, Johann Gunther, West Point grad, ex-Texas lawman and Rough Rider, now runs a trouble shooting agency called Remedies, Inc.  A  U.S. Army colonel on an exploratory expedition to Afghanistan has disappeared.  President Teddy Roosevelt suspects foul play and/or Russian and international interference.  He asks his cowboy friend to accompany an American-British rescue mission to find the truth.  To accompany "Gunth", the author has created a cast of diverse characters from the colonel's wife, her beautiful niece, a martinet British commander, archers from the U.S. Olympic team, and even National Geographic photographers. 

The author, a former Texas policeman and detective, successfully adopts the tried and true "adventure genre" formula -- exotic romance, espionage, humor, clearly defined good and bad guys, and plenty of physical and life threatening action.  As expected, the plot culminates in the climatic decisive heroic battle and individual combat. The attack to recapture Fort Tartan begins on page 281 and sustains the reader's vicarious experience until page 344.  I can't recall a more vividly described, detailed, and convincing battle scene in fiction -- cavalry charge and what it was like for the horses included.  If the author hasn't personally experienced combat, he's talked to or studied the accounts of witnesses who have.  As expected, soldier and battlefield authenticity does mean occasional "F" word dialog.  Since they say war is the opposite of civilized society, vulgar and profane language here does makes sense.

For those with a curious literary bent, look up Martin Green's Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire (1979).  For a rousing and sobering historical review of Britain's seventy year Afghanistan experience -- no less than 48 failed expeditions to control the famous Khyber Pass, see Khyber: British India's North West Frontier (1977). As Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

While I wait for T.R. to assign "Gunth" his next thrilling mission, I'm going to board a celluloid ship and join Tyrone Powers in the 1953 movie King Of the Khyber Rifles .  362 pages.

Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, high school librarian, Kansas, USA

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