Fesperman, Dan 1955-
Fesperman, Dan 1955-
Born 1955; married Liz Bowie (a journalist); children: Emma, Will. Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Home—Baltimore, MD. E-mail—[email protected] danfesperman.com.
Former journalist with the Fayetteville Times, Fayetteville, NC, Durham Morning Herald, Durham, NC, Charlotte News, Charlotte, NC, Miami Herald, Miami, FL, and the Sun and Evening Sun, Baltimore, MD.
Lie in the Dark, SOHO (New York, NY), 1999.
The Small Boat of Great Sorrows: A Novel, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
The Warlord's Son, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
The Prisoner of Guantánamo, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Dan Fesperman's many years as a foreign correspondent for American newspapers, particularly the Baltimore Sun, provide much of the background material for his novels. His books are set in the world's hot spots—Bosnia, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay—and draw on the tragedies of war and the intrigues of international politics for their plots.
Fesperman's first novel, Lie in the Dark, takes place in Sarajevo, Bosnia, during the civil war in the early 1990s. Although Bosnian society is disintegrating around him, main character Vlado Petric, a detective with the Sarajevo police, continues to investigate runof- the-mill murders as best he can. Most of his cases involve people who kill their family members after snapping under the stress of living trapped in their homes in a constant state of siege. His current case, however, is much more complicated. Vlado is investigating the murder of Esmir Vitas, the chief of the special police, who may have been killed because he was involved in the black market. The deeper Vlado digs into the mystery of Esmir's death, the more he becomes convinced that his own life is in danger as well. "Unfortunately, [in Lie in the Dark] fiction seems secondary to what can only be described as a brilliant piece of war reportage," A.J. Anderson commented in the Library Journal. Booklist reviewer Thomas Gaughan appreciated the book's "vivid sense of place," and he found Lie in the Dark to be "a thoroughly satisfying cop novel." A Publishers Weekly reviewer, meanwhile, concluded that Fesperman's "social and political insights, even more than the formidable suspense of the crime tale, distinguish a sure-handed debut."
Vlado returns in Fesperman's next book, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows: A Novel. He has fled Bosnia for Berlin, Germany (where Fesperman was based for several years during the 1990s), where his wife and daughter lived during the war in Bosnia. Vlado has left detective work behind for a career in construction. He is persuaded to return to his old career by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, which tasks Vlado with retrieving a suspected Croatian war criminal from Bosnia. This war criminal, Pero Matek, is accused of a number of crimes, from serving with the Nazi-allied Ustashe during World War II to being a mobster with involvement in the recent civil war. However, in investigating Pero, Vlado discovers that his own family's past is not as pure as he had believed. "This tight, intelligent thriller … chillingly describes a world in which justice is always a negotiation between highly compromised alternatives," commented a Publishers Weekly critic. Jim Coan, writing in the Library Journal, declared the book to be "quality literary intrigue," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Fesperman "brilliantly re-creates Cold War chill in post-Bosnian Europe."
Fesperman focused on Afghanistan for The Warlord's Son, his next book. His protagonist this time is Stan Kelly (better known as "Skelly"), an aging newspaper reporter who is making one last foray into war correspondence. The warlord's son of the title is Najeeb, an American-educated young man who serves as Skelly's translator, guide, and informal ambassador. The two make the dangerous crossing from Pakistan's rural Peshawar region into Afghanistan together, where Skelly hopes to snag the story of his career and Najeeb hopes to come to terms with his father, whom Najeeb had been tortured into giving up to the Pakistani intelligence services. A subplot follows Najeeb's illicit lover, Daliya, as she tries to escape from the rough justice meted out to Pakistani women who are found to be having affairs. "Fesperman makes nary a false step in this taut, realistic novel," Jason Overdorf wrote in Newsweek International. Fesperman "offers a level of cultural and political nuance not always found in adventure thrillers," noted Booklist reviewer Alan Moores.
The Prisoner of Guantánamo is set, as its title implies, inside the American military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The protagonist this time is Revere Falk, an FBI agent whose fluency in Arabic has earned him a job as an interrogator. He is retasked as a murder investigator, however, when the body of an American reservist washes up on the Cuban side of the fence separating the American base from the rest of the island. He soon comes to realize that the murder is part of some plot that his superior officers do not want to be discovered, but by then it may be too late for Falk and his girlfriend, an Army captain. "The sharply drawn scenery, fascinating setting and a couple of exceptionally interesting central characters compensate for a plot that threatens occasionally to drown in detail," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also found the plot to be "occasionally confusing," but concluded that "Fesperman … does a superb job of explaining the inner workings at Guantánamo."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Thomas Gaughan, review of Lie in the Dark, p. 1479; June 1, 2003, Keir Graff, review of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows: A Novel, p. 1710; September 1, 2004, Alan Moores, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 60; June 1, 2006, Michael Gannon, review of The Prisoner of Guantánamo, p. 36.
Economist, October 2, 2004, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 84.
Entertainment Weekly, October 3, 2003, Jennifer Reese, review of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, p. 78; September 17, 2004, Andrew Johnston, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, p. 925; July 15, 2004, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 647; April 15, 2006, review of The Prisoner of Guantánamo, p. 367.
Kliatt, March, 2006, Nola Theiss, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 21.
Library Journal, May 15, 1999, A.J. Anderson, review of Lie in the Dark, p. 125; June 15, 2003, Jim Coan, review of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, p. 100; September 1, 2004, Jane Jorgenson, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 139; May 15, 2006, Christine Perkins, review of The Prisoner of Guantánamo, p. 87.
Newsweek International, October 18, 2004, Jason Overdorf, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 67.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1999, review of Lie in the Dark, p. 64; June 23, 2003, review of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, p. 44; August 16, 2004, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 43; May 1, 2006, review of The Prisoner of Guantánamo, p. 33.
School Library Journal, March, 2005, Dori DeSpain, review of The Warlord's Son, p. 243.
Dan Fesperman Home Page, http://www.danfesperman.com (September 19, 2006).