When Islamic militants infiltrate an elite British counter-narcotics programme in Afghanistan, disaster is averted thanks to ex-SAS soldiers John Patterson and Dusty Miller. But when fall-out from the affair threatens to topple the West’s fragile Afghan alliance and expose failings inside the UK’s new crime-fighting agency, John and Dusty suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of the law – and on the run.
One place on earth holds the key to clearing their names: Nuristan, a remote Afghan province and notorious terrorist haven. But their journey to freedom will thrust them deeper into the Afghan conflict than they ever imagined. Battling hostile terrain and Islamic fighters, John and Dusty emerge the unlikely saviours of an ancient community torn apart by both al-Qaeda and western forces.
From Bob Shepherd, former SAS soldier and bestselling author of The Circuit, comes an adventure inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. An action-packed tale of honour and betrayal, The Infidel is thrilling, gripping and deeply relevant to the great political and military issues of our time.
Bob Shepherd on the story behind his debut novel…
In spring 2007, I had the opportunity to travel to Nuristan with the first western television news crew embedded with ISAF forces in the region. I was instantly captivated by the people and the landscape. Nuristan harbours some of the most inaccessible terrain on the planet; soaring sheer-faced mountains, deep valleys cut by wide, fast flowing rivers, dirt tracks so narrow men must walk along them single file. Roads are practically non-existent and most villages can only be accessed on foot or by air. The area is so impregnable that at the time, Osama bin Laden was rumoured to be hiding there.
A hostile environment in every sense, I knew Nuristan would be the setting for my first novel. Of course, this is not an original idea. Nuristan provided the backdrop for Rudyard Kipling’s timeless classic, The Man Who Would Be King. When I returned from my trip, I purchased a copy of the story (I confess without shame that until then I had only seen the film starring Sean Connery – a fellow Scot and my favourite actor). Needless to say, I was blown away by what I read. While some of Kipling’s descriptions and observations were obviously a product of his time, aspects of his story are still tremendously relevant today. That’s when the idea came to me. I would write an updated version of The Man Who Would Be King. Thus The Infidel was born.
Throughout The Infidel, I pay homage to Kipling’s original tale; reinventing key scenes against the backdrop of the current war in Afghanistan; inserting references to freemasonry (which played a central role in Kipling’s classic). It’s a bit like a recording artist finding inspiration in a classic track. There are echoes of the familiar in The Infidel, but the end product is something fresh and contemporary– an allegory of the current western military campaign in Afghanistan.
Let me be clear; I’m not a Kipling scholar. I’m an off the street kid who grew up in a council tenement in Scotland. But what I lack in formal schooling, I more than make up for in real-life experience. Having worked as a security advisor in Afghanistan since early 2004, I’ve seen first-hand what is really going on at ground level in the country. It is a difficult war to decipher; politically and militarily. With The Infidel I tried to produce a novel that would be a cracking good read and shed some light on one of the most important conflicts of our time. I hope you enjoy it.