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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.
19 thoughts on “The Infidel”
Just wanted to say that as long haul flight reading The Infidel fit the bill perfectly. A great job updating a classic yarn. Bought it in Heathrow after the SSO course in Poole last week. Knocked it off over the Atlantic on the way home.
One small thing…
“Ehsaan scribbled two successive dips with a left-handed tail, an Arabic number 4.”
Sorry Bob, you’ve described a 3 there. A 4 in Afghanistan can be written two different ways, neither as you describe.
We met in Lash at the airstrip a couple of years back. I was part of the Global crew securing the place when you flew in.
All the best,
Thank youi very much for this. Very pleased that you enjoyed the read, and a big thank you for spotting my numeral mistake..never could count! I’ll ensure that this is put right for the mass paperback, thank you again.
Take good care mate.
Hi Bob, I’m Luca from Italy.
I also bought The Infidel in Heathrow while coming back from a Counter Terror course in Los Angeles. It was a course held by former Israeli Special Forces so, since I worked for an Israeli agency even in the past, I’m one of those guys trained to be very aggressive (unnecessarily).
I always had a feeling that it wasn’t the right way to be a soldier. When I was a child I read a novel about King Arthur where he said that “a warrior is someone who fights for who can’t defend himself”.
I know it’s a little “naïve” but I grew up with that in mind. And John Patterson reminds to me of King Arthur, not only for his red beard…
Even if it is a romance you said the truth loud and clear. You said what is really happening in Afghanistan even more clearly than in The Circuit, maybe because you gave the truth the force of poetry.
In Italy we are overwhelmed with fake stories of reconstruction or with small and insignificant events made bigger, while reality (which is in front of everybody’s closed eyes) is hidden or distorted.
I also have to say the truth: people won’t listen to you. It’s not because they don’t like, it’s because they don’t care. Or better, they care for less than one hour then they forget.
For people the truth is what they like it is. Like you said: “goodies and baddies”.
Thinking about goodies and baddies is so easy that nobody wonders about the reasons and mechanisms behind the façade. Political and economic interests masqueraded of humanitarian and international security issues.
Do people really think if we capture Bin Laden terror threat will be over? Do really people think we went to Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden?
That is what I think and I wanted to share it with you. That’s it.
I’m waiting for your next book. Bye
As probably one of the first muslims to read the book, I thought I’d congratulate on getting the balance between war and religion just right.
Its an impossible task, even I, having been brought up in a muslim family and seen countless wars involving muslims, struggled to work out where one finished and the other started.
The fact is simple its all about greed, on both sides and people like john, sham and anwar are innocent victims of the process.
I also liked the way you presented a different angle of the armed forces. In the minds of most people its goodies and baddies. The truth is its never that simple, and there’s a difficult choices made, which in the wrong polical wind makes the distinction between good and bad grey.
Last word has to be for the widows and orphans of Afghanistan. Every time there’s hope for them, something crushes it …..
Thank you for your comments. Your points are exactly what I was aiming at whilst writing the story. Sadly, nothing is black and white out there, and it’s certainly not just goodies versus baddies.
I hope one day that the people of Afghanistan and the region get the chance to live in peace.
Very best regards.
Just bought your book and getting “stuck in”, so far so good! Was R Kipling an inspiration to you? First anagram that jumped off page 3! Look forward to further adventurous publications. BK
Well done on working out the anagram so quickly, I think most readers miss it altogether.
I hope you enjoy the rest of the read.
Yeah, most of us miss the anagram. Read the book several times and never knew about it until I read this. Very cleverly done,
I just finished reading The Infidel, and I have to say I struggled to put it down it was that good.
Maybe you may not be able to tell me… but when is your next novel out? As I cannot wait to buy it!
Thank you for your kind comments Ryan,
Yes, my next novel The Good Jihadist covers Pakistan and will be out early August.
Thankyou for the quick response. I am looking forward to the release and can’t wait to start Reading.. Will dusty be featuring as a follow on story or is this in a complete new direction, I only ask because I want to know what will happen to dusty, like whether he gets home or goes back to dogrum
I have so many questions!!
You need to do a follow up on Dusty, leaving him with a bottle of alcohol is not the way I imagined him to go out.. I have a few ideas how you could link this new character in with Dusty.. But your the author and I don’t want to tell you how I think you should do your job.. Either way if you wish to know I shall expand..
All the best and I hope you get every success with your writing skills
Thanks again Ryan,
I’m sure Dusty will reappear at some stage in the future. Right now though I’m having fun with my new character Matt.
Take good care.
All right 🙂 can’t wait for his return then ! Have a goodun
Hi Bob, The Infidel has to be one of the most thought provoking and moving novels I have had the fortune to read. I still suspect John may have survived his falk, and the lack of a body sort of backs up this up. There is mileage to be had from Dusty and possibly John as these are characters that can be developed further. I look forward to watching The Infidel at the cinema.
The Infidel is easily one of the best novels I have ever read. I found the book flowed beautifully and was very descriptive. In parts, the scenes were so vivid in my mind it felt like I was watching a movie. And by the of the book, I felt like I knew the main characters personally.
What struck me most however, is the political truths the underpin the book. You’re a man who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. A true warrior.
PS – your patriotism is contagious! While I’m not a Scot myself, your book has reminded me that I have softspot for that part of the UK and it’s people.
Thank you for those very kind words.
I’m really pleased that you found The Infidel such a good read for the reasons that you explained.
Thank you once again,
I have a message for any film makers……make it so