Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Win a copy of the Baghdad Country Club

UPDATE: Pippa won and has been contacted.

Usually I find nonfiction to be desperately in need of a good condensing, but Joshua Bearman's new Kindle Single Baghdad Country Club is so polished and focused that it's like a handful of diamonds. Here's the official description:

Welcome to a place where even beer runs are a matter of life and death. As the Iraq War draws to an official close, Joshuah Bearman tells the funny and poignant tale of the real-life Baghdad Country Club, a bar in the Green Zone during the conflict's bloodiest years. Against all odds, its proprietors struggle to keep their raucous watering hole safe and well-stocked as the insurgency rages outside.
And here's a taste from the beginning:
A few weeks later, James was cursing himself for getting into the bootlegging business. He had never handled that much of his own money before—$150,000—much less handed it over to someone he barely knew, in cash. His entire life savings was now denominated in liquor, which he had piled into an 18- wheeler and driven through hostile Baghdad. He wound up circling the Green Zone several times, unsuccessfully seeking entry—wrong badges, wrong checkpoints, wrong turns through the often deadly downtown—and was starting to get nervous when he eventually made it through Checkpoint 18.
. . .
And so James became an extreme restaurateur, opening the only authentic bar and restaurant in the Green Zone. It would be the one place where anyone—mercenaries and diplomats, contractors and peacekeepers, aid workers and Iraqis—could walk in, get dinner, open a decent bottle of Bordeaux, and light a cigar from the humidor to go with it. Patrons would check their weapons in a safe, like coats in a coatroom, and leave the war behind...
The book is also illustrated, but the illustrations are fairly lackluster, and really superfluous (you can get a sense by watching the animated trailer). The characters and locales leap off the page:
As the charming maĆ®tre d’, it was Danny’s job to defuse any commotion. And despite his small (and clearly civilian) stature, he was pretty good at it. James thought Danny’s self-deprecating Jewish-guy-with-glasses routine helped him keep people from killing each other or getting out of control. There was, for instance, the time when Tony the Mouse, a notorious Lebanese pimp, showed up in the BCC brandishing his goods. Tony was short, sleazy, and self-confident; Danny noticed him the moment he walked in. Tony tried to dress like the contractors, but his gear was too big. Danny thought he looked like a kid in his dad’s hunting outfit. With him were several Iraqi girls of questionable age, done up in even more questionable makeup, doused in perfume, and wearing what in theory was passable Islamic dress but in material looked more like harem couture. “You smelled the girls before you saw them,” Danny recalls.
It's just begging to be turned into a series of novels or turned into a movie.

Highly recommended. You can read a longer excerpt here, and apparently see the club on Google Maps. The full version is available from The Atavist for the Kindle, the iPad/iPhone, the Nook, or iBooks.

I also have one digital copy to give away. For a chance to win, simply comment on this post and include your email so I can contact you if you win. One comment per person, and this contest is open worldwide. I'll pick a winner on Monday.