A novel, coming in April 2017 from Lee Boudreaux Books:
The Kite Runner meets The Things They Carried in this explosive debut which maps the blurred lines between good and bad, soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished.
It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels an already-smoldering insurgency intent on making Iraq the next graveyard of empires.
In dazzling and propulsive prose, Brian Van Reet explores the lives on both sides of the battle lines: Cassandra, a nineteen-year-old gunner on an American Humvee who is captured during a deadly firefight and awakens in a prison cell; Abu Al-Hool, a lifelong mujahedeen beset by a simmering crisis of conscience as he struggles against enemies from without and within, including the next wave of far more radicalized jihadists; and Specialist Sleed, a tank crewman who goes along with a “victimless” crime, the consequences of which are more awful than any he could have imagined.
Depicting a war spinning rapidly out of control, destined to become a modern classic, Spoils is an unsparing and morally complex novel that chronicles the achingly human cost of combat.
Jonathan Cape (U.K.)
Éditions de l’Olivier (France)
Guanda Editore (Italy)
Atlas Contact (Netherlands)
I read this with awe. Spoils is a harrowing and incredibly powerful debut which shows war in all its complexity and viciousness and which attempts to humanize it through extraordinary and conflicted characters. The female soldier Cassandra Wigheard is superbly drawn and her relationship with the young jihadist will stay with me for a long time.
The brilliance of Brian Van Reet’s Spoils lies not only in the sheer forward-motion velocity of its plotting, but in the psychological terrain it explores: what a generation of young women and men went looking for in Iraq, what they found, and why that discovery matters so profoundly for the rest of us.
In recent years, there have been a number of very good novels by veterans of the Global War on Terror. None are as ambitious, inclusive, or powerful as Brian Van Reet’s Spoils; none have this novel’s range or uncanny ability to transport the reader to the battlefield and those rarely explored margins at the battlefield’s ragged edge. Spoils is a fantastic debut.
Brian Van Reet’s beautiful, intense, and at times disturbing novel Spoils traces the motivations and desires of combatants on both sides of the Iraq War, showing us what happens when increasing violence and chaos start to warp the choices they’re able to make.
Moving immediately into the pantheon of first-rate war novels, Spoils reads like a nightmare within a tragedy, a story that is both touchingly classic and brutally modern. This is a definitive record of the war that marked the end of the American Empire. It will shortly be seen as one of the best novels of our time in the Middle East.
With Spoils, Brian Van Reet has given readers an intensely moving novel. That it is also a nearly comprehensive examination of our modern wars is a remarkable demonstration of both the power and relevance of fiction.
Vivid and fierce, Spoils is an eloquent exploration of humanity. Depicting a world with no obvious villains or heroes, this novel is as important as it is timely. By exploring the nuances of motivation, loyalty, and sacrifice, Van Reet exposes the connections that bind us across even the greatest divides.
Available for pre-order online: