Reading: Saunders’ debut novel Ministers of Fire

Over ten years in the making, local author Mark Saunders’ debut novel Ministers of Fire has finally hit the bookstores, both online and off, and on Friday, May 18 he’ll be reading from the book at the New Dominion Bookshop on the DTM.

Novelist Robert Stone calls Ministers a “beautifully written, restrained, and passionate work by a writer who knows the ins and outs and intrigues of the New World Order all too well.” Local author John Casey, who will be introducing Saunders on Friday, added that it belongs on the bookshelf with John le Carré and Eric Ambler.

Not to give away too much, Ministers of Fire‘s main character is Lucius Burling, a former CIA operative in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, who isthe American consul in Shanghai, but after the 9/11 attacks his past adventures in the country—ah, like, trying to fund the mujahedin to battle the Soviets, and basically creating Osama Bin Ladin and the Taliban—have come back to haunt him. Meanwhile, a Chinese dissident physicist wants to sell nuclear secrets in this new Post-9/11 world.

Saunders thinks maybe fiction can still reflect the world more truthfully than a real event or a political argument can.

“In my novel, I get into the heads of the dissident, the Chinese security men, the rogue CIA agent, and the diplomat torn between them,” says Saunders.

About two weeks ago, just as his book was arriving in stores, Saunders read about Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese lawyer who escaped from extralegal house arrest to the American embassy in Beijing.

“The choices facing Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Locke, and for that matter the Chinese politburo in negotiating his fate, were very similar to what I had to figure out to make the ending of my book work,” says Saunders,  “The whole thing is still a bit mysterious to me, but it it gives me faith in fiction. “

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