Erryn reviews ‘Cooper’s Promise’ by Timothy Jay Smith. Ebook published on October 15, 2012 and is 220 pages. The audiobook was released April 22, 2021, is narrated by Ryan Brophy and is 7hrs and 11min. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I wanted to try someone new.
Army sharpshooter and deserter Cooper Chance is trapped. Recruited from Iraq to fight in an African country ravaged by a chronic civil war, Cooper wants nothing more than to go home. Unfortunately, the only thing awaiting him in America is jail, and Cooper is acutely claustrophobic.
Whether he likes it or not, he now leads the life of a mercenary in a gritty world filled with thugs, prostitutes, and corrupt cops. To survive his desperate circumstances, Cooper trades diamonds. One day, he wanders into a diamond shop, where he meets Sadiq, a young merchant as lost in the world as he is. As they fall in love, Cooper has no idea Sadiq has ulterior motives.
Meanwhile, huge oil reserves are discovered nearby, and the CIA offers Cooper a way home without jail time if he agrees to carry out a risky, high-stakes mission. Cooper will do anything to get home – except sell his soul to the devil. But when a teenage prostitute he has promised to save suddenly disappears, Cooper finally relents. Unfortunately, he has no idea that unexpected consequences await.
I’m always game to try a new author and when this opportunity arose, I snapped up the book. As always, I did not read the synopsis, so I headed into it knowing little and completely unsure what to expect. If I’d read the synopsis, I would have known this is not like the other books I’ve read recently. After sticking mainly to gay romance, this book was different. It’s a thriller. And let me tell you, I was on the edge of my seat. Several times I honestly didn’t believe Cooper could escape. Several times I wondered if he was going to make it.
Cooper Chance is living in the African country of Lalanga on his wits, his shady dealings, and beer. An army deserter, he can’t return to his home in the United States. He misses his step-sister to whom he promised to write. And he has. He just hasn’t sent the post cards. He hangs out at The Mining Pan, a bar that served G&T without ice, cold beer on days when there’s power, a young girls and boys who have sex with johns on mattresses in the backrooms with beaded curtains for the illusion of privacy. Cooper doesn’t indulge, He observes Lulay and the boys with lipstick and although he dreads watching them prostitute their young bodies, he’s powerless to intervene. He makes a Cooper Promise to Lulay that one day he’ll take her away, but he isn’t sure he can do it.
Meanwhile he fences diamonds stolen by a child who works in the mines and her blind brother who gets them to Cooper. Cooper then takes them to a legitimate store and that’s where he meets Sadiq. The prodigal son has been studying in Beirut and has come home to take over his father’s shop. He’s brought a friend with him. A devout Muslim who abhors America, Americans, and everything they stand for. Needless to say, he and Cooper don’t hit it off. But Sadiq and Cooper do and thus begins an affair of heart and body. I wanted it to work out for them, all the while suspecting they were doomed. I felt everyone in this story was doomed.
The Cooper’s approached by the CIA. Do us this one little favor, they say, and you can go home. Thus begins Cooper’s insane balancing act. Sadiq, Lulay, Lulay’s sister Ianna, Sam Brown from the CIA, and Innocence the diamond thief’s brother. But Cooper can’t save everyone. How he copes with that knowledge was one of the most impactful moments in the book. Time is running out, and inertia is not an option.
This book is rich, colorful, and exotic. From the mangoes that fall from trees, to the baths that are NOT Turkish, to the mosaic of people parading through the corrupt country – even down to the local police chief who is fat while his second in charge is starving. There is poverty, desperation, deprivation, corruption, and mayhem. One tribe runs the governments while the other are the rebels. The rebels win and they form the next corrupt government, pillaging whatever is left until the next ones come. America offers to help, but only after the discovery of oil.
There is, obviously, cynicism in this book. But there are also glimpses of humanity. The ending was oddly satisfying, given the carnage. I don’t want to say more – I think I’ve said plenty already. And in case you haven’t figured it out, I really enjoyed the book. The narrator, Ryan Brophy, is new to me, and I have to say he gave a solid performance. I can definitely recommend this book, although it won’t suit everyone’s sensibilities. There is sorrow and there is triumph. I’ll take that away with me.
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars
Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that’s seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.
Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, will be published in spring 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012.
Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.