Pug's eyes opened, and came into focus on the cloth lining of the car's roof.  His feet tingled, numb, immobile.  Remembering where he was, he glanced at Bill, who was smiling in his sleep.  Pug pictured Bill as a young man grinning in a Huey flying at treetop level, feet hanging out the open door, M-16 pointed casually down at the ground, while Brick's eyes penetrated the jungle, scanning for Charlie.  Sensing that Pug was awake, Bobby awoke, and glanced at him.  They rubbed their eyes in synch, like a pair of sleepy cheerleaders.  In the front seat Juma stared out the windshield, in his own world.  To Pug's amazement, the 12 year old was still driving.

Unbelievable.  This kid has the endurance of a long haul trucker.

The boy said, "Baba?" and downshifted.

Pug realized that this was the first time he was hearing the boy speak.

Baba?  Baby?  Why's he talking about babies?

"Baba?"  The boy took his hand off the stick shift, and tapped Juma on the shoulder.  Juma roused from his thoughts, smiled at the boy, and tousled his hair.  He answered the child in Uzbek, and they held a short, intimate conversation.

"Kenjabai say he tired, now.  Is good idea we stop, anyway"

"How come?"

"We are close to Samarkand.  Police ask us why boy is driving."

-excerpt from BURAN


In the 1980s I lived abroad.  One dreary, winter day I visited the local U.S. Embassy, and saw a report that piqued my curiosity: it contained KH-11 spy satellite photographs of "our" space shuttle, but it was the size of a Cessna, and it was surrounded by Soviet military officers.

On the deck of a ship.

Then I noticed the Hammer & Sickle on its wings.


Space Shuttle Endeavour OV-105 photograph © TG Miko

The photo was from the test flight of the scale model of Buran, the Soviet Union's space shuttle. 

After I finished writing Amateur Hour, it was time to write a book about Buran.  Pug Ironhorse elbowed me out of the way, and turned Buran into a story about him, and his involvement with the Russians.  As opposed to Amateur Hour, where Pug is scheming to retire from the military, Buran takes place in the 1980s, at the beginning of his military career.  We find out how Pug became a Navy SEAL, and how he wound up in possession of his grandfather's watch
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