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Follower Love Giveaway Hop

A father’s enduring love for his estranged son propels him on a mission to West Africa.

The trip misery piles up but nothing can deter Matt Reiser from finding his son.  Except his son.

Use this code: RD36Z at this site for a free copy of Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa.

Or for a 99 cent copy click Kindle.

Back to the hop here.


Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Excerpt, Facing the Son

Coupon Code: KK44Q
Expires: November 12, 2011

Click here and use the above code for free e-copy of Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa.

Matt Reiser, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, landed in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on a May evening in 1979.  He woke the next morning with a terrible headache.    

He rubbed his neck, his skin hot, gritty, and sticky, and blinked directly into a bright parched wall.  He sat up with a jerk.  “Ow!”  His back.  He twisted himself upright, confused, on a hard pack street.  A group of strange people stood over him.  A short heavy bald man in a horizontally striped shirt dangled a cigarette from his lips.  A severe woman with critical eyes held a headless chicken by its feet.  Several ill-dressed men looked on from behind.

“Get away from me!”  Matt waved his arms to shoo the crowd.  “What are you looking at?”  He meant to shout but coughed.  He was groggy.  His body didn’t respond.  He needed to focus.  “Where am I?” 

Matt struggled to his feet and felt the blood fall from his head, placed his palms on the wall for balance.  The wall felt warm and rough, and he waited for the dizziness to pass before turning to see where the hell he was.  The sun caught him in the face.  Too bright.  Couldn’t see.  Shaded his eyes. 

Who were these people?  The bald man stared at Matt.  Made him aware of his heavy, crumpled sport coat.  Matt pressed his lower back to stand straight.   

“Where is this?”  He stepped away from the wall, turned his attention to the area around the building, and stumbled into the street, splashing through a curbside rivulet. 

“The hell?”  He looked at his wet socks.  “Where are my shoes?”  He looked around and saw tenements running the length of the street in both directions. Weeds, spindly bushes, even a short tree, poked through the broken road.  Trash lay in scattered piles.  An old cane chair with a busted seat butted up against a wall.  A mangy mongrel rummaged through the trash at the corner of a building.  Nothing like Le Grande Hôtel here.  Le Grande Hôtel.  The idea of it burnt brightly in Matt’s yawning consciousness with the promise of cleanliness, a cool shower, and an air-conditioned room with a view.  And security.

“Police,” Matt said, his anger taking shape.  “I want the police!” he shouted.  “The police!  Do you hear me?  Get the police!”

The old woman knocked the bald man in the shoulder and uttered something. 

“My bags!”  Coming to, Matt looked back at the empty space around the square building.  “My bags were in the trunk of the car.”  He slapped his pockets with growing panic.  “My money!”  Then he slapped his chest to feel for his passport and rammed his hands inside his jacket pockets.  “I can’t believe this!  They took everything!”  He threw his arms out and traipsed toward the onlookers.  He couldn’t imagine going home empty handed, returning to his wife’s everlasting disappointment. 

A moped skidded to a halt beside the commotion.  The rider, a teenage boy with an Afro and wearing an orange and green soccer jersey, stayed seated, his feet as kickstand, watching.  The boy looked fresh, as if he just woke up and was on his way to school, or work, or whatever it was these people did around here. 

The group gave Matt space and watched him strut. 

“I don’t speak French,” he asserted. “No parlez français.”

The scruffy cur, suspicious of the strange man’s nervous energy, dropped his head and snarled and Matt kept the mutt in sight in case it lunged at him.  Was it rabid?  How much worse could this get?





Alaskan Book Cafe Guest Post

I have asked author Mark Rudolph to speak with us today about how he came to write his book, Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa.

Thanks Cristina for asking me to contribute to your blog.

My first real job was working for a US multinational, based in Brussels, from where I was responsible for organizing the sales and delivery and maintenance of major truck fleets to West African countries. This was in the early eighties when communication was by telex, when flights to Africa were infrequent, and when once you were there, you were largely on your own.

I would go for a month at a time to tour the West African countries where the State, AID, and United Nations organizations ran projects and kept offices. These men, and they were all men, were my potential customers.  My competitors were the Soviets, the Chinese, the French, the British, the West Germans, and the Japanese.  All business was conducted in French, which slapped my textbook French into shape pretty fast.

Most the projects were meant to improve the lives of people living in near-Biblical conditions: improving access to water, building roads and bridges, establishing self-sustaining businesses, and improving agriculture. Some projects were major buildings that provided jobs for the period of construction and afterward were intended to be a source of continuing employment, such as churches, stadiums, museums, administrative buildings, and other municipal structures. Some projects were just excuses for politicians to get rich

Graft and corruption were rampant. How much of the money lined the pockets of corrupt politicians and middlemen is hard to say, but it was obvious to me as a young executive that by complying with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which all my colleagues and I signed, we were at a significant competitive disadvantage. We agreed not to provide payment to any middlemen not directly related to a project. Our competitors labored under no such restrictions.

Corruption however didn’t stop the many people who spent significant portions of their lives in these countries striving to contribute to the improvement of the environment, and the quality of life, at the grass roots level.

I observed the contrast between the world of multinational head-to-head competition, and on-the-ground person-to-person education. I had many conflicting thoughts at the time as I became acquainted with a full range of people involved in all apsects of foreign aid.

Nearly everyone did the best they could with the tools at their disposal. But the deck is stacked against the indigenous people. The poorest of the world’s poor are still the poorest of the world’s poor forty years later, despite the billions of aid money poured into the region.

I devised a story so I could explore again what it was like to straddle the developed and the developing world at a pre-9/11 time, prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which in a geopolitical sense started the chain of events that brought us to today’s dangerously polarized world.

Matt Reiser is a naive, untraveled American, who makes one huge simple mistake, which sends him on a journey that he is wholly unprepared for. He needs to find his son and deliver a letter from his ill wife who desperately wants to reconnect with their son.  Matt’s life until this trip has been orderly and predictable. His son chose to strike out on his own for a different and more challenging life, joining the Peace Corps right out of college, and cutting off all contact with his parents for his own reasons.

On the way to find his son, Matt discovers a West Africa outside the confines of the taxi-airport-hotel-embassy bubble which is where most tourists spend their time. By the time he reaches his son, he’s in a better position to understand him, and himself.

My hope is the reader enjoys and respects the characters, and the countryside, as much as I did when I first traveled through the territory.  And will develop a deeper appreciation for the region and its ongoing challenges.

Thanks for giving me this chance to connect with your followers, Cristina.

Thank you Mark for sharing with us today. I will be reviewing Facing the Son, A Novel in Africa at a future date.


The August Giveaway Hop is Here

Follow the Hop here.   If you hopped here, follow the link below for your free copy of:

Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa  

Go to Smashwords and use this code: HV52K.











Review by: Cindy Rinaldi on July 29, 2011 : star starstar star star
In 1979, when American Matt Reiser lands in Africa to search for his son, he quickly finds himself beaten and robbed of everything from his passport to his shoes. Haunted by regrets, Matt is on a quest for redemption and the robbery triggers a chain of events that takes Matt on a dangerous journey across international boundaries without a valid passport. A dubious hotel concierge and his street-smart niece seem to want to help Matt, but their lives collide in a pivotal moment that sends Matt running from thugs and government officials through urban and rural Africa in a life-changing adventure. Surprising twists hurl strong characters through colorful sights, smells and sounds of a time gone by. “Facing the Son” delivers a great roller coaster ride that is a testament to a father’s love for his son and his son’s mother in a story that is compelling, heartwarming and bittersweet.

Review by:  T B Gething   on  Jul 08, 2011:     4 of 5 stars

West Africa before cell phones…

Africa has always seemed a long way away to me, and a little intimidating for that reason. One sees news of the violence, corruption and dire poverty there. Facing the Son, which takes place in the late 1970s, does not gloss over these aspects of the continent, but the novel is also a heart-warming, positive story about an American father’s attempt to reconnect with a son who has chosen to distance himself from his family by moving there.  The pace is quick and the plot keeps turning as frequently as the back roads traveled. Liked it so much, I read it twice!

Review by:  Ian Berman   on Jul 20, 2011: 5 of 5 stars

What a great book.  From the outset the reader is put in suspense with what has got to be any travelers worst nightmare – and then in a country as foreign as one can imagine.  This book has a lot to offer including understanding the challenging conditions in Africa, a traveler put completely outside his comfort zone, and a father’s struggle with his broken relationship with his son.  The story continues throughout to take new unexpected turns and one quickly gets to a point where you cannot put it down until completed.


Ségou and Bla

In 1620, Bozo settlers founded the town of Ségou, later the capital of the Bambara Empire which stretched along the Niger River. The Empire based its economy on the slave trade and was therefore often at war with its neighboring tribes.

In 1861, El Hadj Oumar Tall, a Muslim Tukulor from Senegal, defeated the Bambara and forced the population to convert to Islam. El Hadj Oumar Tall often left his son Ahmadu in charge of Ségou while he continued his conquest of neighboring towns and tribes, until one day he  blew himself up with his own dynamite. Ahmadu ruled Ségou until the French, in league with his local adversaries, chased him away and took control in 1890.

In Mali, El Hadj Oumar Tall is blamed for wrecking the region through brutal warfare and preparing the way for French victory.

Today, Ségou is an important agricultural region. Its people excel in pottery made from the mud of the Niger River and weave the locally grown cotton and wool into cloth, blankets, and carpets. Most people live on less than $2.00 per day.

Early in the eighteenth century, the founder of the Bambara Empire, Biton Mamary Coulibaly, established Bla as a supply outpost for ammunition and grain. The verb, “ka bila,” literally means “leave behind.”

Today, the small town of Bla serves as a crossroads for goods heading north and south.


In 1979, the Ivorian economic miracle had reached its peak. The country was the world’s leading cocoa producer and Africa’s biggest exporter of pineapples, coffee, and palm oil.  “There is no room for cut-rate Africanization,” proclaimed President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, as he funded the country’s aggressive expansion with foreign debt. 

The President was already laying the groundwork to transform the village of his birth to the country’s political capital.  In a country where the dominant form of transportation was walking, a six lane highway cut through the rainforest between Abidjan and Yamoussoukro, or Yakro, as many called the tiny village.

By 1989, Yakro would be a city with government buildings bounded by deciduous trees and street lights brighter than the stars.  A five-star Hotel President would welcome guests with a first-rate golf course, restaurants, and a nightclub with European delicacies flown in from around the world.  Sacred crocodiles would be fed live chickens daily in a moat around the presidential palace pond.  A sacred elephant would wander the palace grounds.  And the city would boast the
largest church in the world, The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, rising 518 feet from the jungle floor.

Today, after more than a decade of civil strife, Yakro no longer functions as the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire.    

Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa 


By legend, when the first French colonists arrived in the late nineteenth century, they asked a woman what she called her village protected from the sea by a large lagoon. Not understanding the question, the woman replied, “T’chan m’bi djan,” or “I’ve just been cutting leaves.” Those first French settlers, assuming they had been understood, named the region Abidjan.

In 1931 after a wharf was constructed, the population expanded. In 1933 after the settlement was designated the capital of the French colony of Côte d’Ivoire, population grew further. Soon the sleepy backwater became an important outpost. By the 1940’s Abidjan had developed a reputation as a meeting place for smugglers and international spies.

In 1951, the French built the Vridi Canal connecting the Ebrié Lagoon with the ocean, thus establishing Abidjan as a strategic West African port. Before long the town became a city, responsible for nearly half the trade of the region and was nicknamed the Paris of Africa for its skyscrapers, its love of music, fashion, art, and literature, and its burgeoning population of immigrants from its West African neighbors.

The French administration occupied the desirable Plateau section of town where they built their hotels and embassies.  The natives settled near the factories and warehouses in places like Treichville.

Following independence from France in 1960 was a time of great pride and optimism and economic growth throughout the city and the country. By 1979, the agrarian economy was sagging under the combined weight of two devastating droughts in the north, a crushing sovereign debt, and a culture of corruption.