The Golden Hour (A Judd Ryker Novel)

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9780425276143: The Golden Hour (A Judd Ryker Novel)

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A remarkable thriller debut of twenty-first-century espionage, by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who “knows where all the bodies are buried—literally" (W. E. B. Griffin).

The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action—something—may reverse the chain of events.

As the director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, Judd Ryker gets a chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works, when there’s a coup in Mali. But in the real world, those hours include things he’s never even imagined.

As Ryker races from Washington to Europe and across the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties—everything he thought he knew—begin to shift beneath his feet, and that friends and enemies come in many forms.

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About the Author:

Todd Moss is Chief Operating Officer and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C. think tank, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. From 2007 to 2008, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, where he was responsible for diplomatic relations with sixteen West African countries.
 
Previously, Moss worked at the World Bank and the Economist Intelligence Unit and taught at the London School of Economics. The author of four nonfiction books on international affairs, he lives in Maryland.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

AUTHOR’S NOTE

The Golden Hour draws on my real-life experiences, but what follows is entirely a work of fiction. The golden hour principle of rapid intervention in trauma cases is a concept from emergency medicine that I learned when working as an EMT and ambulance driver in Boston. I am unaware of any published academic study so far that has discovered such a time pattern in politics, but there is a growing quantitative literature on drivers of conflict.

In the story that follows, any resemblances to actual people or events are coincidental. Timbuktu is real.

 

A NOTE ON TIME

Mali and Great Britain are both on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), but Mali does not follow daylight savings time. Thus, in The Golden Hour Mali is four hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time while Britain is five hours ahead. Germany is six hours ahead.

PROLOGUE

BANGORO VILLAGE, MALI, WEST AFRICA

SIXTY-FIVE MILES NORTH OF TIMBUKTU

Camel meat.

At the thought, her mouth watered slightly. A Philly cheesesteak with camel meat?

Kate, dreaming of comfort food, couldn’t be farther from home. For years, her father would joke, “I’m in Timbuktu,” when he’d call from any of the remote towns of rural Pennsylvania he was constantly visiting. Now she was living a three-hour drive—or, for the locals, a three-day walk—outside of the real Timbuktu. Beyond the middle of nowhere.

The steel bolt clanged loudly as Kate locked up the classroom. She clamped on a bright yellow padlock. The key, also school-bus yellow, was on a leather lanyard around her neck. It was mostly for show, everyone knew, but the headmaster insisted that security must be maintained. Especially for the token library of a few dozen books, each preciously hand-delivered by Kate and the string of Peace Corps volunteers that came before her.

Why not camel? Tastes like beef. I could be the first. I’m a cheesesteak pioneer.

She licked her lips. It was futile, she knew, to fantasize about impossible snacks. But it was a ritual she justified as a normal reaction to homesickness. And the searing Saharan desert heat.

The sun was dropping toward the horizon and glowing in the rich burnt orange that exists only in the African sky.

Most of the students were long gone, the girls called home to haul water, the boys to tend the family goats. A few stragglers were still wandering around the school in tattered pale-blue uniforms, watching the foreigner lock up for the day.

Kate slung her backpack over her shoulder and turned down the sandy path toward her home. Other than the school, her house was the only concrete structure in the village. The rest—the huts, the granaries full of millet, and the tiny shops selling Coca-Cola, long bars of pink soap, jugs of cooking oil, and mobile phone scratch cards—were made of dried mud.

Even though dusk was nearing, it was still close to 100 degrees. Bubbles of sweat were sprouting on her nose and along her cheekbones, periodically sliding down salty paths onto her lips. Her long red hair, pulled back into a perky ponytail, bobbed up and down as she walked.

She was exhausted. But her long day was finally over.

“Miss Katie, Miss Katie! Hello! How are you? Miss Katie!” She waved back at a gaggle of small children, naked and dusty, hopping along the path.

“Hello. Good evening.” Kate forced a friendly smile. The price of being a local celebrity, she reminded herself. And the first freckled redhead the village children had ever seen.

“Hello! Miss Katie! Bonjour! Hello!” They giggled and scampered off into the bush.

As she settled into her forty-minute walk, the very one she had made every day for the past five months, she returned to her thoughts.

She missed her family, especially her dad. Kate loved when they would go out for brunch, just the two of them, on weekends. For as long as she could remember, her father had spent the workweek away from Philadelphia, taking the train back home on Fridays. His afternoons and evenings were usually also busy with work. But the mornings were for family. Kate had even chosen Penn over Yale to stay closer to home. So their weekends could stay the same.

Kate revered her father. To be like him, she knew she would have to see the world. After college, the Peace Corps seemed an obvious, almost unconscious choice. Kate had never even heard of Mali when she received her assignment. She had studied French in school so she could spend the summers in Paris. Or maybe the Riviera. Who knew they spoke French in the Sahara Desert? When she was told where she was going, she laughed, as surely Timbuktu was fictional. Like Atlantis. But her father sternly advised that she accept her duty.

So here she was, in Bangoro, teaching English.

Kate barely noticed the sunset that had helped her fall in love with Africa during those tough early weeks of adjustment. She spied a single white camel off in the distance, nibbling lazily at a dry bush. The sight no longer drew Kate’s fascination, but rather pulled her mind back to cheesesteaks.

Lost in her daydreaming, she didn’t notice that the village was unusually quiet that evening. Or that all the children had suddenly disappeared.

Kate followed a bend in the path and was startled by a Toyota pickup truck, spray-painted with the beige and green squiggles of homemade camouflage, parked in front of her house. Her instinct was to run away, but two men—their faces covered by black scarves, AK-47s slung on their chests—stepped into her path. She spun back toward her house only to find more men emerging from the cab of the Toyota.

Large hands grabbed both her arms firmly and, before she could scream, a burlap sack was slipped over her head.

1.

KITTY HAWK, OUTER BANKS, NORTH CAROLINA

MONDAY, 5:42 A.M. EST (EASTERN STANDARD TIME)

It started, unsurprisingly, with the low buzz of a BlackBerry. Judd slowly opened one eye. The phone was lying facedown on the nightstand just six inches from his nose. Its little blinking green light, barely perceptible during the day, illuminated the pitch-dark room in half-second intervals. So much for vacation.

He grabbed the vibrating phone and studied the caller ID. It was flashing “202” but nothing more. A scrambled number from Washington, D.C. He swung his legs off the bed and sat up. Stealing a quick glance to make sure Jessica was still sound asleep, he pushed the answer button with his thumb and whispered into the phone, “This is Ryker.”

“This is White House Operations. What is your confirmation code?” asked the robotic, clearly military voice on the line.

He paused. “Turquoise Mobutu Seven.”

“Good morning, Dr. Ryker. Embassy Bamako is reporting a probable coup overnight in Mali. As of oh five hundred, we have no reports of violence, but there are military roadblocks around the city and the whereabouts of President Maiga are unknown.”

“Okay,” was all Judd could squeeze out, still shaking out the cobwebs.

“State is setting up a task force to run our policy response, and we should have a new Ops report in about an hour.”

Finally waking up, he asked, “Is it Diallo or Idrissa?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Who is behind the coup? Is it General Oumar Diallo or General Mamadou Idrissa?”

“We don’t know yet, sir. The ambassador and the station chief should have more information soon.”

“Okay, thanks for letting me know. Please tell Larissa James she can reach me on my phone if she wants my input as news rolls in.”

“Ambassador James is the one who asked us to bring you in. A car will be at your location at oh six hundred. They are twelve minutes out.”

He exhaled a deep breath, and sat up straight.

“If that’s your office, it better be goddamn important.” Jessica was awake. “Don’t they know it’s your first day of vacation in a whole year?”

Judd tried to tap her reassuringly, but unable to see in the dark, he just patted the blankets while speaking back into the phone. “Okay, thanks. I’ll look out for the car.” And he hung up.

“Car?”

“A coup in Mali. I can’t say any more. I, um, I don’t know any more. I’m sorry.” He got up and started to get dressed. “It shouldn’t be more than a day or two. The kids won’t even notice that I’m gone.”

“I will,” snapped Jessica.

Judd clipped his BlackBerry onto his belt and picked up his go bag, which was already sitting by the door. He planted a long kiss on Jessica’s lips and then turned to leave.

“Don’t let Rogerson push you around,” she said. “Don’t let him fuck you again,” she added, stopping Judd in his tracks. He turned, gave her a slight, unconvincing nod, and then silently walked away.

As he stepped out of the rented beach house onto the sand driveway, he cursed himself for not setting up the coffeemaker to be ready for just such a possibility. Just as he considered going back in to make a quick double espresso, he saw four beaming headlights approaching in the dark, barreling up the driveway. An all-black Chevy Suburban rolled up and abruptly stopped beside him. A tall, thick man with short hair and a wire looped behind his ear silently exited the front of the vehicle, quickly surveyed the area, then opened the back door while removing the go bag from Judd’s grip.

Judd squinted at the bright lights from inside the cab. “Good morning, sir,” said a young man inside whom he didn’t recognize.

“Morning. We need to stop and get coffee.” He ducked his head and climbed in.

The security officer closed the door, stealing one more glance around, then slid into the car, which was already accelerating. Judd turned around in his seat and waved good-bye to Jessica.

From the bedroom window, she watched the behemoth and its lifeless blacked-out windows speed away.

2.

NORTHBOUND I-95, NORTHERN VIRGINIA

MONDAY, 9:35 A.M. EST

Judd checked his watch. Nearly ten hours since the coup.

Judd had been on the phone and thumbing his BlackBerry since he left his family at the beach house. Futility.

The conflicting rumors had been flying on the Internet like a desert wind funnel: President Maiga had been poisoned by the Saudis, al-Qaeda had attacked the palace, the whole coup was a hoax, the Algerians had sent a brigade over the border, the CIA had bundled Maiga into a car and driven him to a secret prison in Timbuktu, and . . .

Judd shook his head. None of it can be true, of course.

The BlackBerry was hot in his hands. But it wasn’t yielding what Judd craved. For the real information, Judd knew he must wait until he got back to Washington. For the classified videoconference with the ambassador.

Things had been much easier, clearer, when he used to work with numbers. Hard data. Instead he now received a steady stream of assessments. Best guesses, usually. Or, all too often, deliberate misinformation. Lies. But he suppressed any thoughts of returning to his old life yet. No giving up.

Judd took off his glasses and dropped the BlackBerry in his lap as he tried to clear his head by staring out the window. He spied the road sign announcing their approach to the Beltway, the sixty-four-mile-long, eight-lane highway that encircled the nation’s capital. Inside this moat was the globe’s ultimate game of power and influence. To the outside world the key combatants were the public faces, the senators, the press secretaries, and the Sunday-morning TV talking heads. Inside the Beltway, the real action was a layer or two deeper among the Capitol Hill committee staffers, the K Street lobbyists, the wonks deep in the bowels of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Mostly unseen, they made the day-to-day decisions, wielding the power of the United States government.

How different from the genteel campus of Amherst College. Life had been good. Teaching two classes a week, running a small team of graduate students collecting data for his research on political conflict in South Asia and Africa, and taking long walks with his wife and their two young boys in the Berkshires. He’d been within a two-hour drive of his hometown in Vermont, his grandmother at the family house in Burlington, the ballgames at Fenway Park.

The call almost exactly one year ago, so early on a Saturday morning, should have been the first warning sign. . . .

3.

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS

ONE YEAR EARLIER

“Judd Ryker, this is Landon Parker, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State. I’m calling from Washington. I didn’t wake you, I hope?”

“Uh, no, of course not, Mr. Parker,” Judd lied. The alarm clock blinked a cherry-red 7:55.

“Let me get right to the point, Ryker. The Secretary’s policy planning staff is setting up a new rapid reaction unit inside the department. They have been impressed with your work on crisis response times, especially your conclusions about the Golden Hour. We’d like to bring you in for a briefing.”

Judd sat up. “Well, thank you. The new papers on Sri Lanka and Rwanda are only based on preliminary numbers, and haven’t even been published yet. I wouldn’t really call them conclusions. I should have firmer results late next year when all the data is back from Colombo and Kigali. The Golden Hour is still just a theory.”

“How about Monday, nine fifteen?”

“The day after tomorrow? In Washington?”

“Yes. Here at the State Department.”

“Well, I am supposed to teach a class that afternoon, but I can try to find someone to cover.”

“Good. See you Monday morning, Ryker. Someone will meet you in the lobby to clear you into the building and bring you up.” Click.

Forty-eight hours later, Judd was standing in Foggy Bottom, a soulless zone of bleak office buildings on the western edge of Washington, D.C. He was wearing his best navy blue business suit, although the slight fray in the cuffs and the distressed-leather satchel slung over his shoulder hinted at his academic vocation. His tousled brown hair and retro G-man glasses also exposed him as a mere visitor to this particular neighborhood. Jessica had examined his outfit as he left for the airport and proclaimed, with approval, that he was appropriately shabby and “nerd cute.”

Judd strolled up to the Harry S. Truman Federal Building, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of State, trying to suppress his unexpected nervousness. From the outside, the building appeared colossal, gray, and nondescript, hidden behind the gaudy American Pharmacists Association and the more elegant and subtle National Academy of Sciences.

As Judd stood on Constitution Avenue and looked up Twenty-second Street toward the security barriers, he realized that he had been standing in the same spot a few years earlier when he brought his kids to see the four-ton bronze Albert Einstein memorial. He hadn’t even noticed the State Department headquarters just half a block away.

After passing through airport-like security and a tedious ID check, he was given a bright orange badge emblazoned with ESCORT REQUIRED and was instructed to hang it on a chain around his neck. Once inside the lobby, he recognized the nearly two hundred fl...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER A remarkable thriller debut of twenty-first-century espionage, by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who knows where all the bodies are buried--literally (W. E. B. Griffin). The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action--something--may reverse the chain of events. As the director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, Judd Ryker gets a chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works, when there s a coup in Mali. But in the real world, those hours include things he s never even imagined. As Ryker races from Washington to Europe and across the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties--everything he thought he knew--begin to shift beneath his feet, and that friends and enemies come in many forms. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425276143

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER A remarkable thriller debut of twenty-first-century espionage, by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who knows where all the bodies are buried literally (W. E. B. Griffin). The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action something may reverse the chain of events. As the director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, Judd Ryker gets a chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works, when there s a coup in Mali. But in the real world, those hours include things he s never even imagined. As Ryker races from Washington to Europe and across the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties everything he thought he knew begin to shift beneath his feet, and that friends and enemies come in many forms. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425276143

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER A remarkable thriller debut of twenty-first-century espionage, by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who knows where all the bodies are buried--literally (W. E. B. Griffin). The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action--something--may reverse the chain of events. As the director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, Judd Ryker gets a chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works, when there s a coup in Mali. But in the real world, those hours include things he s never even imagined. As Ryker races from Washington to Europe and across the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties--everything he thought he knew--begin to shift beneath his feet, and that friends and enemies come in many forms. Codice libro della libreria BZV9780425276143

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