Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Benjamin Buchholz

Benjamin Buchholz served as a Civil Affairs Officer in Safwan, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. His nonfiction book Private Soldiers was published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2007.

His new novel is One Hundred and One Nights.

A couple of weeks ago I asked him what he was reading.  His reply:
Right now I'm ingesting huge doses of original source material in Arabic -- the tales of the raids conducted by Muhammad and his followers, the Muhajaroon and the Ansar, in the first years after the Hijra to Medina, along with hadiths, hadith commentaries, tafsir, etc. To augment this academic load, I occasionally still dabble as a form of therapy with fiction or with lighter popular history. My goal in all this study is to write an historical fiction novel about the first hundred years or so of Islam, something similar to what Colleen McCullough did for Rome in her great series "The Masters of Rome" or akin to Patrick O'Brien's "Master and Commander" books on British naval warfare in the Napoleonic era, focusing like O'Brien did on the swashbuckling aspects of the story, the romantic sweep of the Islamic conquests across Syria and Iraq. I've read both those series multiple times and I pick them up again now, from time to time, just to refocus my thoughts about the acquisition of data, points of data, little sayings and traditions and modes of thinking, from the study of all this Islamic history.

The last novel I read straight-through was Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Really a great, sweeping work -- though perhaps a little too great and too sweeping since it clocks in at almost 1000 pages. I'd like to think that my own writing about the town of Safwan in One Hundred and One Nights is as light on its feet, as grounded in accurate observations and experiences, and as compelling as the narrative delivered in Shantaram.
Visit Benjamin Buchholz's website.

The Page 69 Test: One Hundred and One Nights.

My Book, the Movie: One Hundred and One Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue