The Bookworm Sez: Heart-pounding thrills in ‘American Radical’

The Bookworm Sez: Heart-pounding thrills in ‘American Radical’

Let’s pretend.

Let’s be cowboys, in search of our lost herd. Or you be a dinosaur and I’ll be an alligator. Let’s pretend we’re cooking dinner, crawling through the desert, exploring stars. It’s fun to be something you’re not for awhile – unless, as in “American Radical” by Tamer Elnoury with Kevin Maurer (c.2017, Dutton, $28, 349 pages), it’s a matter of international security.

Born in Egypt and raised in New Jersey by devout Muslim parents, Tamer Elnoury saw an armed man praying at a local mosque one afternoon and it made him realize that he wanted to be a cop. He’d set his sights on federal law enforcement and, shortly after graduation from the police academy, the FBI to come courting but Elnoury turned them down. Post-9/11, he wondered if he’d made a mistake.

He reached back out to the Bureau. Seven years later, they returned his call.

As a newly-minted FBI agent who spoke fluent Arabic and English, Elnoury’s first task was coming up with a “legend” for his undercover work. He needed a story that was memorable and believable: a pseudonym; a fake family, and a reason for breaking the law. He had to make a target like him without questioning his identity, or he needed to “bump” the guy to “take his temperature.”

But being someone you’re not is exhausting work: Elnoury remained in his role nearly every minute he wasn’t with other agents or a “handler.” Apartments he occupied weren’t his, nor were the cars he drove. His attire had to fit the story. A case might mean several cross-country flights in a single week. Perhaps most difficult: he had to hide his own “disgust” while he continued gathering information.

That ability came in handy in his biggest case.

Elnoury was a busy agent with a packed schedule on the day he got an urgent call: the FBI and Canadian officials were investigating a “very bad guy” they believed had ties to al Qaeda – or worse. Or maybe not. Learning more would require finesse, and Elnoury’s part was supposed to be a quick “bump.”

And it chilled him to his core…

The first thing you’ll want to do before you read “American Radical” is this: throw out everything you think you know about Islam if you’re not Muslim.

Authors Tamer Elnoury (a pseudonym) and Kevin Maurer stress, often and specifically, what’s in the Quran and what Islamic terrorists claim is in the Quran. Those are two different things, the explanation of which makes readers understand clearly the danger Elnoury faced with a guy who might’ve been a friend, were it not for the man’s radical beliefs. Quiet mindfulness mixes with straining awareness, frustration, and “evil” then, adding to the tension of a tale and an aftermath that, even though parts of this book needed to be omitted for security reasons and conversations were partially re-created, reads like a palm-sweaty, heart-pounding thriller.

And isn’t that what you want for a long winter’s read? Eh, of course it is, so go find “American Radical.” You’re gonna love it, for real.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

This photo of Frenchy with a freshly killed black bear was taken on the Kenai Peninsula in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 1

The stories were full of high adventure — whaling, mining, polar bear hunting, extensive travel, and the accumulation of wealth

File
Seeing God’s hand in this grand and glorious creation

The same God of creation is the God that made me and you with the same thoughtfulness of design, purpose and intention

Chewy and sweet the macaroons are done in 30 minutes flat. (Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Sophisticated, simplified

When macarons are too complicated, make these delicious, simple macaroons

Michael S. Lockett / capital city weekly
Gigi Monroe welcomes guests to Glitz at Centennial Hall, a major annual drag event celebrated every Pride Month, on June 18.
Packed houses, back to back: GLITZ a roaring success

Sold-out sets and heavy-hitting headliners

Michael Armstrong / Homer News 
Music lovers dance to Nervis Rex at the KBBI Concert on the Lawn on July 28, 2012, at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer.
Concert on the Lawn returns

COTL line up includes The English Bay Band, a group that played in 1980

Marcia and Mary Alice Grainge pose in 1980 with a pair of caribou antlers they found in 1972. The sisters dug the antlers from deep snow and detached them from a dead caribou. (Photo provided by Marcia Grainge King)
Fortune and misfortune on the Kenai — Part 2

In Kasilof, and on Kachemak Bay, in Seldovia and later in Unga, Petersen worked various jobs before being appointed deputy marshal in 1934

“Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” was published in 2018 by Razorbill and Dutton, imprints of Penguin Random House LLC. (Image via amazon.com)
Off the Shelf: The power of personal voice

“A Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement” provides first-person accounts of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida

Most Read