News From the Red Desert - A novel

News From the Red Desert

A novel

Hide Details By Kevin Patterson
Categories: Fiction
Series: Inspire
Hardcover : 9780345815026, 320 pages, Random House of Canada
August 2016


From the award-winning author of The Water in Between and Consumption, the definitive novel of the Afghanistan war.
News From the Red Desert begins in late 2001, when everyone believes the war is already won and the Taliban defeated, then leaps late in the severely escalated conflict--into the mess, and death, and confusion. At its heart are the men and women who have come to Afghanistan to seek purpose, and adventure, and danger, by engaging in the most bewitching and treacherous of human pursuits: making war.
     It's the story of Deirdre O'Malley, an American journalist who had been covering municipal politics when the airplanes went into the towers. Now a war correspondent, she has come to love the soldiers she covers and to grieve so hard over their wounds and their deaths she considers herself a member of the mission too. Embedded with Canadian infantry, she can't ignore the situation on the ground. Her loyalty toward her ex-lover, the American general who has taken command of the theatre, wavers as the war wavers, and the use of torture and the slaughter of civilians is brought to light. Fuelling the tension is a melancholy American supply sergeant who accidentally releases a trove of war porn online that sparks a furious hunt for the person who leaked it. Fearing arrest at any moment, he has stayed on too long in Kandahar for reasons he doesn't understand himself. Caught up in these currents are the Pakistanis who operate the Green Beans café on the Kandahar Airfield, led by optimist Rami Issay, who wants to lighten his customers' hearts (and make a success of his business) by running film and chess clubs in the only zone of recreation on the base. But the war intrudes even into the lives of the well-intentioned. In a powerful climax that tests everyone's loyalty and faith, the essential chaos of violence asserts itself. Love and desire endure, but no-one escapes unscathed.


  • Short-listed, City of Victoria Butler Book Prize 2017


A Walrus Best Book of 2016
National Post Best Book of 2016

News From the Red Desert is well written and deals honestly with a number of issues including the use of torture, the impact of war on frontline troops, how the media covers the war and the impact of the fighting on the people it purports to help. . . . [Patterson's] time spent in Afghanistan is reflected in the writing. . . . His description of a nighttime ambush by US special forces on a group of Taliban is riveting. . . . The end result of the ambush also provides an interesting twist to the plot and a challenge to the embedded journalist who witnesses it. The backstories of the characters are well told and they come to life as real people. Some of the characters and events will be recognizable as being drawn from actual events heightening the air of authenticity the book has. . . . Patterson has written a novel about war that is well worth reading. It deals with the ongoing issues of Afghanistan and asks hard questions about what the West is trying to achieve in this conflict and the effectiveness of these efforts.” —Basil Guinane, former Associate Dean of the School of Media Studies at Humber College, The Creemore Echo

“With News from the Red Desert, Kevin Patterson has crafted one of the finest war novels this country has ever seen, exploring a conflict many Canadians have already conveniently forgotten, or chosen to ignore. . . . News from the Red Desert is a powerful voice in an area where there are no answers, easy or otherwise. ‘Write whichever truth you need to,’ one of the characters says, late in the book. Thankfully, Patterson took that admonition to heart.” —Robert J. Wiersema, The Globe and Mail

“[P]atterson has carved a place for himself and his characters on the edge of the world. . . . News from the Red Desert is a masterful and essential meditation on war, terror, and the media’s complicity in feeding both. . . . News from the Red Desert puts the most Canadian stamp possible on the war narrative by giving ample space to what, in the eyes of the American military, would be considered peripheral figures at best and, at worst, collateral damage: Afghanis and assorted brown people from border countries.” —Kamal Al-Solaylee, Quill & Quire

“Like Denis Johnson in Tree of Smoke, Kevin Patterson looks at war from every unsettling perspective. News From the Red Desert is a brilliant evocation of a complex war.” —Don Gillmor, author of Long Change and Mount Pleasant
“Stunning and deeply disquieting, News from the Red Desert powerfully captures the bizarre collisions and endless complexities of a hyper-modern global war. Authentic, suspenseful and gritty.” —Award-winning playwright Hannah Moscovitch, whose works include This is War and Infinity

“Gripping. . . . News from the Red Desert is something of a hybrid: part graphic war novel, part Keystone Cops. The former gives the book its gravitas, the latter its rather unexpected humanity—and humour.” —Toronto Star


“This is the contribution made in this startling new book. Here, the voices of battle denote the ecstasy of survival, the thrill of engagement, and the crippling loss that accompanies the death of friends and compatriots. At times haunting and desperate and at other times playful, even lyrical, these unmediated dispatches are flesh and bone, mind and matter, and, above all, soulful to the last.” —The Walrus

“Some of these accounts are moving and heartbreaking. Others are painfully raw. All are memorable and, in most cases, quintessentially Canadian, being a mixture of fearlessness and civility. . . . It’s a book to make you cry and to make you feel proud, not just of the soldiers serving there but of all the soldiers who have worn the Canadian uniform for the past century.” —The Gazette; The Star-Phoenix
“Their words have you choking on acrid smoke and dust, feeling tears streaming down your face and tasting your own blood in a battle. They take you into the despir of a hospital ward and through the sorrow of a ramp ceremony for a fallen comrade on his way home. Outside the Wire leaves you grappling in the fog of war and stunned by the suddenness and finality of a suicide bomb attack.” —Edmonton Journal
“Revealing the soldier’s mindset—a combination of belief in the mission and belief in their fellow soldiers—is what Outside the Wire does best.” —Calgary Herald