The Spy's Little Zonbi: A Secret Agent Strives To Hold On To His Idealism

spy_zonbiThe Spy’s Little Zonbi (5 x 8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-184-2, 272 pp., $14.95) is a work of espionage fiction by Cole Alpaugh about an idealistic secret agent who tries to protect his daughter from the evil his work has wrought.

Click here to read the article in the Wayne Independent Newspaper online.

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Distributed by Aftershocks Media (orders@epicenterpress.com/800.950.6663), the 5×8 trade paperback can be ordered by stores and libraries through Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Partners/West, Midwest Library Service, and Todd Communications.

The Spy’s Little Zonbi is Alpaugh’s third novel. His second novel, The Turtle-Girl from East Pukapuka, was a finalist in both the 2013 Next Generation Indie Awards and the 2013 Foreword Book of the Year Awards. Alpaugh’s first book, The Bear in a Muddy Tutu, set in a ragtag traveling circus, garnered eleven five-star reviews on WorldCat.

“Forget James Bond. I’d much rather spend my time with Chase Allen, the idealistic journalist-turned-government spook at the center of Cole Alpaugh’s outlandishly entertaining new novel.”

—Josh McAuliffe, The Scranton Times-Tribune

“Imaginative. Funny. 3D Characters that come to life on the page and leave you wanting more.”

—Michelle Hessling, Publisher, The Wayne Independent

“Part The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and part The World According to Garp, Alpaugh’s latest offering is an exhilarating read that I highly recommend.”

—Ann Schmidt, MLS, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

During a college sponsored aid program in Haiti, Chase Allen witnesses the slaughter of homeless boys. Unable to shake the haunting images with booze and bong hits, he decides to make something of his life by taking an unpaid newspaper internship. There he is recruited for a branch of the CIA whose agents pose as journalists in international hotspots.

Chase begins his espionage career in Nicaragua, where his job is to position the country’s president in the gun sights of a distant sharpshooter during a press dinner. In Panama, he hunts for a deposed rogue dictator last seen in high heels and a bad wig. Success lands him a mission in Northwest Thailand, where he helps a young American Peace Corps volunteer caught up in a jihadist scheme to use bomb-laden bats.

Back home in New Jersey, while monitoring a hapless band of wannabe Iranian terrorists, Chase meets a dark, intriguing woman. Marriage and fatherhood change his priorities, and he begins to worry about putting himself and his family in danger. With great reluctance he agrees to follow a former Austrian ski racer plotting a deadly strike on the Winter Olympics.

It was Chase’s idealism that led him to spying, and that same quality will be his undoing. Faced with deceit beyond his wildest imaginings, he clings to the one person in his life who is good and true, his daughter, his Little Zonbi.

Says Alpaugh, “There’s a period of reflection following news assignments. It happens after the final bullets are fired, or when your plane lifts into the sky on the way home. The receding adrenaline leaves a numbness, an emptiness. You’ve barged into the lives of strangers during traumatic times and then just left them behind. I was almost always in a better position than the people I covered, even though I never made much money in exchange for talking my way into gun battles. That included the soldiers in Nicaragua, or El Salvador, or Haiti, or wherever. I had the ability to leave, while they were hunkered down in muddy holes protecting or maybe overthrowing a government. Then there was the collateral damage—the very old and the very young who were caught in the middle. This story first came to me after some boys at the orphanage where I was staying led me to an old woman with leprosy. They had been throwing rocks at her, insisting that she “liked it.” I knelt beside the woman and touched her hand. Nothing I could say would make the boys stop throwing rocks. Nothing I could do would cure her illness. So I took a photograph. This story was my way of filling the emptiness after leaving so much pain behind.”

Cole Alpaugh is a former journalist, having worked at daily newspapers along the East Coast, as well as spending several years as a war correspondent in numerous hot-spots around the world for Manhattan-based news agencies. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and writer living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he also coaches his daughter’s soccer kick-arounds.  Click here to find him online.

Read on for an excerpt:

The Iranians became drunker and more obnoxious as the weeks passed. They seemed to be less and less a terrorist risk than a danger to the club kids and even themselves. It was a Friday night that the six men surrounded a girl on the dance floor. Chase, nursing a vodka tonic in a plastic cup, leaned against a wall near the stage. It was still early and the girl was dancing alone when she was accosted, trapped in a circle. They were hooting, drunk and macho, beer bottles waving over their heads. The four bouncers, huge black guys from the neighborhood, stepped out of the shadows, and Chase watched them looking at each other, deciding if it was time to pounce.

The Iranian men danced by, throwing out their hips and making little hops that rained down foamy beer. The circle tightened and it took them a while to realize the girl had somehow escaped, slipping through their gyrating gauntlet.

“I’m Mitra.” She was next to Chase, a drink in her hand.

“Chase.”

“I don’t like the early music, anyway,” she said, and Chase watched her lean against the wall, arms folded in front, eyeing the Iranians. She was tiny, with dark hair and pale skin. “But it’s nice to have your own space, you know?”

The Iranians spotted her and Chase could see the cheated looks.

The song changed, was faster and louder. “Hey Man, Nice Shot” began to play as the group of drunk, pissed-off Iranians came for the girl who’d gotten away.

“I love this song,” Mitra shouted, not budging.

“They look mad.”

“Can you believe one grabbed my ass?”

“It looked like all six were grabbing your ass,” Chase said over the thumping music that had enough bass to vibrate the air. The men stopped their march a few feet from where Chase and the girl stood. “Maybe they came to apologize for being born complete douche bags.”

Mitra had shimmied closer, her right arm and thigh brushing up against him. She smelled like heaven. Chase took a long sip as one of the men shouted what was probably a terrific insult in Farsi. They were huffing, out of breath, slicked hair all messed and pointed spikes. The tallest came to Chase’s chin.

“Sorry, I can’t hear you,” Chase answered, shrugging his shoulders, pointing at one ear. The group hadn’t noticed the gargantuan bouncers who’d come up behind them.

“I think he asked you to dance,” Mitra said, laughing, her head touching Chase’s shoulder when she leaned sideways.

“Bastard!” one of the Iranians shouted. He lunged at Chase but was immediately plucked backward as if on a bungee cord. His accomplices turned to see what had happened and they too suffered the same, neck jarring event. The entire Iranian cell was carted to the exit by the bouncers, leaving nothing behind but a few beer bottles spinning on the floor.

“You’re a total troublemaker, aren’t you?” Chase looked down at her almond eyes, breathed her in. For the first time in two months he didn’t care where the idiots from Iran were. Let them kidnap the governor and set fire to the gold-domed State House. She had tiny freckles and soft lips. There was a new song and she took the cup from his hand and emptied it in one long swallow.

“I bring out the worst in people,” she said and left him to dance alone, before the mob of college kids began to descend.

He let her go for now.

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