The Iranian Scorpion


My fourth novel (another thriller) has just been published.



In brief, this novel involves an undercover agent of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), who with the help of an attractive freelance journalist and a shadowy Taliban official learns the cultivation of the opium poppy in Afghanistan and how to convert opium to heroin.  He follows a heroin shipment into Iran and traces it to New York City where it has been sent by The Iranian Scorpion.  When a bust is made in New York City, The Scorpion orders the agent captured and executed.  Will the agent’s connections  including his father (a US Army general),  the journalist, a 15 year old Afghan boy and some Iranian dissidents be able to save him from execution?

The full synopsis follows: 

Robert Duval, an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency, volunteers for a reassignment after years of trying to stem the stream of drugs across   Grande.  He is sent toAfghanistan with a mission of developing a strategy to stifle the flow of drugs to Iran and on to the US.  Robert meets Kate Conway,  a freelance journalist in Kabul, and she introduces him to Vizier Ashraf, a shadowy figure in the Taliban, who also has a religious interest in reducing the cultivation of the opium poppy.  In preparation for the Afghan assignment, Robert has developed fluency in Pashto, and, at the urging of the vizier, he disguises himself as Abdullah, as a migrant peasant farmer.  In the village of Nad-e-Ali, in Helmand province, Robert finds work on Azizullah’s large poppy farm.  Under Azizullah’s direction, Robert learns how the poppy is cultivated and its liquid opium is harvested.

After the harvest, Robert, Azizullah and three other field hands take the opium cakes to the owner of a make-shift conversion ‘factory’.  There is a violent falling-out over price, and that night, Azizullah, Robert and the field hands raid the factory, killing the owner and his helpers.  Robert questions the owner’s fifteen-year-old son, Rustam, who knows the chemical conversion processes.  Rustam is taken captive; the chemicals and equipment of the ‘factory’ are hauled away to Nad-e-Ali.

A new ‘factory’ is established in Nad-e-Ali, and Rustam, chained to Robert, begins to convert the opium to white heroin.  Men from Rustam’s village attempt to retake the factory.  They are repulsed, but Rustam fears that his old neighbours will kill him for the shame he has brought on his village, if he returns to it.  As an inducement for Rustam to stay in Nad-e-Ali, Robert persuades Azizullah to find Rustam a wife.  Rustam is married to Padida, a twenty-three-year-old war widow.

General David Duval, Robert’s father, is frustrated with his assignment to Pentagon logistics, and at the urging of his young girlfriend, he accepts an assignment with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  In Tehran he joins an IAEA delegation, which is reviewing the Iranian nuclear program.  David meets ‘Lisa’, the secretive widow of an anti-government activist. ‘Lisa’ is well connected in the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, and is not averse to using her body to obtain evidence of the duplicity of the Iranian government.  She provides David with test data showing that an enrichment level of 42% U-235 has been reached, as well as the wiring diagram of a prototype nuclear weapon.

Azizullah, Robert and Rustam cross the fortified border into Zabol, in southeast Iran, with 15 kg of heroin to find a buyer.  They are able to sell it, but Rustam protests that they have failed to find the principal buyer: The Scorpion.  On a subsequent exploratory trip, Robert and Rustam find that The Scorpion is actually the provincial governor, and they make arrangements for the sale of 25 kg.  Azizullah joins his employees for the sale, which takes place in the governor’s palace in Zahedan, the provincial capital, and is attended by The Scorpion and General Khorhoushi, the commander of the Republican Guard in the province.

Robert is able to learn where the consignment of heroin has been shipped.  He reveals his true identity to Rustam, and persuades the boy to accompany him on a trip to Kerman and Bandar Abbas, where the destination and method of shipment of the heroin are discovered.  Robert advises his boss, James, at the DEA, of the destination: a carpet dealer in New York, who is the Scorpion’s cousin.

The Scorpion guesses that it was Robert who had his cousin arrested, and he orders General Khorhoushi to find the agent.  Robert is captured and imprisoned, but Rustam eludes capture.  Rustam uses Robert’s phone to advise Kate and James of Robert’s capture.  The Scorpion is concerned that if Robert is released, he will inform Tehran of the governor’s involvement in the drugs trade.  Robert is tried by a kangaroo court, found guilty of ‘espionage’ and is sentenced to death. Tehran officials, notified by the US government of The Scorpion’s drugs trafficking, demand that Robert be released to them at once.  The Scorpion sends Tehran a premature message informing them that Robert has been executed. 

David Duval is informed of his son’s execution, and decides to take vengeance.  ‘Lisa’ supplies him with a ‘sticky bomb’.  He travels to Zahedan, and attaches the bomb to what he thinks is the governor’s limousine.  He learns, instead, that he has killed General Khorhoushi.

(You’ll have to read the novel to learn how it ends.)

Haute Couture

There is an exhibition at Somerset House in London entitled: Valentino: Master of Couture.  My wife and I went to see it over the weekend, and I would certainly recommend it to my lady readers.  The exhibition includes a ‘catwalk’ where the visitors walk down a carpeted aisle about sixty yards long.  On either side of the aisle are female mannequins – about 130 of them – each dressed in a Valentino dress.  It is absolutely stunning!  The quantity of dresses!  The detailed innovation in each one!  And the beauty of them.  Now, I have to say that I didn’t like all of them.  Some were a little too fussy for me, and I don’t particularly like beige.  But the overall effect was amazing!  The exhibit also included photographs, letters, invitations and press releases.  Valentino was certainly well connected.  The other section of the exhibition which caught my attention concerned the techniques that Valentino used to make unique decorations like roses, unusual ruffles, lace effects, etc.  There were videos of  ‘le regazze’ (the girls) who are the seamstresses in his workshop.  What they can do with a needle and thread can only be called pure art.  Finally, there is a stunning wedding dress for Princess Marie Chantal of Greece which took something like three man-years of seamstress’ time to complete.  Imagine what that cost!

Here’s an example from Valentino’s website:

Valentino dress

Valentino dress

This dress would not be for every woman, but if she was young and pretty, with a large bank account, it could be ideal!
As you’ve probably guessed, I did some comparison’s between the fashion designer and the writer.  Both are clearly artists, working in different media, and they have different objectives.  The fashion designer wants to make his customers look beautiful, while at the same time appealing to their egos.  The writer’s objective is to entertain and perhaps to provoke his/her clients, without caring particularly about the customer’s ego.  In both cases, there are issues about trends and trendiness: what is ‘in’?  In most cases, the designer and the writer have to go along with what’s ‘in’ to achieve a following.  In fictional literature today, it seems to me that one trend is to write about quite dysfunctional people.  Perhaps I have gone along with this trend.  In Efraim’s Eye, Efraim is clearly dysfunctional, but wouldn’t we expect a terrorist to be dysfunctional?  In The Iranian Scorpion the Scorpion is certainly dysfunctional as a corrupt, egotistical dictator.  I rather like creating unusual characters, like Naomi, the idealistic, lonely, beautiful nomad in Efraim’s Eye.  Or like Rustam, the poor, intelligent Afghan boy desperately searching for love in The Iranian Scorpion.  I can’t comment on the trends in fashion; for that I would refer the reader to Vogue.  To me it seems clear, though, that some fashion designers (like Valentino) and some writers (like Hemingway) can create their own trends.  These are the giants in their respective fields.
One difference strikes me.  This is that fashion designers, particularly who that serve celebrity clients, can become celebrities in their own right.  Very few writers become celebrities, unless you’re a Salman Rushdie with an Iranian fatwa on your head.  I think some of the reason for this may be found in the respective personality styles of writers and fashion designers: writers tend to be introverts, while fashion designers are, in my opinion, likely to be extroverts.  (See my post about the writer as an introvert.)
I’ve written about a fashion designer: Ellen in Sin & Contrition who becomes a minor celebrity in New York City (and very wealthy).

Reviews: Efraim’s Eye

On this page, I’ll post all reviews of Efraim’s Eye:

“Efraim’s Eye” by William Peace is a thriller in which a very capable and determined terrorist is pitted against a very capable and determined financial consultant. Doesn’t really sound fair, does it? Until, of course, you think of the last banker you worked with and who won.

Early in the book Peace gives us an example of Western duplicity when the consultant, Paul Winthorpe, is duped by a charming and sophisticated woman for–of all things–money. Nor is being a terrorist a piece of cake. Efraim Al-Rashid is betrayed by both Taliban and Russian arms dealers as he puts his plot into action. There is a major difference in the two agendas, however, that goes beyond greed. The terrorist has suffered great personal loss; as a result, revenge is the dominating tenet in his interpretation of the Muslim faith. “An eye for an eye” and, in this case, the EYE of London.

Winthorpe’s goals are the more prosaic ideals of helping companies run effectively. He takes on a pro-bono assignment to examine the management of a Moroccan affiliate of an international charity based in London. Assisted by a young, Arabic-speaking, Israeli woman, he soon realizes that the entire situation requires either abandonment or complete overhauling. Of course, outside consultants often irritate existing company structures, especially if the CEO–as in this case–is embezzling most of the funds for terrorist activities.

Peace really seems to know Marrakech, Tbilisi, and yes, account books like the back of his hand. There are lots of little throwaway sentences that bring the book to life and infuse it with authenticity. It is unfortunate, therefore, that in what is probably an attempt to give more literary depth to his novel, he interjects a May/December romance and numerous discursions into Christian, Jewish, and Muslim beliefs and practices. It is not that these digressions are exactly boring, but they might have found more resonance in another setting.

It should also be mentioned that the book is–fittingly–very well edited, with hardly a typo. considers it an excellent thriller, but suggests that you read it after you’ve had a ride on the EYE.

I very happily rate Efraim’s Eye by Bill Peace a Great Read. The first book review had me a bit worried, but I did not find the spontaneous love affair that bloomed in Morocco a distraction. These people are very real and interesting. Nor did I find the explanations of the various religions involved a problem. I was deeply impressed by the author’s apparent first hand knowledge of places I will in likelihood never get to in this lifetime. Including Morocco and Afghanistan, Georgia, Pakistan etc. I also found in this book a rational and even handed construction of the Koran (I still balk at spelling it the new way).
This in not your ordinary page turner replete with endless chase scenes and terrifying moments piled up on top of each other. What makes you want to keep reading this book is the skillful characterization of ALL the protagonists. Efraim himself is a multi-faceted bad guy. I even found myself almost liking the poor guy when he was agonized by the problem of clean vs. unclean women and the enormous drive provided from his groin area.
I cannot think of a single character, down to the loyal driver, Mohammed, who is not dealt with in depth. The women who work in the Moroccan charity are both very much alive and sympathetic. The part-time, and very young assistant bookkeeper is superbly drawn and he’s only on scene for a few pages. Paul’s (the hero’s) family are a nice mix of fun and intelligence.
The mechanics of making a very complicated terrorist bomb (or rather, six of them) are sketched with what seems to be the product of deep and keen research–at least I am hoping this is not first hand knowledge.
I don’t want to get too much into this lovely read because I would encourage to get the book yourself. I read mine in the Kindle version and was amazed at the few typos–though there are a handful, and they do not disrupt the narrative.
Peter C Parsons
Some writers produce a great first book, but subsequent books are mediocre. Some sustain their proficiency from book to book. And some seem to get even better with each book written. Mr. Peace’s first two books were both good reads, but his third, Efraim’s Eye is his best so far. It is a fast paced page turner revolving around a terrorist plot to destroy the London Eye.
While doing pro-bono work for a London charity checking on one of its subsidiaries, Paul Winthrop along with Naomi, a consultant with the charity, discover a terrorist plot to destroy the London Eye. Each one of the characters is developed in depth and with a complexity that makes them believable. No cardboard cutouts here. We follow two storylines as the book develops. One is with the developing relationship between Paul, a widower but in a relationship back in London, and Naomi, a well traveled, intelligent and younger Israeli. The other deals with the organization of the plot from obtaining the necessary weapons and equipment to choosing the personnel to be involved.
As we follow the terrorist Yusef as he travels to several countries to complete the plans, one cannot help but be impressed with Mr. Peace’s attention to detail. Whether describing weapons or the intricacies of an audit or the geography of a city, his information is so well researched and written that one is reminded of Tom Clancy in his early books.
Mr. Peace appears to have an interest in religion and in the spiritual aspects that guide and motivate individuals. This was a thread in his previous book as he explored facets of Christianity. In this book, Mr. Peace is able to explore the beliefs of Islam and the teachings of the Koran. He is never judgmental and gives his reader much to ponder.
I look forward to the next book by this talented writer.
“Kitty” Book Lover
William, congratulations!  There is quite a difference between reading a manuscript and holding a book in one’s hand.
Efraim’s Eye is a first rate thriller. It will have a wide audience. It is tightly plotted – no loose ends – the sex is just right- in  other words, very believable, and the settings are interesting – even London – and the incompetence of the Police!!
They were warned beforehand, in detail, where the explosive charges were going to be placed – they had sharpshooters stationed, and they didn’t shoot the perp – it was the civilian, admittedly ex SAS, who foiled the villain!!!  Poor old Scotland Yard!  A good read and I am now going to bed, sad to have come to the end.  I am a good boy, like your  hero Paul, but that doesn’t prevent me from dreaming about Naomi.  Well done.
     Peter S.  (Peter S. is a retired recruitment executive.  He is quite direct; his comment on a different manuscript: “It’s boring”.)

“Efraim’s Eye” by William Peace is about two Iraqi half-brothers, Yusuf and Efraim, who are set to destroy the London Eye, an 800- passenger Ferris wheel, as a personal vendetta against the British. They plan to accomplish this by utilizing funds from the Morocco Chapter of the Global Youth Enterprise, GYE, a charity founded by the Duke of Suffolk which provides low cost loans to young entrepreneurs who have a great business idea but lack the financial requirements.

The story begins when Paul becomes a member of the charity in London and realizes that there are problems every time they send someone to Morocco to conduct an audit. At the same time, we learn that Yusuf is the CEO of the charity in Morocco as Efraim begins to plan the London Eye strike. As a financial consultant, Paul is sent to Morocco to investigate along with Naomi, a multilingual Israeli, who is the Director of Operations for GYE.  Upon the discovery of accounting irregularities with the management of the money, the chase for proof of corruption begins.

Peace did an excellent job alternating between Efraim’s whereabouts and actions and Paul and Naomi’s investigation and romance.  He was able to portray them simultaneously while developing and maintaining a flow that was easy to follow. His characters were real and interesting to the point that the suspense was built in his character development with action following towards the end. My favorite part was Paul and Naomi’s relationship and interaction, as he paired a conservative and well set in his ways 60-year-old man with a free spirited younger woman. Their fun interaction woven in the midst of the suspense made this a fun read.

Definitely a page turner, I found “Efraim’ Eye” by William Peace very difficult to put down. I recommend this book to all who love International, terrorism thrillers. “Efraim’s Eye” is a fascinating, and entertaining thriller!

Reader’s Views (Shortlisted for the prize in general fiction)