"This is an important book, one that has the courage to think about the precarious future of humanity, about these Times, about the need for political and cultural awareness. Putnam manages to thread together eastern philosophy and western foreign policy, and at the same time to invoke metaphysics and extreme science through a labyrinthine plot that surprises the reader at every turn. His ability to shift gender perspectives is credible and every page has at least one truly memorable line. Above all there is a seamless coherency to the writing, flowing from the essential grace of Putnam’s thought. A brilliant novel that not only wakes us up but makes it impossible for us to lay it aside once we’ve finished."
— Lynn StegnerWinner of the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom prize for best novel
"The Lost Sufi is a timely, important, philosophical, truth-seeking, subtle, frightening, trenchant work of fiction that is finally optimistic. I had not known anything about Sufism until I read this, but the explication and presentation and application of its principles to our present situation is dead-on convincing and apt. The book anatomizes our predicament as a nation, at home and in the world...There are so many truths here. And Tim’s concluding words, the reference to the “moment of friendship, there in the midst of Jefferson’s dream” should bring tears to the eyes of all Americans.."
— Gerald Duffauthor (among others) of Graveyard Working; That’s All Right, Mama; Memphis Ribs; Coasters and Blue Sabine
"While it often obeys cultural and literary conventions, the genre of the novel is protean enough to reach beyond them, overcoming the barriers separating, say, Muslims from Christians, the culture of the Middle East from that of the West. It is refreshing to read an imaginative novel like THE LOST SUFI, for it offers a way to hurdle those barriers, while providing an optimistic view of the human future. It is both philosophical discourse and science fiction (though it is based on the ideas and actual achievements of Nikola Tesla). Author Jeff Putnam gives us the psychological growth of two characters—a minor bureaucrat in the State Department and a beautiful woman of English and Iraqi ancestry—but the moral and spiritual center of the novel belongs to another Iraqi, an influential adherent of Sufism, whose own life exemplifies Sufi philosophy. With Saïd, the author has managed what few writers have been capable of doing—creating a believable character who holds our interest even though he’s a good human being, one capable of enjoying the details and marvels of life on our planet while being devoid of deficiencies he must struggle to overcome. As one who knew little about Sufism until I read the novel, I was surprised by how congenial much of it is to my feelings and values as a citizen of the United States. We are in a crucial period of American history in which we must, for our survival, surmount the provinciality—the conventional thinking of closed minds—that characterizes our present foreign policy and our attitude to cultures other than our own. THE LOST SUFI makes an important contribution in this regard, while telling a suspenseful story."
— James McConkeyauthor (among others) of Court of Memory; To a Distant Island; Tree-house Confessions;
The Lost Sufi
By Jeff Putnam
Jim Hartley, a young State Department lifer, is surprised by a plum assignment. He will serve as guide for two Iraqis on a lecture tour through the Western United States, which he knows well—where he and his wife Pam had first lived together and later honeymooned. It is 2008 and his foreign guests will be helping his government to locate precious antiquities that were looted from the Iraq Museum when U.S. troops invaded Baghdad five years earlier.
Jim’s Iraqi charges are Akhmad al-Saïd, a 65-year-old man of many talents and Saarah Samarai, his much younger friend and colleague. Like Akhmad, Saarah is an archaeologist, but she is also a poet and an Oxford grad with an English mother. Akhmad too has a connection to Anglophones, having spent his college years at UCLA, which he plans to revisit when the lecture tour reaches Los Angeles.
Some of Akhmad’s background is hard for Jim to understand. He is a sculptor as well as an engineer who became interested along the way in energy technologies. He had worked briefly for the Iraq National Oil Company and designed a separator still in use around the world. Wife Pam helps Jim to understand the most unusual bond between the Iraqis, which may explain their travels together even better than archaeology: they are Sufis, members of an ancient spiritual order.
Jim is reporting to his manager, Aaron Portmen, supplying details about his trip with the Iraqis, especially those regarding their doings and interests and contacts. From the beginning of the trip, in Colorado, Jim is aware that he is being watched as well, and not only by American agents.
The problems for Jim, and evidently for his government, is to know if Akhmad’s contacts are fellow seekers after spiritual truth, or seekers after new energy technologies—especially ones that could be weaponized—acting on behalf of an unfriendly nation or a terrorist network. Akhmad’s aims, and the U.S. government’s—working with a consortium of energy corporations—emerge at the end of the book, along with a detailed account of his abduction on the streets of Las Vegas at the behest of someone he knew forty years ago in college.
Born in New York and educated mostly in New England and California, Jeff Putnam traveled extensively throughout his life, working professionally as a singer, with periods of settlement in France and Spain. In Europe he sang in opera houses and was successful busking in cafes and on the streets. After a trip to Dallas, Texas, to be with two children of his second wife he met Jane Howle, also a writer, and married her. Ms. Howle saw promise in four books (among many) that Putnam had written about his life, and published them under a new imprint called Baskerville Publishers (after a family name) which went on to publish more than fifty books by promising or neglected authors like her new husband. Putnam worked for her as editor-in-chief under a different name (Samuel Chase) throughout the 90s. Health issues forced the sale of Baskerville to a Fort Worth businessman but when Putnam recovered he continued to run it from 2000 to 2004, and then began publishing with his own imprint (Avenue Publishers). From 2003 the couple have dwelt off and on in Canada, where Putnam has sung with Opera New Brunswick and given concerts in New Brunswick and Maine (in 2003 he was Colline in a production of La Bohème by Maine Grand Opera; in 2007 he had a part in an Opera New Brunswick performance of La Traviata). He and his wife now reside in Dallas close by their son Samuel and Christian, a son by another marriage. Putnam has daughters in Florida and Belgium. His Belgian daughter, Justine, ran a restaurant for some years in Antwerp and now runs a company that translates and edits books for Belgian authors. Jeff and Jane are now contemplating retirement in West Texas after Jane has built her dream house there of hemp-lime construction (see Abner DDAY).