An Improbable Spy

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Tehran was well known to American businessman Jack Devlin until the day everything changed. When radical Islamic students stormed the US embassy on November 4, 1979, Jack narrowly escaped the revolutionary chaos, leaving behind 80 percent of his business and 100 percent of his heart.

To get his beautiful girlfriend, Farideh, out of Iran, Jack accepts a devil’s bargain with the CIA and MI6. He must slip back into Tehran, where the militant students are holding dozens of Americans hostage in their own embassy. His part of the bargain is to steal the coveted client ledger of the world’s most powerful arms dealer, Mustafa Khaki, Farideh’s father. Surprised by an additional assignment, Jack is also ordered to strip a KGB defector of details on Russian collusion with Iran and their plan to eliminate the American hostages while infiltrating the highest levels of Ayatollah Khomeini’s government. 

From the damp cellars of KGB headquarters to the cold chill of British espionage to the blistering heat of the Kuwaiti desert, readers will learn, in an erroneous twist, that not all the turncoats are Russians. 


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When 15-year-old Jack Sligo runs away from his loving Boston-Irish family, he hopes to get a summer job on a cruise ship. His dream becomes a nightmare when two strangers give him mysterious drinks in a waterfront saloon. 

Jack wakes up, far at sea, shanghaied aboard an African freighter. The ship’s first call is a remote jungle port in Venezuela where there’s plenty of thieves, rum and women, but no opportunity for escape. 

Manor Nelson, the ship’s bo’sun, is his secret protector. A silent bond grows between them as they fight the inhumanity of the ship’s master and Jack learns the cruelty of segregation. 

But Jack needs more than friends to survive a vicious life at sea. He plans to escape with the help of 17-year-old Winston, a Jamaican, on the ship since he was 12. He befriends men like stone silent Ebanks, whose black ancestors disgraced themselves as slave traders; Smitty, the dangerous mulatto seaman who is his boss; and “Chips,” the ship’s carpenter from Cayman Brac who knows all about God. Even a curious shipwreck in a jungle fails to sway Jack from his goal to find a way to get home.

“Though this is the author’s first book, it is his first-hand experience, having been shanghaied aboard an African freighter, that makes the book come to life. Fans of other sea-set teen novels like Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle will like this book, which captures well the story of an utterly inexperienced kid being thrust into a situation he isn’t quite ready for, as well as the adventure he has in exploring new countries and learning to survive on the open sea.” (Molly Horan, ForeWord Reviews, Young Adult Fiction)

“David Collins’ novel narrates his remarkable real-life story of running away from home at 15 and being “shanghaied” aboard an African freighter. The book is rich with adventure, longing, and twists that will keep the reader turning the page.” (Margot Lee Shetterly, author, Hidden Figures)