Wages of Empire

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
392 Pages
Reviewed on 04/15/2024
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Author Biography

I write historical fiction set at major turning points in Middle East history; Foxes in the Vineyard, set in 1948, The Rabbi’s Knight, set in 1290, and Wages of Empire set in WW1.
A native of Berkeley, California, I emigrated to Israel in 1966, and lived there for eleven years – first in Jerusalem during the last year the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. I graduated from Tel Aviv University Medical School, and am now a pediatric cardiologist in Northern California. I go back twice a year on volunteer missions for Palestinian children who lack access to care.
I was inspired to begin writing by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. A decorated Israeli general, Rabin became prime minister in 1992 and turned to peace-making. He began the process in the form of the Oslo Accords, designed to build trust between the two sides. And the process was working. However, as the accords were implemented, resistance began. In Israel, this reached a fever pitch during 1995 parliamentary elections. Rabin was vilified as a traitor to Israel by Benjamin Natanyahu and his right-wing party. After a huge pro-peace demonstration, Rabin was shot to death by an Israeli zealot. With his death, and the ascension of a right-wing government under Netanyahu, the peace process died.
I turned to writing to channel my grief into something of value—to insinuate a message of coexistence and peace into a vehicle that I hoped might change a few hearts and minds.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Wages of Empire by Michael J. Cooper follows multiple storylines that bisect, through chance, fate, or politicking, against the backdrop of WWI. Evan Sinclair, a young man from Utah, seeks adventure and naïvely joins the British Expeditionary Force during World War I. His father, Clive Sinclair, desperately tries to find him. Chaim Weizmann, a chemist and Zionist leader, contributes to the war effort and advocates for Jewish interests in the thick of diplomatic negotiations and scientific undertakings. Gunter von Wertheimer, an archaeologist in Jerusalem, protects his family and a secret related to the Temple Mount. Faisal bin Hussein, torn between loyalties, undertakes covert missions for the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, guided by his father, Sharif Hussein, who jockeys through alliances and political maneuvers. Montagu Walker is staged to excavate the Temple Mount for German imperial ambitions, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the potential establishment of a Holy Roman Emperor.

Even though the main character of Wages of Empire is the hopeful Evan, who takes us through a series of mishaps that make him a combination of the unluckiest and luckiest person who ever lived, I felt that each individual was just as important and interesting as the next. Michael J. Cooper shows us the macro parts of WWI's lead-up, but his ability to do that with micro-moments is a testament to his skill as a storyteller. A husband is refused entry to his wife, who is suffering from smallpox, and given a heartbreaking directive; a father doggedly seeks out his son to pull him out of danger while others put their own where they could become martyrs; and an unlikely acquaintance made between two men from opposite ends of the world to comfort one another in a hospital—all are such deeply personal, very human moments that punctuate its bigger picture. The writing is comprehensive, articulate, and exhaustively researched. I even got to meet Lawrence of Arabia, which my grandmother will appreciate. Overall, this is a solid novel with promise for more to come, and I look forward to following the author as he progresses. Very highly recommended.