Cultural Quarterly Magazine Online
literature 3-2012
David Raterman’s Thriller The River Panj
Offers Unique Perspective on World Events
 By Stephanie Krulik 

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

That is the first line on the first page of author David Raterman's first emergency relief thriller, The River Panj.  He observes, "Throughout literature, there have been Russian-themed thrillers, but we never had a thriller set in Afghanistan and neighboring Tajikistan on 9/11."  There were only about 100 Americans in Afghanistan on 9/11. Most of them were relief workers.

The book is a jarring account of third-world countries in turmoil, of black market politics, frenetic kidnappings and horrendous drug running. It is an exciting page-turner that pits American emergency relief workers against murderous terrorists.

The title of the book comes from the physical river Panj, which is 1,125 kilometers long and forms a large part of the Afghanistan/Tajikistan border. Here, the river is both a visual substance and an emotional border. The World Trade Center in New York City is the other emotional border.

Emotions categorically run high. The story develops in three interwoven parts: one-third in Afghanistan; one-third in Tajikistan and one-third in the United States.  How does Raterman know so much? Because he lived it.

David Raterman is a journalist, novelist and Sun-Sentinel features correspondent who speaks fluent Russian and who has written books for National Geographic and Knopf/Random House.  He is revising a large edition of "National Geographic Miami and the Keys." His Sun-Sentinel Florida-based Lifestyle/Health fitness profiles include tennis sensation Anna Kournikova, race car driver Helio Castroneves and Mrs. USA, Shannon Ford.

Raterman lives in south Broward County with his Russian-born wife, Natasha, and their twin six-year-old daughters, Dasha and Valeria. His life wasn't always so sublime: in 1998, when President Clinton ordered the first bombing to force out Osama bin Laden, Raterman was in Tajikistan. He admits," I was pretty nervous."

This needs an explanation: At the age of 20, when Raterman was a student at Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, he admits he was getting restless. "I had headaches. I don't know why, but I needed to get away. I had an intense curiosity to see the world." He flew to London essentially for one quarter.  But this peripatetic student spent seven years backpacking around the world. He returned often to complete his journalism studies and to see his parents and two sisters.