Maxwell Smythe Brown IV is a smart-ass by design. To counter the ridicule his fancy name attracted, Brown the child became the point person in pranks, taunts, and mischief that kept him in hot water with teachers, principals, clerics and coaches. As he grew older, he added irreverence to mischievousness and his circle of victims and antagonists expanded to include military commanders, bosses and colleagues. When his clever speech and picaresque ways help him win the hand of a stunningly beautiful woman, it goes wrong; she’s dismally unsuited for marriage and makes his life miserable. There are occasional bright spots: his disregard for authority and convention helps him survive the Vietnam war. But his inability to keep his mouth shut and his fly zipped costs him his university sinecure and he’s exiled to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Three hundred years earlier the great Moghul Khan Shaista abruptly abandoned his post in the same city. The Khan’s youngest and favorite daughter had succumbed to disease and the grief stricken Khan fled the country, but not – it is believed – before burying a treasure as a memorial to her short life. For three centuries fortune hunters have searched for the rumored treasure but Brown has an advantage. As an accessory to a pretentious name he’s taken on a pretentious hobby: collecting antiquarian maps. Initially unaware of the importance of the information on one of his old maps, Brown sets in motion events that bring him closer to the treasure, but also attract the competitive attention of six brutal castoffs of an Indian intelligence service. Before the dust settles, two men have been beheaded, another skinned, a bystander strangled and two more fatally shot. With wit and irreverence, the book chronicles the journey of a man whose outward self-assurance and brashness mask wavering self-regard. As Brown acknowledges, it’s a full time job keeping up ap-pearances. But he’s not without depth. A continuing theme is his quest for the true nature of a compassionate God who, paradoxically, presides over a universe of undeniable evil. Throughout, Professor Brown is our acerbic guide to: an unholy war, college campuses in the 70’s, a university exhibiting signs of tenure-induced rigor mortis, a Thai brothel, the watering holes of Europe, and life in the bottom-most percentile of the third world.
Michael Bernhart is an award winning author who’s published extensively on international health. His credentials for this outpouring are a PhD (from MIT!) and four decades of work in 50 countries.
The journey from writing funding proposals to pure fiction was short and easy. The result is the Max Brown Tetralogy. Dr. (why not use it?) Bernhart lives in a yurt in northern Georgia. He still flies his vintage plane, unshakeable in the conviction that he’s God’s Gift to Aviation.