The Distance Between Us

Gotham novel writing teacher Masha Hamilton has just published her novel The Distance Between Us (Unbridled Books), the story of a female war correspondent in the Middle East who fights a losing battle to stay emotionally detached from the individual suffering and the tragic events unfolding right before her eyes.

Laurel Johnson of the Midwest Book Review wrote, “Her [Hamilton’s] profession as journalist in trouble spots around the world lends credence to this book. The Distance Between Us is believable, the characters multi-faceted, and the plot engaging from first page to last. …I could endlessly quote passages of glorious prose from this book, but I won't.  I'll let readers discover Hamilton's gifted way with words for themselves.” 

We invite you now to discover Masha's gift, as you read the opening paragraphs of The Distance Between Us:

The whole of heaven is off-balance as they rumble out of the city: clouds one moment, darting sunlight the next. A dust shroud swirling around the Land Rover prevents Caddie from seeing where they are going or where they’ve been. Far behind them, a mosque wails its hellfire summons to those who believe. It’s noon, then, and men of conviction are submitting their foreheads to the ground in a graceful wave, while she barrels forward into the formless, blind middle of a day.

The Land Rover rattles like a crate of scrap metal. Her shoulders ache, she’s inhaling cupfuls of powdered dirt and they have at least another ninety minutes to go. But those are only irritants. Her real worry is the driver, a complete unknown. Rob and the hotel concierge rounded him up when the regular chauffeur, the one Rob assured her was “the best in Beirut,” didn’t show. A driver is their lifeline in dusty, uncharted territory. This guy, well—she catches her breath as he swerves sharply and clips a roadside bush, aiming directly for half a dozen desert larks. The birds scatter and arc overhead, their fury sharp enough to be heard above the thrash of the engine.

“Christ,” Caddie mumbles. In the rearview mirror, the driver gives her a squinty glare. Cobwebs form at the outer corners of his eyes, and dried grime thick enough to scrape off with a fingernail is caked behind his right ear. “Who the hell is he?” Caddie mutters to Marcus, next to her in the backseat. “Should we really be—?”

“Cautious Caddie,” Marcus says. “He’s okay. Rob wouldn’t use him otherwise.” He leans over Caddie to address Rob, who’s on her left. “Right-o, Rob?”
“He’s fine. Told you. Checked him out.” Rob is focused on adjusting his tape recorder’s input level. With his scruffy hair and taut energy, he looks like a street tough instead of a network radio reporter. Here, that aura serves him well.
“See?” Marcus says to Caddie. “Anyway, what’s our choice? Sit on our bums all day?”
She smiles at him saying “bums” in his refined British accent. Something in him—his inflection maybe, or his humor, or his experience in the field—unknots her, and relieves her of the responsibility of having to control everything. Anyway, he’s right. This story is too hot to pass: a Q-and-A with Musaf Yaladi, fiery-eyed, Princeton-educated thug-darling of the West, in his south Lebanon hideout. The elusive Yaladi is a Lebanese crime king, dabbler in terrorism and chief distributor for weapons, bogus American one-hundred-dollar bills and the raw materials for heroin produced in the Bekaa Valley. With a couple punchy quotes from him, the piece will write itself. She’ll be the only print reporter to have it. Page One for sure.

They’ll be fine, just fine. Caddie would prefer fewer variables, but she’s done her usual checking, narrowed the risks to a pinpoint. She’s confirmed that they aren’t traveling through disputed territory, that Yaladi knows they are coming, that he wants to do the interview. The only drawback is that she doesn’t know this particular minefield very well. With Israel, the West Bank or Gaza, it would be different. She’s worked that territory for more than four years now, she and Marcus, and those back roads are carved in her mind.

Reprinted with permission from The Distance Between Us published by Unbridled Books, October 2004, ISBN 193296102X. Available at your local bookstore and online at barnes&