From the cover of this impressive historical précis, FDR and King Ibn Saud stare impassively. They are seated on a huge pipe in front of a meander of more pipes. The metallic maze signifies what brings them together—oil—and exemplifies David B.’s illustrative strategy in the book. He characteristically evokes the political and economic implications of the narrative by replacing naturalistic detail with striking symbols, such as cannons with legs during the earliest American encounter with the Islamic East, and plenty of pipelines later on. Diplomat turned historian Filiu’s text opens with the main action of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, then rehearses three historic encounters between the U.S. and the dar al-Islam: the Barbary Wars of the Jefferson and Madison administrations; the alliance with Saudi Arabia for oil to fuel WWII; and the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s government in Iran. Filiu’s presentation is very even-handed. Neither the cruel superciliousness of the Barbary pirate states nor the crafty treachery of Kermit Roosevelt in Tehran is whitewashed or sensationalized. --Ray Olson
About the Author
Jean-Pierre Filiu is a world-renowned expert on the Middle East. David B. is an Eisner Award–nominated artist.