The Hard Times is first and foremost a novel about how men love. Not simple lust nor affection, but the complex web of expectations, loyalty, duty, and desire that define the society of men, how they love women, how they love their families, and how they bind themselves to one another in friendship and in war. Taken from the news, declassified CIA documents, and personal experiences in Africa and Namibia this is a fictional story superimposed on a factually based account of what’s happening in the illegal diamond trade, today.
It begins in Mississippi. Ray Moffett is an ER doc and Ray is facing an abyss. When his best friend and former partner comes into the Emergency Department dead, six weeks after his retirement party, Ray finds himself thrown into a search for some semblance of meaning in his own life. His conclusions are not encouraging. For all practical purposes, a white coat is all he has left. Everything else, fallen away, and while medicine is a good thing and medicine is a fine thing, medicine is not a substitute for a life.
His marriage gone, he’d left his wife, Lisa, for Anne, a young nurse he had thought he was in love with. His children gone, grown, with lives of their own and no time for a father determined to play the fool. And Anne, was gone too, fled when he’d told her he loved her and asked her to leave her husband. She’s simply quit her job and moved to another state without a word. Not really the reaction Ray had expected.
All Ray had left was work. Work, punctuated only by the occasional round of golf. And that wasn’t enough to fill the days he had left until he took his own trip to the grave.
A chance meeting with an African hunting guide, Fritz Dietrich, shows Ray a door. A way to fulfill the adventures he’d dreamed about as a boy. Dreams fueled by the books he’d always loved, the stories he’d grown up reading. Written by men like Hemmingway, Ruark, and Capstick. Unfortunately, Fritz isn’t exactly what he seems. His past accomplishments include murder, theft, and running guns across international borders. Wanted in several neighboring countries, Fritz is out of prison only because his older brother, Manfred is the head of security for Namibia’s national mining consortium. But, Manfred has problems of his own. He needs to find a way to hide two hundred million dollars worth of illegal diamonds out of Zimbabwe from the United Nations’ inspectors…and he’s just been diagnosed with lung cancer.
Manfred needs Fritz to move the diamonds and Fritz is prohibited from entering the Restricted Zone because of his criminal past. Manfred arrives at a plan that requires Fritz to assume someone else’s identity in order to smuggle the diamonds out of Namibia, someone without a family to miss him, and time is running out.
Ray finds himself hunting desert Oryx in the Namib with Fritz, both men trapped. For Fritz to help his brother he must kill Ray and use his papers to smuggle the illegal diamonds into Europe. For Ray to get home alive, he’s going to have to kill Fritz and then, somehow find his way out of the most hostile desert on the face of the earth.