“A captivating political tale, dramatically gripping and historically enlightening."

Kirkus Reviews

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John D. Kuhns

About the Author

Most of John Kuhns’ writing is based on his life experiences. When not writing, he has been a financier and industrialist who has created businesses across the United States and around the world with a focus on renewable energy. He was the founder and CEO of Catalyst Energy Corporation, which according to Inc. magazine was the fastest growing public company in the United States from 1982 to 1987. More recently, he also was the founder and CEO of China Hydroelectric Corporation, the largest foreign-owned electric power company in the People’s Republic of China. Both companies were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Currently, he is the CEO of Bougainville Fund Management, LLC, a company engaged in the gold business in Bougainville, a remote island in the South Pacific.

About the Book

An incorruptible Native of Bougainville and an American investor become unlikely partners in a quest to secure the island's future.

In this novel, an incorruptible Native of Bougainville and an American investor become unlikely partners in a quest to secure the island’s future.

Ishmael is only 20 years old when he joins the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1988, a militia newly formed by Francis Olu to combat the oppressive governmental control of Papua New Guinea. A fierce fighter, Ishmael rises through the ranks quickly, becoming the leader of the guerrilla forces and then the chief of defense, a morally upright man respected by all. After a peace is finally forged, he realizes his country is still mired in political dysfunction, plagued by a corrupt police force and avaricious politicians. In addition, Bougainville is rich in both gold and mineral resources and historically vulnerable to colonizers. China sets its sights on exploiting the island’s natural wealth—the Chinese Communist Party is portrayed as a “sinister, mafia-like organization” and the People’s Liberation Army, as “relentless, all-consuming predators.” Despite his antipathy for politics, Ishmael joins forces with Jack Davis, an American investor in Bougainville also looking to capitalize on its gold and a man with a treasure trove of experience with the Chinese government. Kuhns’ research is impressively rigorous—he concisely unravels the fraught history of Bougainville, the victim of its natural bounty, “cursed as a geographical and political stepchild.” In addition, he provides a remarkable look into the complex machinations of colonial exploitation as well as the insidious ways in which a populace can become complicit in its own abuse. Ishmael’s characterization, unfortunately, swings from distant to hagiographic—he is by turns presented as mysterious and as a “messiah.” Furthermore, readers are likely to get lost in the thicket of details regarding the financial dealings of Jack, an authorial scrupulousness that threatens to overwhelm the audience. Still, this remains a powerful account of colonial predation of the contemporary kind, fueled by simple material greed rather than the conceit of ideological fanaticism.

A captivating political tale, dramatically gripping and historically enlightening.

-Kirkus Reviews

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“Many visit Bougainville and—like John Kuhns—become enchanted by its physical beauty and its people. Not so many can use the experience as a setting for a wonderfully readable story. Kuhns frames the vicissitudes of his foreign protagonist within the intense pressures generated by the island’s ethnic distinctiveness and fabulous natural wealth, as well as the geo-political competition that swirls around it. But the core of the novel is the legendary Ishmael. He is the novel’s hero—and with Kuhns’s story calling Conrad to mind, the reader will earnestly hope that in the sequel Ishmael’s apotheosis is not redolent of Nostromo’s.”

Michael Thawley, former Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and once frequent visitor with fond memories of Papua New Guinea and its people

“A thrilling story of leadership, commitment, and friendship amidst the challenges of building a Pacific Island nation in the swirl of China’s pervasive influence.”

George W. Casey, Jr., General, U.S. Army (Retired)

They Call Me Ishmael is a must read for world leaders from remote locations who are forced to teach themselves how to be great statesman in the face of overwhelming adversity.”

Jason Osborne, Senior advisor on more than ten successful U.S. and international presidential campaigns and the Pacific’s preeminent campaign strategist

They Call Me Ishmael, John Kuhns’s sweeping novel about Bougainville, brilliantly portrays the epic story of Ishmael, a courageous and visionary leader who rises to power against all odds to overcome a tide of colonial overreach, gold mania, and civil war in a lush and mineral-rich South Pacific paradise.”

Deborah Goodrich Royce, author of Finding Mrs. Ford and Ruby Falls