Blood and Gifts: A Play

Blood and Gifts: A Play

by J. T. Rogers


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Wednesday, August 11


My God, Russian soldiers being shot with Chinese bullets. Sometimes the world is so beautiful.

It's 1981. As the Soviet army burns its way through Afghanistan, CIA operative Jim Warnock is sent to try to halt its bloody progress, beginning a secret spy war behind the official hostilities. Jim and his counterparts in the KGB and the British and Pakistani secret services wrestle with ever-shifting personal and political loyalties. With the outcome of the entire Cold War at stake, Jim and a larger-than-life Afghan warlord decide to place their trust in each other.

Spanning a decade and playing out in Washington, D.C., Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Blood and Gifts is a sweeping, often shockingly funny epic set against one of the greatest historical events of recent history, the repercussions of which continue to shape our world.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780865478848
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 12/20/2011
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

J. T. Rogers is the author of The Overwhelming, Madagascar, White People, Murmuring in a Dead Tongue, and other plays. His works have been produced in London by the National Theatre, Tricycle Theatre and Theatre 503; toured the UK with Out of Joint; and been heard on BBC Radio. In New York City his plays have been seen at the Roundabout Theatre, the SPF Play Festival and commercially Off Broadway; they have also been staged in Australia, Canada, Israel, Germany, and throughout the United States. His essays have appeared in The Independent, New Statesman, and American Theatre. In New York City, Rogers is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of the Dramatists Guild. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Read an Excerpt

Blood and Gifts

By J. T. Rogers

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2010 J. T. Rogers
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-4183-3


Act One


Pakistan. December 1981.

The Islamabad Airport, early morning.

We hear the roar of a plane overhead and a flight announcement – first in Urdu, then in English. Travellers criss-cross the stage in a bustle of movement. Dmitri Gromov, forties, stands reading a newspaper. Jim Warnock, thirties, enters walking quickly, a small battered suitcase in one hand and a diplomatic pouch under the other arm. As Jim passes him, Gromov lowers his paper. His English is good but his Russian accent is heavy.

Gromov (calling after him) You are going wrong way.

Jim realises he's talking to him, turns and stops.

Forgive me, but I could not help myself.

(Points.) Airport exit is that direction.

Jim Thank you, but I'm meeting someone. I'm fine.

As Jim starts to move again ...

Gromov Ah! We have connection. I too am here to meet someone. My wife arrives soon.

Jim Uh-huh.

Gromov The flight from Moscow.

Jim Uh-huh.

Gromov Summer heat here, it is too much for her. But now that winter returns, she returns.

Jim I see.

Gromov Her flight delayed of course, but ... (He shrugs.) Pakistan is not Russia. What can one do?

Jim Well. Have a nice day.

As Jim turns ...

Gromov Very impressive.

Jim Excuse me?

Gromov One suitcase and one pouch. To come to edge of world with only this? Clearly, you are adventurous man. When I first arrived here in Islamabad, I knew I would be here for years. So I brought everything except – what is saying? – kitchen sink.

Jim Forgive me, but I've got to –

Gromov Tell me, how long will you be here, comrade James Warnock?

Neither man moves.

The other travellers have passed through and they are alone now.

Jim Too soon to tell.

Gromov And what brings you all the way to Pakistan?

Jim Work.

Gromov But of course. Man like yourself, you are here to serve in your embassy. Officially.

Jim That's right.

Gromov And in what capacity will you be serving?

Jim I'm in education.

Gromov Again, connection! So am I. Officially.

Jim Good for you.

It's been a pleasure. Give your wife my best.

Gromov And yours mine.

Jim stares at him.

Congratulations are in order. Just married, yes? Pity she is not going to join you. But perhaps your wife is not interested in education. Or perhaps, unlike you, she realises the danger such work can bring.

Jim My wife is none of your business.

Gromov I am only trying to –

Jim (sharp, in Russian) Slooshayetye. Vy znayetye oo kavo ya rabotayoo, ee ya znayoo oo kavo vy rabotayetye, ee ya nye eemyeyoo vremenee dlya etova. [Look. You know who I work for, I know who you work for, and I don't have time for this.]

The two men stare at each other.

Gromov I see. Then what do you have time for, comrade Warnock?

Jim You'll find out.


Islamabad. Afridi's office in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the Pakistani Army's intelligence branch, an hour later.

Afridi, thirties or older, stands in full military uniform. To his side is a spit-polished young Army Clerk taking the official minutes. Jim, suitcase by his side, hands Afridi the diplomatic pouch he carried at the airport.

Jim With my compliments, Colonel. And with high hopes for our work together.

Afridi opens the pouch and brings out a beautiful antique revolver.

Clerk (to Afridi) Oh, very nice, very good, very John Wayne, sir!

Afridi You are a generous man, Mr Warnock. How I wish your government shared your largesse.

(Gesturing around the room.) Tell me, where are the rest of you? Does your government think this struggle so unimportant that you alone will suffice?

Jim My government has sent me to start this operation because they think this struggle is so important. Now there may be only three of us here in Islamabad –

Afridi There are only three of you in all of Pakistan.

Jim I wish it were more, Colonel, but for now, yes, just three.

Afridi Then again, an hour ago there were only two of you. So perhaps what we should call you, Mr Warnock, is 'progress'.

Clerk Oh, very nice, very good, very Noël Coward, sir!

Afridi (inspecting the gun) Do you know what I admire most about your country, Mr Warnock? Arizona. The deserts there stop one's heart.

A rumpled Simon Craig, late thirties, enters in a rush.

Simon Sorry, sorry.

Afridi Mr Craig, late as always.

Simon Traffic. Rickshaw, water buffalo: God knows.

(To Jim, extending his hand.) Ah! You must be –

Afridi points the pistol at Simon. (Freezing.) Hell–o.

Afridi Have you been to Arizona, Mr Craig?

Simon Can't say I have, Colonel.

Afridi You English have no deserts. This is why you are such a weak and soft people. If even part of your country were hard and dry – (gesturing to Jim) like his – you would not have lost your grip on this part of the world. Then again, if you had not, I would not even be allowed in this room. Would I? So perhaps I should be grateful that God has made your little island so lush.

He puts the pistol down and slaps his hands together.


The men are all business now.

Jim You'll have a hundred thousand rifles by the end of the month. 303s. Greek and Indian, Egyptian guns to follow.

Simon As for the Chinese –

Jim (to Simon) You've confirmed?

Simon They're kicking in munitions. Ancient stuff, but it'll work with the Egyptian weapons.

My God, Russian soldiers being shot with Chinese bullets. Sometimes the world is so beautiful.

Afridi And what else?

Jim Nothing else. For now that's all I'm / authorised to hand over.

Afridi I'm sorry ... I'm sorry ... I am confused. I thought you were sent here because your government wanted to win.

Jim With all due respect, this isn't a football game.

Afridi With all due respect, we play cricket here.

Simon Perhaps we should focus on / how we plan to ...

Afridi These weapons are an insult.

Jim I understand your frustration, but –

Afridi Russian tanks are two hundred and fifty kilometres from Islamabad. From the chair you are sitting in.

Jim And I'm here to make sure they don't come any closer.

Afridi And what of the men who are already doing that? They are to fight the Soviet Army with bolt-action rifles? For two years those Afghans have been freezing in their mountains, fighting for you and me, Mr Warnock. So forgive me if your 'gift' does not impress.

Jim Look, as station chief I will work day and night. But I answer to those above me, Colonel, and they say deniability, first and foremost. No weapons that can be traced to us.

Now we'd like the majority of these rifles to go to –

Simon Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Afridi No.

The two men stare at Afridi.

Simon Why not? He and his men are banging away at the Soviets.

Afridi Because Massoud is a Tajik. Most Afghans are Pashtun and they see Tajiks as spies for the Iranians. We must focus our support on a Pashtun commander.

Jim Who do you suggest?

Afridi Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He is here in Pakistan training an army of fellow Afghan mujahideen. The 'Army of Sacrifice', ready to sacrifice all.

Simon Well that's smashing, but we're going to want to spread some of these weapons around to other warlords. Our intelligence shows this will / be much more effective.

AfridiYour intelligence? You were born there? I did not realise Manchester was a suburb of Kabul.

Gentlemen, those of us who serve in the ISI, we know who is who and what is what here. My agency's intelligence will be the basis of our strategy.

I went personally to the seven main Afghan commanders. I said to each, 'Of course, you are the most powerful. You and your forces are whom the Russians fear most. But tell me, after you, which commander is number two?' All said: Hekmatyar. So, yes, we will give them each some support, but Hekmatyar will be the point of our spear.

Because we select who gets weapons. This is our agreement, yes?

Jim Yes.

Afridi And throughout this operation you will go through me and no one else.

Jim Agreed.

Afridi And you will have no contact, in person or in any other form, with anyone in the Afghan resistance.

Simon Well, that's ridiculous.

(To Jim.) Was that part of your agreement?

Jim ISI is running this operation, not us.

Simon Are you actually / going to ...

Jim What he says goes. / Those are my orders.

Simon Bollocks!

(To Afridi.) Colonel, I understand we're the third party here, 'facilitating' and all that, but the British government is not going to be part of a covert war where we're not even allowed to talk to those we're supporting!

Afridi Mr Craig, are you a Jew?

Simon stares at him.

My sources tell me you are a Jew. Is this true?

Simon ... Yes, actually.

Afridi I am a Jew too.

Simon ... I see.

Afridi Not a true Jew.

Simon No.

Afridi But like a Jew.

Simon Right.

What are you talking about?

Afridi Pakistan is the Israel of this region. A nation surrounded by enemies on all sides. Russia, Iran, Hindustan. Pushing against us, seeking to drive us into our Sea of Galilee. Like your people, we do not have the luxury of trusting others. Our fate will be held in our hands. Ours alone.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Jim It's been a pleasure.

Simon Yes, truly enlightening.

Jim Colonel, I'd be grateful if we could get together again soon and talk further about the challenges we're all facing here.

Afridi Somewhere other than here you mean.

Jim Wherever you'd like. As my guest, of course.

Afridi Perhaps we could have lunch.

Jim That'd be terrific.

Afridi A little chicken, bottle of wine.

Jim Absolutely. If that's what / you'd like to do.

Afridi And then you could start asking me questions. Little questions, so simple to answer. Answers for which you will be willing to pay. And all of a sudden, with the chicken and the wine, I would be working for you. Another man in your pocket, another set of eyes in your head.

We will only meet here and only when we must. This is not friendship, Mr Warnock, this is business. Only.


Jim and Simon on the street in Islamabad, moments later.

Simon Well, that was fruitful. You got a lesson in cultural sensitivity and I got a rabbi.

Jim It's Simon, right?

Simon Yes. Pleasure. James, is it?

Jim Jim.

Simon Christ, you must be knackered. Let me drop you off at your flat.

Jim No, I'm fine.

Simon, I'm going down to Peshawar.

Simon You mean, now?

Jim Yeah.

Simon Don't you want to at least – I don't know – cold beer, sleep?

Jim I'm fine.

Look, officially I'm going to get a look at the Afghani refugee camps / on the border, but ...

Simon Afghan.

Jim Sorry?

Simon Afghan is the person. Afghani is the money.

Jim Thank you.

Simon I only, because I made the mistake when I first got here. While I was wooing a contact. He was incensed. Set me back months. Still calls me 'Pound Sterling' just to keep sticking the knife in.

So look, from Peshawar, the best way to get to Kabul is to –

Jim Kabul's irrelevant. Russians are everywhere. Starting today we're going to run everything out of Pakistan. Here and Peshawar, where we'll be closer to the border.

Simon Yes, but when you do need to cross into Afghanistan –

Jim I can't cross over.

Simon Oh, it's nothing. Done it for years. I'll show you the best / way to ...

Jim I'm not allowed to, Simon.

Simon ... Really? When did this –

Jim New rules. Now that we're up and running, headquarters wants no more US operatives on Afghan soil.

Simon Of course. If the Russians caught you –

Jim I'm more worried about local actors.

Simon Right. Is that who got ahold of your man here before you?

Jim Yeah.

Simon What did happen to him?

Jim He got slit open, chin to navel. I promised my wife I wouldn't end up like that.

Simon Oh! Me, too. Well, the wife part. Just recently, actually. Jemma.

Jim Congratulations.

Simon Thank you. Yes, life is full of surprises. How long have you ...?

Jim Just last month.

Simon Really! Where did you honeymoon?

Jim This is it.

Simon Ah. Well. That's very ... something of you.

Jim I need my own asset, Simon.

If we're gonna have any chance of success here, I need someone in Afghanistan I can run operations through without getting a permission slip from the ISI.

Simon ... I see. So what you said in there was total –

Jim Exactly.

Simon Well played.

What are you looking for?

Jim Someone Pashtun, based in the border region.

Simon Of course. Perfect sense.

Jim And really fighting the Soviets. I don't want one of these warlords who talks a good game but spends all his time screwing his mistress in Dubai.

Simon Well, that narrows things considerably.

Jim Who I can trust. Build up without worrying he's gonna switch sides and start using our weapons on us.

Simon Christ, what a nightmare that would be.

Well. There's only one man fits the bill. He's as close as any of these warlords come to a secularist. Fierce, effective; solid as a rock.

Jim When can I meet him?

Simon Well, that depends.

Jim On what?

Simon On what you're giving me in return.

Jim You mean other than trying to stop the Soviets from winning the Cold War?

Simon Indeed I do.

Jim Something other than furthering the special relationship / between our two countries?

Simon Oh, don't – don't even start. 'The special relationship'? Are you serious? Do you know what 'the special relationship' means on our end? We bend over and you give it to us special.

Jim Simon, I'm just –

Simon How'd you get here this morning?

Jim What do you –

Simon Transportation. Here.

Jim Car.

Simon Driver?

Jim Yeah.

Simon Air-conditioning?

Jim Yeah.

Simon Bastard. Do you know why I was late this morning? To the meeting I set up? Because I drove. Myself. I am the only white man in Islamabad who has to drive himself. That's how cheap Her Majesty is. And we're not just cheap, mind you. Oh, no. We're cheap and obvious. My office – in the British Embassy – has a sign on the door that reads: 'Regional Diplomatic Officer'. I mean, how much more fucking obvious can they make me? Why don't they just write: 'MI6: Do. Not. Talk. To. Me.'

Jim So what do you want?

Simon In. On everything.

Look, you've been sent here so – clearly – things are about to heat up. You've got the chequebook, you're running the show now, fine. Now I may not have a pot to piss in but I know this area. Back of my hand. The Afghans are charming, semi-civilised, and utterly untrustworthy. They are the French without the food. I know who to go to, who not to go to. You will need that / kind of support.

Jim Fine.

Simon ... So, you mean ... what by that?

Jim In the loop. Seat at the table. You've got my word.

Simon Right. Good.

(Then:) Sorry, but I need to ask – just this once, I promise – your word.

Jim Yes?

Simon Is it any good?

Because I'm not them. Just so we're clear.


A safe house in the mountains of the Frontier Province of Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan, the next evening. Bitterly cold.

On one side of the room sits Jim. Behind him and off to the side stands a young American Soldier, holding a US military-issue assault rifle. Between the two men lies Jim's suitcase. Across from them are two Afghans. Abdullah Khan, forties, sits facing Jim. To his side stands Saeed, twenties, an old battered bolt-action rifle slung over his shoulder.

On the floor in the middle of the room are two teacups and a cassette player. All four men stare at it as it plays Rod Stewart's 'Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?'

No one moves.

Abdullah gestures to Saeed, who steps forward, punches the off button, then steps back. Abdullah speaks in very rough, broken English, his accent thick as he seeks the right words.

Abdullah My son love this music. This music hurt my heart.

(He shrugs.) But this what children for.

Jim So they tell me.


Excerpted from Blood and Gifts by J. T. Rogers. Copyright © 2010 J. T. Rogers. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Cast of Characters,
Author's Note,
Act One,
Act Two,
By the Same Author,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews