"Someone was smuggling spirits out of the Administrative Support Unit in Bahrain, Mahboob told the young ensigns, and the gate he was guarding was the only way on or off the base. 'The government will not tolerate crime involving the non-Arab community, and if the smuggling has not been stopped by midnight tomorrow my superiors have been instructed to seal off this gate and allow no one on or off ASU until the situation has been satisfactorily resolved...'"

The Administrative Support Unit in Bahrain has since been renamed, but it's a real place as described in the story, and I spent quite a bit of time there during my 10 months in Bahrain. The Class VI store, the Aradous Coffee Shop, the red plastic "sweet water" jugs, the Cornish game hens in the Two Seas restaurant on post — that's all real. Even Sanders and Miller are named after real sailors, although the Miller I knew was male and white, not female and black.

In this issue's table of contents, the story title is given as "Asu," and that's how it appears in various online mystery databases. The correct spelling, though — which shows up on the first page of the story itself and as a cutline at the top of every subsequent page — is "ASU," which is pronounced as three separate letters ("A — S — U"), not as the words "ass-you" or "as-you."

"ASU" was originally written as a standalone, but I eventually wrote a sort of a sequel, "The Ivory Beast," in which Miller and Sanders make a brief cameo appearance at the beginning. Later still, I began another one, "Home Leave," which picks up at the exact moment "The Ivory Beast" leaves off, but I never got around to finishing it.

No, that's not Mel Brooks on the cover of the issue. It's Eddie Lawrence, "the Old Philosopher" — and, if you remember that name, you're pretty darned old, yourself....

Return to Bibliography.