David H. Rothman


David H. Rothman, a Washington-area native, is also author of a corruption novel called The Solomon Scandals (Twilight Times Books, 2009), which The Washington City Paper praised for "the same dark zeal Hammett held for Frisco or Chandler had for Los Angeles."

Smashwords Interview

How'd you end up a writer?
No choice in the matter. My mother was maniacal about well-written thank you notes. A famous author sealed my fate. He said writers aren't smart enough to be doctors or good-looking enough to be actors. So I settled for something a little less scary.

The writer, by the way, was Norman Mailer, a war novelist and much more. He was a long way from perfection--he stabbed one of his wives. But at least at this college seminar in Ohio, he was an absolute mensch.

(My thanks to the Online Book Club for running an earlier version of this Q&A.)
Why a book set in the Congo? Just what were you thinking?
Ray Arco, the late Golden Globe judge, urged me to write a script about child soldiers in the former Belgian Congo, known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His reasoning was that George Clooney's wife, a prominent human rights attorney, might take an interest. Well, I haven't the slightest idea whether Amal Clooney saw the script. But Ray was on target in his choice of settings. The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world--this on top of all the bloodshed over minerals and other resources, not to mention tribal differences. I could instantly see the drama.

Right off the bat, I wondered if I could do a what-if about a Congolese genius who'd rise from nowhere to become a leading tech guy despite all the challenges he faced as a child soldier. Could my protagonist be both good *and* great--a moral man amid poverty and violence, not just a mega-success in the end? And maybe elevate his country along the way? I also envisioned his family as a role model. Strong families by themselves cannot end social problems, but often they can help their members cope with them. My hero owes his success not just to his parents but also his sister.

Drone Child does not try to predict the future of the Congo. Instead the idea is, "What if everything in the DRC eventually goes *right*." We're talking about the possible, not the inevitable. Still, I'd rather be an optimist about both my hero and his country.

I'm sickened by people writing off Africa and ignoring all the changes there in areas such as business and technology, especially the rise of cell phones. I wanted something different from modern variants of the racist Conrad. Even now, stereotypes abound. Higher expectations, please, despite all the horrible challenges ahead!

If the right Congolese read my work, maybe it can help them refine their own visions of a better future even though I'm hardly infallible. In real life, I was lucky to have a former Mandela Fellow, one of the DRC's leading civic activists, fact-check and critique my novel before publication. He and my other fact-checker-critiquer felt that I'd gone in the right direction, and in fact, they love Drone Child. They hope it will appear in French and Lingala.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find David H. Rothman online

Where to buy in print


Drone Child: A Novel of War, Family, and Survival
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 44,530. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2022 . Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
At 15 I’d already killed a man. I wondered if he had left behind a son my age. I’d go on to help slaughter hundreds more. This wasn't the civil war that outsiders described. Instead, it was a series of criminal acts by uniformed gangsters who had forced me to join their Congolese Purification Army.