The Zinzin Road
by Fletcher Knebel (PC Staff 1963)
The Zinzin Road by Fletcher Knebel (PC/Evaluation 1963) is the first commercial novel written about the Peace Corps. Set in the fictional West African country of Kalya, it focuses on early PCVs and life in West Africa. The book was published by Doubleday in 1966 and a few copies can still be found in well stocked libraries and yard sales. Also, used book sellers listed with Amazon carry the novel for as little as $0.28.
Knebel was a well-known Washington, D.C. journalist who in 1962 wrote (with fellow writer Charles W. Bailey II) Seven Days In May, a fictional account wherein the military overthrows the President. This book became an instant bestseller, running number one on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly a year, and was made into a movie in 1964. Following this success Knebel quit journalism and started to write full time. He wrote several other best sellers include Night of Camp David.
Knebel gathered his material for The Zinzin Road when he was hired by the head of Peace Corps Evaluation, Charlie Peters, to do an evaluation of the Liberia program, which became the setting for this page-turner. Over the years, Ive met several RPCVs who claim they were the prototypes for the PCVs Knebel wrote about. Knowing them, it could be true. Was is particularly enjoyable about the book for old-timers is reading how Knebel skewers early Peace Corps/Washington staffers who traveled to Peace Corps countries for a look/see as they often called their trips overseas. A fun book full of lots of early Peace Corps lore.