Thieves Fall Out
Gore Vidal, writing as “Cameron Kay”
Hard Case Crime/Titan Publishing, April 2016
Mass Market Paperback
It had been a long time since I’d read a novel by Gore Vidal (partially due to the fact that he passed away 3-1/2 years ago at age 86). It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to read a novel by this prolific author, thanks to publisher Hard Case Crime, which discovered a lost pulp crime novel written in 1952, unavailable for more than 60 years and never published under his real name. This is a tale of a down-on-his-luck American trying to smuggle an ancient treasure out of Egypt on the eve of a bloody revolution.
From the publisher: It is a pulp yarn through and through, defiantly non-literary (and non-P.C., but then Vidal always was that, with echoes of “Casablanca” in its wartime intrigues and desperate rogues. But it will also hold interest for modern readers for its depiction of Egypt in the throes of a revolution, with the ouster of a corrupt monarch leading to rioting in the streets, bloodshed and chaos.
Peter Wells, 31 years old, born in Salem, Oregon, finds himself in Cairo in July, the hottest possible time of the year. He has been robbed by a prostitute and left penniless with nothing except, fortunately, his passport. In quick succession, he meets two beauteous young woman, one French and one German, each of whom quickly has him under her spell, despite warnings against each and a slight unease that they may each cause harm, either directly or indirectly, to him, as well as the mission he is on: to smuggle out of the country a piece of jewelry said to be cursed but worth over $100,000, for a ‘commission’ of 10%, which he desperately needs. The not-too-far-distant history of one of the women with Nazis, and of the other with the present Egyptian king, in addition to a mysterious hunchback known as Le Mouche, enter into the tale as well.
The novel reads quickly, and the plot is intriguing, neither Peter nor the reader knowing who can be trusted, and certain that each has been telling him nothing but lies. It is a very interesting novel, especially considering its true authorship, and is recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2016.