Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Pulpish Vidal Yarn Resurfaces

“This novel provides a delicious glimpse into the mind of Gore Vidal in his formative years,” says Charles Ardai, the editor of imprint Hard Case Crime, which has just announced it will release a “lost” work of crime fiction by the distinguished American author in April of next year. That book, titled Thieves Fall Out, was published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1953 and “has been unavailable for more than 60 years,” Ardai adds. Vidal wrote it under the pseudonym Cameron Kay.

As we all know, Vidal--who died in 2012--penned a trio of detective novels in the 1950s as “Edgar Box.” However, Thieves Fall Out is separate from those. It’s the tale of a U.S. citizen, Pete Wells, who endeavors to smuggle an ancient treasure out of Egypt on the eve of that African country’s 1952 revolution. A review in the blog Mr. Hardboiled characterizes the story’s plot this way:
Pete Wells is an American in a tight spot in post-war Cairo. Relieved of his wallet and bereft of cash after a night on the town, he willingly falls in with a dissolute Englishman called Hastings and Helene, Comtesse de Rastignac, a larcenous pair who offer him a means of financial resolution from his imperiled situation. They persuade Pete to act as a courier for a valuable relic which he must collect from Luxor and return to them in Cairo, from where it can be spirited out of the country. However, a persistent and seemingly corrupt local police officer is following Pete, who soon discovers that obtaining the valuable relic and returning it to his current employers may be more difficult and dangerous than he could have imagined; especially after he falls for a beautiful blonde German singer called Anna whose connections to the country's ruler could precipitate even greater uproar and bloodshed.
That blog says this novel’s “writing is both smoother and more polished, but also less gritty and hardboiled, than many of [Gold Medal’s] usual offerings and lends the book greater interest than its rather routine subject matter might otherwise suggest.”

Ardai tells The New York Times that Thieves Fall Out is “something I’ve wanted to bring out since Hard Case Crime began, a decade ago.” The paper explains that Ardai discovered Thieves Fall Out through a Vidal scholar, and subsequently went to the author himself for permission to reprint it.
“I approached him in 2004,” Mr. Ardai said, “and he said, ‘I haven’t read that book for 50 years, could you please send me a copy?’ So I photocopied the one I had, and mailed it to him, and when we spoke again, his response was, ‘I don’t know that I want to be associated with this now.’ I respected his wishes. This was a book he wrote as a very young man, and in a real way, he was a different person than he was in 2004, when he was writing about politics and the decline of the American empire. I think the bottom line was, the politics of the book were anathema to the older man.”
Only after Vidal’s demise was Ardai able to win approval for his plan to return Thieves Fall Out to print, under the author’s real name. You can read a sample chapter here.

READ MORE:Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out Should Have Died a Quiet Death,” by Jay Parini (The Guardian).

1 comment:

Kelly Robinson said...

Interesting! I'll get to it eventually, as I'm making my way through the HCCs. Trying to read them in order now, but I skip ahead to some of the new releases now and then.