On a clear night in 1942 a hand grenade exploded in a Cairo slum, killing one man instantly. That man is Stern, an obscure gunrunner and morphine addict whose death should be of no significance during the darkest days of the century. In the Western Desert the Germans are advancing from victory to victory, and Rommel's powerful Afrika Corps is threatening to overrun Egypt and seize control of the Middle East. Yet Allied Intelligence takes a very special interest in Stern and in the enigma of his death, which may decide the outcome of the entire war. More and more lies hidden in the question: which side did he serve? The search for the truth about Stern leads his friend, Joe O'Sullivan Beare, through the slums of Old Cairo to a decaying former brothel called the Hotel Babylon. There in the basement sits Bletchley, a spy with a shattered face who boils tea on a hot plate. At the front desk, Ahmad, an aging failure of a poet, mulls over the society pages of thirty years ago while guarding a secret closet. And with the help of a sad clown and illusionist named Liffy, the mysterious code of Stern's life is finally deciphered as Joe journeys into the past to uncover the shadowy network of a lost world: the black archaeologist Menelik, who lived in a cork-lined sarcophagus; the immensely wealthy Crazy Cohen, patriarch of the famous Cairo Cohens; the ancient twin sisters Big Belle and Little Alice, who reminisce by candlelight in a fabled houseboat on the Nile. Nile Shadows is storytelling in the grand manner, a novel about good and evil and their strange disguises, about love and the mysteries of time and the tragedy of war, a rich and magical odyssey spanning more than a century.
A rich and compelling novel that spans the turbulent decades from the closing of World War II to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, involving Muslims, Jews, and Christians and involving an undercover secret agent.
Tales of a blind man, written down by an imbecile. Such is the genesis of the Bible in this raucous, unsettling account of recent and not-so-recent history with its richly entwined odysseys: Plantagenet Strongbow, twenty-ninth Duke of Dorset, seven feet, seven inches tall, the greatest swordsman, botanist and explorer of the Victorian age, who disappears in the Sinai in 1840 with his magnifying glass and portable sundial to reappear forty years later as an Arab holy man, after writing a scandalously accurate study of Levantine sex in thirty-three volumes, and disappears again only to emerge before his death in 1914 as the secret owner of the Ottoman Empire. Skanderbeg Wallenstein, linguistic genius and fanatical Trappist monk from Albania who discovers the original Bible in the Sinai early in the nineteenth century and finds it "denies every religious truth ever held by anyone." Horrified by this, he forges an original that will justify faith and buries the real Sinai Bible in Jerusalem, where it remains hidden until retrieved in the twentieth century by Hai Harun, former antiquities dealer and ethereal wanderer through history, born three thousand years ago, a shy knight wearing a rusty Crusader's helmet and faded yellow cloak while pursuing his hopeless mission as defender of the Holy City, and who, among many jobs in the service trades, has been a stone carver of winged lions during the Assyrian occupation, proprietor of an all-night grocery store under the Greeks, a waiter when the Romans were in power, and distributor of hashish and goats for the Turks. Discredited since the time of Christ, he has only one friend in modern Jerusalem, his loyal companion .?.. O'Sullivan Beare, the wily thirty-third son of a poor Irish fisherman, survivor of the Easter Rebellion and heroic guerrilla fighter against the Black and Tans, who flees to Mandated Palestine in 1920 disguised as a nun, uses false papers to take up residence in the Home for Crimean War Heroes though he's only twenty years old, and smuggles the first arms to the Haganah in a giant hollow stone scarab while working for.?. Stern, son of Strongbow and a Jewish shepherd's daughter, exponent of a homeland for Jews and Moslems and Christians in the Middle East, witness to the massacre at Smyrna in 1922, and finally an ineluctable victim of the blood feuds of the area.In the years leading up to World War II, the separate journeys of discovery begun in the Sinai a century earlier involve many lives in many places as the unending search goes on for the real Sinai Bible: the lure of a Holy City, the promise of the desert, the bewildering varieties of love and the hopes and failures given to time, the bright somber colors of invincible dreams and dying days, together weave the chaos of events into a whole and decades into an era
On the last day of December 1921, three men sat down to a game of poker in the back room of an antiquities shop in Jerusalem: * Cairo Martyr an enigmatic black giant from Africa who controlled the supply of aphrodisiac mummy dust in the Middle East, a blue-eyed Moslem and former slave determined to revenge the injustices done to his people.* O'Sullivan Beare a disillusioned and wily Irish patriot who was making a fortune in the Holy Land from the sale of spurious Christian artifacts that were undeniably phallic in shape.* Munk Szondi dedicated Zionist and once the youngest colonel in the AustroHungarian Imperial Army, a scion of the powerful Budapest Jewish banking House of Szondi, which was run by a matriarchal directorate known as The Sarahs. The Great Jerusalem Poker Game, as it came to be called, continued for twelve years - the stakes nothing less than the control of Jerusalem itself. Thousands of gamblers from around the world lost fortunes trying to win the Holy City, but in the end there were only three men at the table, the same three who had been there in the beginning.The lives of these three gamblers become entwined with an English lord who wrote a thirty-three volume study of Levantine sex in the nineteenth century, a Trappist monk from Albania who forged the world's oldest Bible, an idealistic gunrunner named Stern, a revered black archaeologist who built a spacious apartment for himself inside the Great Pyramid, and a tiny Japanese aristocrat, Baron Kikuchi, who converted to Judaism and practiced Zen archery on the slopes of Mt. Sinai.But before the final round of poker begins, yet another contender for the ultimate hegemony of the eternal city appears: Nubar Wallenstein, heir to the largest oil syndicate in the world and a fanatical alchemist, whose crazed quest for immortality leads him to develop a vast spy network dedicated to destroying the three cosmic cardplayers and taking over Jerusalem.Where else could such an epic poker game for the secret control of Jerusalem be played but in the antiquities shop belonging to Haj Harun, the three thousand-year-old knight-errant who emerged as the guardian of the Holy City in Edward Whittemore's last novel, Sinai Tapestry.
*Sinai Tapestry, * the brilliant first novel of the Jerusalem Quartet,is an epic alternate history of the Middle East in which the discovery of the original Bible links a disparate group of remarkable people across time and spaceIn 1840, Plantagenet Strongbow, the twenty-ninth Duke of Dorset, seven-feet-seven-inches tall and the greatest swordsman and botanist of Victorian England, walks away from the family estate and disappears into the Sinai Desert carrying only a large magnifying glass and a portable sundial. He emerges forty years later as an Arab holy man and anthropologist, now the author of a massive study of Levantine sex—and the secret owner of the Ottoman Empire.Meanwhile, Skanderbeg Wallenstein has discovered the original Bible, lost on a dusty bookshelf in the monastery library. To his amazement, it defies every truth held by the three major religions. Nearly a century later, Haj Harun, an antiquities dealer who has acted as guardian of the Holy City for three thousand years, uncovers the hidden Bible.Sinai Tapestry is the first volume of the Jerusalem Quartet, which continues with Jerusalem Poker, Nile Shadows,and Jericho Mosaic*.
In Edward Whittemore’s masterful and surreal alternate history, a man’s search for answers about his vanished parents propels him on an odyssey from the present into the past, from a bar in the Bronx to Tokyo and Shanghai during the Second World War Quin, born in China and raised in the Bronx, is orphaned in the closing days of the Second World War when his parents go missing and are presumed dead in Shanghai. Years later, in a Bronx bar, Quin encounters a stranger who hints that he can uncover the secrets of his past by accompanying Big Gobi, an adult orphan too simpleminded to travel alone, on a journey to meet his guardian in Tokyo. Quin arrives in Japan determined to uncover the truth about his parents’ past, but his search soon raises more questions than answers. What are the connections between a Russian anarchist, a one-eyed baron who is head of the Japanese secret service known as the Kempeitai, and the atrocities committed during the rape of Nanking? And what does any of it have to do with Quin’s parents?Part espionage novel and part surreal fantasy, Quin’s Shanghai Circus, the first novel by Edward Whittemore, is a remarkable and audacious literary feat. Alive with a fascinating cast of characters and equally enthralling turns of events, former CIA officer Whittemore offers readers a mesmerizing glimpse at a secret history of the twentieth century.
There is little of the overt fantastic in this great, bloody sprawl of a novel, in which tortured souls follow twisting paths through WWII Shanghai; rather, there is a gradual stretching of the ordinary to the extraordinary. And eventually all those twisted paths converge at the final, dreadful performance of Quin's Shanghai Circus.