Thieves Fall Out by Gore Vidal

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Thieves Fall Out by Gore Vidal

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: What would a normal person do if they woke up in a foreign land with no money? We would go to the consulate, but this is Peter Wells and he would rather make some money by getting into gunfights and seducing women.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 240 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781781167922

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If you look at history it is very easy to think that human nature never changes and that we are forever cursed to live through the same mistakes. Unstable regions remain unstable; atrocities are still being carried out. 1950s Egypt was as tricky a place to live as the modern equivalent is; a sense of revolution in the air. However, rest assured that in Gore Vidal’s 'lost' pulp novel you will be reading more about gun fights and scantily clad women, than politics.

American Peter Wells wakes up in a typical crime noir nightmare; a strange room in a foreign country with no money to his name. To make it in post WW2 Egypt he is going to have to find a way to make ends meet and that comes in the form of the seductive Helene; former spy, current smuggler. Can Peter tiptoe through the political minefield that was 1950s Egypt? Falling in love with the concubine of the King is certainly not going to help.

When picking up a Pulp novel you have to be aware of when it was written and who the market was. Thieves Fall Out is a novel written by Gore Vidal which he wrote under a pseudonym – this was a quick money fix that he was not planning to be associated with. Saying this, the writing in Thieves is of a higher standard than many outings in the genre, but the dubious 1950s political incorrectness is more front and centre.

As an action thriller, this is a novel that reads a little like a lesser Bond outing; if Bond was a slightly crass American who used his aw-shucks appeal to woo the women in his life. Peter Wells is the type of character that makes the narrative stumble, rather than drive, onwards. He lurches from near-death experience to near-death experience, not really learning much as he goes along. The strange thing is that the pig-headed nature of Peter is one of the book’s best aspects. He is a hero, but not that likeable. Give him the opportunity to take some free drugs or loose women, he's unlikely to say no. This means that whatever fate befalls him, you do feel like it is his own fault.

As a fun thriller, the book rattles along nicely. As you would expect, Vidal is an evocative writer and is able to describe the hot and unpleasant environment of Egypt in the high summer. Those who know Vidal may also be unsurprised that his writing is also a little controversial. The way that he describes characters is almost always race first; this is a very pulpy 50s way of writing, but even a fan of the genre will be put out by the constant reference to Arabs or black characters. The book is of its era and makes you glad that you didn’t have to live it.

Thieves Fall Out is not the strongest pulp novel that I have read, but as a quick read that has the desired number of shoot outs and racy moments, it does the job. The setting of Egypt is what makes the book different from others in the genre, but this also highlights some of the more unpleasant elements of Vidal’s descriptive writing as there are so many foreigners to undermine. With the right mentality, a noir reader will enjoy this book; readers new to the genre may find it a little too crass for their taste.

Titan Books have released some great lost pulp fiction in recent years including a hidden Michael Crichton novel Binary. For those for a taste for newer noir and have a strong stomach, Quarry books the are fun nonsense.

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Buy Thieves Fall Out by Gore Vidal at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thieves Fall Out by Gore Vidal at


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