Title: Damascus Gate
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, Boston / New York
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: Second printing.
Cloth-backed paper over boards; dust jacket; 8vo; pp. 500. Signed by the author on the title-page. Book is fine, in near fine dust jacket with some light rubbing and a price sticker on rear panel. Bookseller Inventory # JC8325
Synopsis: Jerusalem: where earth meets heaven, home to seekers and heretics, hustlers and madmen, dreamers and the faithful of every persuasion. In this holiest and most fractious city, where religion and politics are inextricably bound, a plot unfolds to bomb the sacred Temple Mount. Christopher Lucas, an expatriate American journalist, skeptical and searching, stumbles upon the Temple Mount plot while on assignment to investigate religious fanatics. Unwittingly entangled in the bombing plan is another American, Sonia Barnes, a Sufi convert and nightclub singer, who is drawn with Lucas into the dangerous intrigues surrounding the Old City. They encounter Adam De Kuff, an unstable Jewish guru; Raziel Melker, a strung-out Kabbalist who foists De Kuff into the role of messiah; and Jan Zimmer, a soldier of fortune routinely at the center of the world's flashpoints.
Review: In his earlier novels, Robert Stone has taken us to such hot spots as Vietnam, Central America and that ultimate sinkhole of depravity we call Hollywood. This time around, it's Jerusalem. Given Stone's gift for depicting both political and personal embroilment--indeed, for making the two inextricable--this particular city is an inspired choice. For starters, Jerusalem is a sacred destination for Muslims, Jews and Christians, and it remains a hotly contested one. It's also a magnet for hustlers, fanatics and millennial dreamers, a generous assortment of whom populate the pages of Damascus Gate. As always, Stone introduces a (relatively) innocent American into the picture--a journalist named Christopher Lucas. This career sceptic prides himself on his detachment, preferring the kind of story "that exposed depravity and duplicity on both sides of supposedly uncompromising sacred struggles. He found such stories reassuring, an affirmation of the universal human spirit." Yet Lucas, a lapsed Catholic, has journeyed to Jerusalem at least in part to recharge his devotional batteries. And as he's slowly drawn into a terrorist plot--which involves drugs, arms smuggling and a plan to blow up the Temple Mount--Lucas sheds his detachment in a hurry. Stone's novel functions as an expert thriller, whose slow, somewhat clunky wind-up is more than compensated for by a brilliant grand finale. It is also, however, a dogged exploration of faith, in which cynics and true believers jostle for predominance. "Life was so self-conscious in Jerusalem," the author reflects, "so lived at close quarters, by competing moralizers. Every little blessing demanded immediate record." It's hard to imagine a more vivid record of these mutual blessings--and maledictions--than Robert Stone's.
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