RICHARD'S FEET by Carey Harrison


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Prolific playwright Harrison, the son of Lilli Palmer and the late Rex Harrison, turns to fiction in this vast (655-page), sprawling memoir of a roguish Briton's adventures in fascinatingly rotten postwar Germany. ""Somebody in Hamburg is telling stories about me,"" Richard Thurgo begins his retrospective confessional on the eve of his 50th birthday. The stories aren't about Richard's checkered early years--his rivalry with his older brother Alec for the affections of spirited Maggie Trimble; his satisfaction of that rivalry by buggering Maggie's fiance, Count Peter von Lutzow-Bruel; his escapades with a bomb Peter insists was supplied by Alec (a bomb Richard figures Peter plans to use in a plot against Hitler); his undercover liaisons with apprentice clairvoyant Ellie, lumpish young Herta Pohl, or Karin the chambermaid (Richard worries about having sired as many as three illegitimate sons); or his deeply unsatisfying marriage to Maggie's sister Molly, terminated by Richard's apparent death in a jeep accident (another pair of feet in his boots are buried as his). No, the stories are about the years that began when Richard, thrown clear of the burning jeep, decided to switch identities with Herr Schafer, owner of those feet, and go to the notorious Reeperbahn in search of his fortune. Scrambled loyalties and a picaro's luck bring Richard to the Russian sector to see Peter and Maggie--but they're both dead, and he ends up trekking back west with his three-year-old nephew (or son?) Egon--to a fitful life as a double agent under the patronage of Kim Philby, to a long career as the king of Hamburg vice, and at length to multiple violent revelations of the ways ""this new life. . .was a guided tour of what I'd done wrong in the old one."" Massively inchoate as narrative--a problem that may be remedied by the other three volumes of the promised tetralogy--but richly, revoltingly detailed as a portrait of place and era.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1990
Publisher: Henry Holt