THE FRENCH ATLANTIC AFFAIR by Ernest Lehman
Kirkus Star

THE FRENCH ATLANTIC AFFAIR

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Lehman wrote the screenplay for North by Northwest, and you can expect an MGM megaflick of this new something-for-everyone disaster-caper--but it probably won't have Cary Grant, and it definitely won't have the light, smart, suspenseful touch of the Hitchcock classic; here the hand is heavy, and the emphasis is on quantity. No less than 174 amateur hijackers--childless professional couples suffering from cutbacks in the engineering fields--band together, book passage on the luxury liner Marseille, and, blending in with the touristas mid-ocean, quietly and smoothly (well, a few killings) take over the ship, order a changed course, and rig up a sophisticated bomb. In Paris, French Atlantic Line officials get the message: 35 million in gold or bye-bye boat and the 3000 aboard. Radio-less and not knowing which are the 174, weary Capt. Girodt is in a pretty pickle, n'est-ce pas? Mais non! Passenger Billy Berlin, geriatrician and ham-radio nut, has smuggled his transmitter on board, and--egged on by Girodt, the ship's doctor, and horny wife Julie-he secretly establishes contact with the US, seeking retaliation advice and the identity of the desperados. While Julie and equally randy pulp-novelist Harold Columbine flirt with death by investigating on deck, New York, Beverly Hills, Paris, and Washington are hot with suppressed newsbreaks, computerized researching, presidential conferences, and irrelevant bed-hopping. The complex terrestrial doings are dullish, the floating action anything but, what with two lay-and-slay combinations, scores of bodies falling as ""The End"" comes up, and dialogue that's clevercute-awful enough to try reading out loud: ""The way to a woman's heart is through her vaginal itch"" . . . ""You need a bodyguard, and I can't think of a guard I'd rather body."" Occasional moments of appealing characterization and sly-but-believable plot-twisting make one wonder why Lehman felt the need to go for broke, piling everything onto an oceanic oil slick that goes on for miles, reflecting a single word onto the bestseller horizon: gross.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum