WHIRLWIND by James Clavell
Kirkus Star


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Clavell's fifth novel in his Asian saga (King Rat, Tai-Pan, Shogun, Noble House) is a 1,216-page superblockbuster adventure story set in revolutionary Iran, between February 9 and March 4, 1979, long before the hostage crisis but with Shah Pahlavi just having left the country and Khomeini waiting in the wings. Scot Gavallan, son of the chairman and managing director of S-G, a Britishrun helicopter company servicing the government-owned oil fields in Iran, has his hands full trying to keep his fleet operational. Guerney Aviation, the American helicopter outfit, has pulled out of Iran, to cut its foreseeable upcoming losses. S-G's operations have doubled with the American pullout, but its corporate headquarters in Hong Kong (where S-G is secretly owned by the vast Noble House conglomerate run by Linbar Struan) also sees a British pullout ahead, since the fanatical revolutionaries will undoubtedly nationalize the fleet and bring financial ruin to S-G. Can Scot get his big international team and their choppers safely out of Iran? In the whirlwind wrath of God upon the infidels in Iran, the rioting madness of political and religious mobs, and the blades of the whirlybirds seeking escape in Gavallan's Operation Whirlwind (by the birds being secretly dismantled and stripped via Jumbo jet freighter), the novel is well-titled. Among the blast of subplots are the tragic love of pilot Tom Lochart for the ravishing Muslim Sharazad, with their memorably explosive last kiss; the struggle of Andrew Gavallan, Scot's father, with Linbar for control of Noble House and a takeover by Scot; the story of the loving Azadeh and her pilot husband, the giant, knife-bearing Finn Erikki Yokkonen's resistence to KGB agent Fedor Rakoczy, and then, Rakoczy's own descent into horror. Aside from length, Whirlwind is an achievement, distinguishable from dozens of zippy page-turners this year by the density of its experience of modern, tortured Iran. Tremendous readership assured.
Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1986
ISBN: 0340766182
Page count: 1248pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1986


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