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Based on interviews with nearly everyone involved (except the Iranians): a competent, not-too-novelized reconstruction of Texas entrepreneur Ross Perot's efforts to engineer the rescue of two unfairly jailed executives in Tehran. . . just as the Shah's regime was collapsing in 1979. Perot's company is ESD, a Dallas-based computer-tech firm--hired by Iran to organize its new social-security system. Circa December 1978, however, the Iranian government had gotten millions behind in its bills. Was it just coincidence, then, that the two top ESD execs in Tehran were arrested, with bail put at a ludicrous $13 million? Perot, back in Texas, expected the execs to be released after a little pressure; but not even Secretary Kissinger could get a response. (And the State Dept. refused to treat the case as kidnapping.) So Perot, "whose role in life was to rescue others," started planning a private (illegal) jailbreak mission--headed by ex-Colonel Bull Simons (who headed a Perot-funded Vietnam-POW rescue try), staffed by ESD exec/volunteers with G.I. backgrounds. ("Perot was just so proud of them.") They planned, rehearsed, trained meticulously. Unfortunately, however, they got to Tehran just in time to see the ESD prisoners moved to a different prison, this one an "impregnable fortress." Though the Shah's regime was crumbling, the demonic official behind the ESD jailing remained firm; bail negotiations continued, fruitlessly. But, eventually, as anti-Shah riots spread, it became clear that a mob would soon storm the prison--so, in the book's least credible chapter, an Iranian ESD-trainee named Rashid impetuously triggers the storming of the jail ("Rashid had become a revolutionary leader. Nothing was impossible"). The execs escape, manage to join the ESD forces at an American hotel. And, after this rather anti-climactic turning-point, the book moves into its only really suspenseful chapters: the journey of the ESD team, guided by Rashid, through Revolution-torn Iran towards the Turkish border: and only after further hassles in Turkey and Germany do all the ESD people finally get. . . home free. Clearly determined to glorify Perot & Co., Follett doesn't go in for much textured characterization. Especially when it comes to the exploits of Rashid (who escaped with the Americans), he may have fallen for a tall-tale or two. And his prose, increasingly sloppy in recent novels, is at best rudimentary here. Still, for readers partial to macho sentiment, gung-ho theatrics, and can-do philosophy, this is solidly diverting action-entertainment--with the byline (if not the shapely melodrama) of a proven best-seller.
Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1983
ISBN: 0451213092
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1983


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