APHRODITE'S CAVE by N. Richard Nash

APHRODITE'S CAVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sex, heroics, and endless soul-searching on war-torn Cyprus--in a heavy-breathing melodrama that starts well but soon bogs down in stagey confrontations, crudely overwritten eroticism, and implausibly Greek-tragic goings-on. Ben Coram, a 35-year-old med-school dropout tortured by Vietnam memories of fire and an abandoned native mistress, has found his niche as a noble, freelance ambulance driver (aided by old Greek chum Yannis) on momentarily peaceful 1974 Cyprus. But then Ben catches sight of earthy Kalya, Turkish ""wife"" of a Greek innkeeper, and he becomes a ""lunatic of love."" His wild lustful fantasies are, alas, in vain--until Greek/Turk hostilities break out again. Kalya's husband is gruesomely killed, her baby dies, and meanwhile Greek guerrilla Falkos asks Ben (a U.S. neutral) to drive up north into Turk-held territory to treat ailing, isolated Father Demetrios (whom Ben reveres). The hitch? Falkos himself will sneak along in the back of the ambulance, so he can find and kill his old nemesis, Turkish guerrilla Cabrir. Not wanting to be part of violence, Ben is torn, of course--but then Falkos hires Kalya to join the scheme, and Ben gives in. So off they all go northward, hiding along the way with Falkos' gang in Aphrodite's Cave--where Ben, now a virtual prisoner, makes futile plans (resulting in dear Yannis' death) to escape, reach Father Demetrios, and avoid Falkos' vendetta. He also, after much angry verbiage, finally has supreme sex with Kalya (despite her big non-orgasm problem). And among Falkos' band is one other complication too: Mark Achille--a handsome 19-year-old U.S.-reared epileptic who's come to Cyprus to kill Turks, especially his never-seen father who supposedly mutilated his Greek mother. Inevitably, Turk-hating Mark and Turkish Kalya feud (with sexual undercurrents)--but eventually, after nearly everyone in the cave has bared his/her past horrors, a sobered-by-war Mark realizes that Kalya is. . . yes, his mother (she's really Greek). And, finally, there's a visit to dying Father D. and a shootout finale with Ben and Mark both having to face the forces of fate and violence. . . . Nash (The Last Magic) has devised a workable enough action scenario here, and some of the background details are arresting. Sadly, however, it's all padded out to 500+ pages with chunks of awful prose (much pseudo-virile imitation Hemingway, like ""it was the hunger of his heart and balls""), and it's undermined by hysterically theatrical dialogue about love and war. . . not to mention that ludicrous Oedipal windup. An okay story, then, pretty much drowned in its own pretensions and vulgarity.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday