THE WORD OF A GENTLEMAN by Peter Niesewand


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First US publication for a 1981 political thriller by the late journalist-novelist Niesewand, author of A Member of the Club, Fullback, and Scimitar. The setting is the island-nation of St. David's, a former British colony in the south Atlantic, now (circa 1978) governed chiefly by native blacks--though swinish white Police Commissioner Montrose has remained in his pre-Independence post. And Prime Minister Moorhouse, in office since 1968, has been massively popular. Recently, however, the decline in the island's tourist-trade has generated anti-Moorhouse feeling, with building opposition from the Democratic Front party. Worse yet, Moorhouse is being nastily manipulated by a corrupt trio of officials led by the vile Montrose: they extort protection-money from local store-owners; to bolster this operation, they secretly organize street-violence that wreaks havoc on stores that won't pay up; they somehow convince Moorhouse that the riots are being instigated by local CIA agents and by traitors within Moorhouse's cabinet--including the PM's part-white secretary, Steven Ayer. And this scare starts to fall apart when two of Ayer's colleagues--Rana and Kataria--prove his utter innocence, when the faked political riots are about to be exposed. Soon, therefore, after a bloody (but incomplete) attempt st coverup, the panicky trio is driven to drastic action: Montrose & Co. stage a coup, imprisoning (among others) Moorhouse, Ayer, Rana, and Kataria--using torture-interrogations (and the rape of Ayer's wife) to extract false evidence and put the deposed officials on trial. So the final chapters here focus on various attempts to unmask the real villains--while, behind the scenes, a ruthless CIA agent manipulates everyone for US political purposes (an overfamiliar twist). Leisurely, somewhat talky, with no central character to focus on--but a bitter, agreeably offbeat study in petty corruption and post-colonial unrest.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Stein & Day