Kirkus Star


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With much of the quick-change artistry that made Irwin Shaw's Nightwork so easy to scamper through, Ellin gives us the somewhat less classy and distinctly less plausible first-person account of David Hanna Shaw, a/k/a Jean Lespere, a/k/a Jan van Zee. Those a/k/a's start accumulating when well-born linguist David disappears from his Old Ivy campus, unable to face his diplomat father because a treacherous roommate has sold David's private journal of Dad's myriad marriages to a scandal sheet. Whether or not you buy the motivation, it puts David appealingly down-and-out in Paris, where he's first a brothel handyman and then a drugrunner--in exchange for a Dutch passport. Enter Jan van Zee, widely respected ""king"" of Amsterdam's hippies, deeply in love with soon-pregnant Anneke, but too weak to resist the big-money temptation of further smuggling--now, international currency-running. When the smugglers pull a double-cross, however, leaving Anneke dead and lan van Zee believed so, the novel changes course: David returns to America, claims his vast inheritance, has plastic surgery, and invades Europe for a smorgasbord of revenge--cuckolding, bankrupting, inducing suicide--using a movie project about the life of Jan van Zee as a cover. If David's methods border on the farfetched, forgive him; he's a far more engaging raconteur than his deeds would suggest, and Ellin is a sensitive enough mastermind to mix in a mite of character development (via a new, true, liberated love) with the zestfully coordinated, European attention-grabbers.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Random House