Haganah, the pre-independence israeli underground, had a scoop on long-lost gold and two members approached Abu-Gil-Shatter, guard of an outlying Palestinian settlement, for help. An experienced man of the desert, he recalls his journey of many years before; remembering his roundup of companions, he savors the particulars of each--his horse, his family (often in that order)--and so reveals himself as well as his colorful friends. The conversational tone is a fine guide to the desert where heat, rather than Bedouin bandits, nearly defeats the party. Getting there is half the fun and most of the book: after they reach the monastery, Abu-Gil faces token opposition from Father Christian (later revealed as the tip-off to local thieves) but he removes the map and proceeds to the gold with relative ease. Up to the monastery scenes he has a good thing going; then the drama fizzles and recovery of the gold, a foreseeable end, is almost routine treasure-hunting.