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Blow The Four Winds

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Corgi, London, 1977
(price: 70p; 176 pages)

dedication: For Zelda and Boris

The blurb on the back:

Arms thefts from military stores take place every week: sometimes the weapons are recovered, often not: the rest find their way to terrorist organisations from Beirut to Belfast... One such organisation was THE FOUR WINDS.
A daring jewel robbery in South America was to provide funds to buy arms on the international black market - arms that would enable the Four Winds to create a reign of terror spreading from Scandinavia to South Africa. Weapons in the hands of dedicated fanatics meant a threat to the crowned heads of Europe, to international peace - until the Four Winds found their own security threatened by kidnap and blackmail...

opening lines:
In his Base Commander's Office at the US 4th Army arms and ammunitions depot near Salerno, Italy, Major Julius Drayton was leafing through his Bank of Naples cheque-book.

A factual Introduction tells us about a report in 1975 that revealed the quantity of arms stolen from US arms stores, and never recovered, was sufficient to equip at least ten complete infantry battalions. Discussion of this fact was generally confined to issues of security and mismanagement, but Harry Arvay has another question: where did these weapons end up?

His suggested answer is that there is an international organization working to unite the various terrorist and national liberation groups around the world, forming an effective shadow army capable of major military operations. The Four Winds has the tacit approval of the Soviet Union and includes such disparate elements as the PLO, SLA, IRA, FLQ and who knows how many other sets of initials.

It's not a bad idea. In fact, it's a great idea and could really be turned into something. Unfortunately, Mr Arvay isn't the man to do it. Despite his undoubted knowledge of the territory and his research, he simply doesn't cut the mustard as a novelist. His writing style sags visibly under the weight of the clichés and leaden prose that he heaps upon it - here's one of his principal characters: 'The handsome, suave and well-spoken Yussuf proved to be better than a mere source of ready cash. He was also a natural born crook with an abundance of charm and nerves of steel.' (p.26)

Whether the story builds satisfactorily in the way that a decent thriller should, I couldn't tell you, I'm afraid, 'cos I gave up after sixty pages. I mean, he had his chance. And he failed to take it.


Another terrorist novel? Why not?

Robin Cade, The Fear Dealers