So how was it in the end?
Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out was a very fast read, and quite a fun one.
While throwing in all of the clichés of the genre, Vidal was able to build a story in such an oblique way that for much of the story the protagonist – small time crook Pete Wells – does not know what he is doing, and why.
But he’s being paid, he’s sure he can face the dangers, and so he’s going along with the flow.
Wells is a flawed individual, a complicated mix of arrogance and weakness, and he will get more than a taste of true danger during his wild run through the Cairo underworld.
Vidal gives us a jaubdiced view of early 1950s Egypt – a hot and dirty country where everything’s for sale, from the police to the citizens.
Wells is not interested in the “old ruins”, and from his waking up in a sordid bordello to his final showdown with fate, he looks at the ancient empire with a sense of superiority, and his only interests seem to be money and women – the sight of women causes his blood to roar in his ears… go talk about self-control issues.
The rest of the cast is perfectly fitting for this noirish hard boiled caper story, the women are gorgeous, strange and dangerous, and the plot runs forward at breakneck pace.
It has been said the Vidal was being ironic, playing with the cliches while mocking the genre. This is possible… but on the other hand, the whole is being played with a straight face, and the payback is quite satisfactory.