Tue 6 Dec 2016
by Newell Dunlap
GAVIN BLACK – A Time for Pirates. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1971. No US paperback edition. First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club, hardcover, 1971.
There is a riot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — young Malays demonstrating against the Chinese merchants — and Paul Harris is caught in the middle of it. His car is destroyed and he makes his escape on foot, in the process rescuing another stranded European, the young blond wife of a geologist. This geologist, as it turns out, works for an unscrupulous Chinese corporation that Harris suspects of secret oil exploration.
Harris loves Malaysia, is concerned about the environment and all that, but figures someone is going to develop the oil, so he might as well have a hand in it. With backing from a Japanese firm, he sets about forming a company to beat out the Chinese.
So begins a very readable and rather involved story of conflicting business and political interests, with money, power, and terrorism used to back the various interests. (Harris himself is subjected to a couple of physical attacks and attempted kidnappings, plus an attempt on his life.) The blonde? Well, she becomes an enigmatic figure, usually appearing whenever a kidnapping is in the offing. This is also a story of races — Malays, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Europeans — coming together, seldom in harmony.
Gavin Black (a pseudonym of Oswald Wynd) was born in the Orient and most of his novels take place in the Far East — Malaysia and Singapore in particular. Other books featuring Paul Harris include Suddenly, at Singapore (1961), A Wind of Death (1967), and The Golden Cockatrice (1975).
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.