A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini


 LIONEL DAVIDSON – The Rose of Tibet. Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1962. Harper & Row, hardcover, 1962. Reprinted many times (and still in print).

   Like Mark McShane, Lionel Davidson is one of those talented writers who possess a knack for seldom if ever repeating themselves from book to book. His first novel, The Night of Wenceslas (1960), is a tale of espionage set in Czechoslovakia (which won a CWA Golden Dagger, the first of three garnered by Davidson); The Menorah Men (1966) is a thriller with political overtones that takes place in Jerusalem; Murder Games (1978) is a whodunit laid in London’s bohemian art world; and The Rose of Tibet is a magnificent “quest” novel of suspense and high adventure reminiscent of the work of H. Rider Haggard.

   Set in 1950-51, The Rose of Tibet covers the perilous seventeen-month odyssey of Charles Houston. It begins in England, where Houston learns that his brother and other members of a group sent to northern India to film mountain climbing have mysteriously disappeared. At the request of the film company, he travels to India to search for information about his brother, alive or dead.

   In Calcutta, where his quest is apparently at an end, he hears talk of a Tibetan monastery that might hold the key — but the Chinese Communists have only recently seized control of Tibet, and no foreigners are being allowed into the country. Houston is not to be thwarted; he travels to Kalimpong and soon hires a Sherpa guide named Ringling, who leads him through Sikkim and Nepal, across the mighty Himalayas, and into the fabled Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

   Danger after danger plagues them en route and after they arrive at the temple of the Monkey God. But Houston survives “to enjoy the love of a goddess and to live through adventures so bizarre that almost no other man-perhaps no other man at all-has equaled them.”

   This is superb entertainment, utterly mesmerizing from first page to last. It is difficult to imagine any novelist more vividly evoking the awesome splendor of the Himalayas or the exotic people and landscapes of Tibet. High adventure as only the British can write it, and not to be missed.

   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.