EDWARD S. AARONS – Assignment: Zoraya.

Gold Medal #979. Paperback original; first printing, March 1960. Reprint editions include Gold Medal T2616, 1972, with a new cover (shown).

AARONS Assignment Zoraya

   Now this. Not putting down any of the other books reviewed this issue, this is the real thing. The eleventh of CIA agent Sam Durell’s violent around-the-world adventures, it possesses a drive and story-telling intensity unmatched by very few writers today.

   I have mentioned before that I don’t read spy thrillers at all any more, but that wasn’t really true. I don’t read today’s bloated novels of Nazi hunts or nuclear conspiracies, and I seldom read convoluted LeCarrean tales of cold war intrigue, but I do read Edward S. Aarons.

   One wonders if Aarons ever travelled to all the places he describes so well. This story takes Durell from sunny Geneva to the picturesque Mediterranean island of Elba to the hot burning deserts surrounding the small Arabian port city of Jidrat, and in each place we get the unmistakable feeling that we are actually there. One suspects it is because Aarons also had a sense of history as well.

   Durell’s mission in this book: to return decadent Prince Amr al-Maari to his homeland, in a last-ditch attempt to provide leadership to a country about to undergo a bloody revolution. Zoraya is his wife, married when she was but eight years old, but repudiated ever since by Amr, she has spent her life simply waiting for him. If anyone can assist Durell in forcing the Prince out of his present life of drunken debauchery, it is she.

AARONS Assignment Zoraya

   Coincidence is very much a part of every good writer’s stock-in-trade, but unlike the whopping one leading off Nick O’Donohoe’s book [reviewed here not so long ago], only one of Aarons’ characters — the Jewish-Hungarian wife of Major Kolia Mikelnikov, Durell’s Russian counterpart — comes on the scene solely by accident, and even that is made plausible.

   When the stage is set, the drama that then plays itself out on the blood-splattered streets of Jidrat and the besieged palace of Amr’s grandfather is clearly not fun and games.

   Here’s a description of Sam Durell that sums him up pretty well (page 130): “…you do things in the name of duty which you really do not have to do.”

— From Mystery.File 1, January 1987 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 12-03-08. Nope, I don’t remember this one either. I could easily read it again, after reading what I had to say, but I haven’t yet read all of the other Sam Durell adventures, so I probably won’t. Not right away, anyway.

   I wonder why I was so down on John Le Carré at the time. I still don’t read bloated novels of Nazi hunts or nuclear conspiracies, but I while I haven’t recently, I have no aversion to reading anything by the man who wrote The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. That’s a book I definitely do remember, and I read it when it first came out.