"Thieves Fall Out" Book Review

Written by Gabino Iglesias

Published by Hard Case Crime | Titan Books

Written by Gore Vidal
2015, 240 pages, Fiction
Released on April 21st, 2015


The best thing about classic pulp is its ability to entertain while fully embracing the clichés of the genre. Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out is pure pulp complete with a chiseled-jawed protagonist, evil barbarians, a damsel in distress, plenty of shady characters, and an exotic femme fatale. Sure, the plot is thin and the characters are one-dimensional, but Vidal makes up for that with decent pacing, writing chops, a healthy dose of violence, and the kind of witty/cheesy dialogue that made action films of the ‘80s so memorable.

Peter Wells used to make a living in the States getting involved in oil schemes, among other things. When he gets pushed out of a deal, he jumps on a freighter and ends up in Egypt in the days before the overthrow of King Farouk. He has some money to spend, wants to get into the oil business there, and is ready for a good time, but then he wakes up in a strange room and quickly learns someone stole all his possessions. At the embassy, bureaucracy keeps him from getting help and they tell him the wisest move would be to return home. But Peter wants to stay, and he wants to get his money back. After he meets a man who offers him a job, Peter finds himself deep in a world of smuggling, spies, undisclosed agendas, corrupt authorities, dangerous locals, and women with too many secrets. Unfortunately, the job they give him involves much more than they disclose, and not everything they tell him is true. What follows is a tale of tension, lies, and survival in a strange land at the brink of a revolution.

Vidal wrote Thieves Fall Out under a pseudonym, Kay Cameron. After reading it, it’s easy to see why he did so. The novel is far from Vidal’s greatest work. That being said, the fact that it’s not one of the best books in the author’s catalog doesn’t diminish the narrative’s ability to entertain and doesn’t deter from the fact that this is ultimately a story about people double crossing each other, dirty cops, gorgeous women, and violence. Likewise, the lack of depth exhibited by the characters is easy to overlook simply because Vidal knew noir inside and out and had no problem making sure everyone in the narrative played a role, even if that was the only thing they did. Peter, for example, is muscular, handsome, lucky with the opposite sex, and good with his fists, all of which adds up to an enjoyable, classic hero/antihero whose exploits are amusing to read about.

One interesting thing about reading this book now is that there’s no attempt at political correctness because, back when it was written, such things were out of the agenda. The hero is a heterosexual white American, the bad guys are brown, smelly savages who enjoy castrating foreigners, and women are sexy creatures in need of rescuing. Today, this would be an awful text, but in historical context, it makes for a thought-provoking read. Furthermore, despite its small collection of tropes, Peter’s adventures and continuous encounters with shady characters, the almost nonstop tension, and the well-written explosions of violence make Thieves Fall Out a narrative that’s undeniably entertaining.


Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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