A Cafe on the Nile
Where are the new Casablancas coming from? Here’s one possible source. Bartle Bull, a lawyer, publisher, explorer, and writer, centers his latest thriller at the Cataract Cafe, a floating version of Rick’s in 1935 Cairo. The owner, Olivio, is a dwarf from Goa, and his regular customers include a stalwart British professional hunter, his unfaithful wife and her lover, an Italian aviator, American twin sisters in search of all kinds of adventure, and various rogue Germans, including a doctor who regrets not being able to use Olivio for medical research. Bull’s writing is wry and deceptively simple: The waiter set before the doctor a glass of warm boiled water and the flesh of a Nile perch, cleaned from the bone and rearranged on the plate in the shape of a smaller fish. The water was pink from the three spoonfuls of vinegar that had been stirred into it, the day’s first weapon in his battle with arthritis. The German leaned forward. His high hooked nose hung over the table like a chimney over a fireplace as he widened his nostrils and smelled the fish. Outside the cafe, larger forces are at work: Mussolini is helping to start World War II with his attacks on Abyssinia, and other countries are jockeying for power. By focusing on the lives of a few assorted cafe goers, Bull makes his book add up to much more than a hill of beans--he gives us a rich, exciting picture of a world about to disappear. --Dick Adler
East Africa, 1935. A nation sits at the brink of war, a city is fraught with conspiracy, and at the Cataract Caf in Cairo, a colorful cast of characters - professional hunter Anton Rider, his estranged wife and her Italian lover, the pampered American twins Bernadette and Harriet Mills, a German freebooter who has stolen a fortune in silver from the Italian army, the Goan dwarf and caf proprietor Olivio Alevado - gathers to gamble with destiny.