by Paul-Loup Sulitzer
Here are a couple of fat, popular novels by Europeans about macho men and their quest for power. The question is: Why are Americans buying them? Archer, the British author of The Prodigal Daughter and Kane & Abel, has been on the lists before. Sulitzer, a French financier, has a hit with his first book published in the U.S. The Green King (Lyle Stuart, $15.95) opens at the end of World War II. The hero, Reb Michael Klimrod, a Jewish youth, is found, a bullet hole in his neck and burned with lye, in a mass open grave at a death camp. He recovers and is trained as an assassin by the Israelis, then goes to South America and gets revenge by frying alive the rotten Nazi who killed his family. Reb disappears into the Amazon jungle only to come out years later and, starting with a small newsstand, builds an empire worth billions. The hero, who has gray eyes that inspire immediate devotion in others, is mysterious and aloof, a kind of financial superman. Sulitzer’s tale of derring-do and big bucks is a fantasy yarn with not much plausibility but enough suspense to keep a reader plugging along. First Among Equals (Linden, $16.95) is about the British House of Commons, where the author himself once sat. It deals with the decades-long struggle of three men for the post of Prime Minister. All three are unattractive, stuffy and self-absorbed, and a lot of their maneuvering for political power is mighty tedious stuff, especially to anyone not tuned into the finer points of British politics. Archer is the kind of writer who tells us that his characters are great speakers who routinely get six-minute ovations, but not a single line from their key speeches is provided. The novel’s ending in King Charles’ chambers (yes, that Charles) in 1991 is weak. It certainly isn’t worth wading through 415 pages of stuffy scandal and stiff-upper-lip claptrap.