His masterwork is the thirty-three volume study of Levantine sex which, though banned upon publication, continues to influence the lives of other characters throughout the four books.
The Sarahs in Jerusalem Poker have a copy of it and read it for light relief at the end of a hard day running the banking business of the House of Szondi. The other book that has enormous importance in the novels especially the first two is the original Bible, found by Skanderbeg Wallenstein in St.
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There he is befriended by a mysterious character known as the baking priest who equips him with the uniform of an officer of the Charge of the Light Brigade and finds him accommodation in the Home for Crimean War Heroes. Joe in turn befriends Haj Harun, a gentle dealer in antiquities, apparently years old who is probably the most endearing of all the characters. To Haj Haran, time is meaningless: he has existed, exists, and will exist through all time in his beloved city. In his past life, he has been a stone carver specializing in winged lions for the Assyrians, a landscape gardener under the Babylonians, a tentmaker under the Persians, an all-night grocer when the Greeks were in power, and a waiter during the Roman occupation.
In the nineteenth century, he knew both Strongbow and Skanderbeg Wallenstein. Her life crosses that of Sivi, the charming and kind bon vivant of Smyrna, and eventually she comes to Jerusalem, where she falls in love with Joe. Occasionally he chanted about mighty wars and migrations and who begat whom, and although he sometimes presented the solemn side of life he also included the sensuous and sacrificing, all the while enlivening his chants with anecdotes and sayings and reports, curious inventions, every manner of adventure and experience that might come to mind.
Central to it all is Jerusalem, the city on the hill, which is described in detail by one obviously familiar with its byways and history.
This is not surprising, as Whittemore wrote most of the quartet while living in the city itself. The three players represent the main religious factions within the old city — Muslim, Jew, and Christian. The stakes in the game are no less than control of the city of Jerusalem. The book was first published in and is probably the most fantastically imagined of the entire quartet. Each character has a signature motif: Cairo carries an albino monkey on his shoulder and smokes mummy dust; Munk eats mounds of garlic and carries a remarkable watch that can tell three different times; Joe wears the uniform of an officer from the Crimean War and consumes potatoes, washed down with poteen swigged from an antique bottle from Crusader times.
The action of Jerusalem Poker overlays that of Sinai Tapestry and expands on events touched upon in the earlier book.
Curiously enough he is also the common ancestor of Skanderbeg Wallenstein father , Nubar Wallenstein great grandfather , and Munk Szondi great grandfather. The great Jerusalem poker game is presented as a running commentary throughout the novel — and is more than just a game of cards. Mysterious and powerful forces are at work, from the sundial chimes striking the time in anachronous strokes, to the game play itself. The three main players — Joe, Cairo, and Munk — maintain a status quo within the game, overall neither winning or losing; other players come and go, losing or winning according to their just desserts.
A moral principle is involved, and losers are required to make appropriate amends when condemned by the fall of the cards.
Realizing that the ultimate stake is control of Jerusalem, Nubar Wallenstein establishes an extensive spy network, called the UIA Uranist Intelligence Agency to try to take over the game. His spies are thwarted and their reports back to Nubar make entertaining reading; for example, the story of the lost Greek, where Whittemore appears to be having a sly dig at the expense of classical literature.
Nubar is the clownish villain of the novel; his physical appearance, that of a stereotypical fascist, is described thus:. By the end of the Great War, Nubar had grown into a small adolescent with an unusually large head, a narrow sunken chest and a prominent potbelly. His face was small and round and pinched, and his tiny weak eyes were very close together. He wore round glasses, wire framed in gold, that seemed to push his eyes even closer together.
Two of his front teeth were gold. He cultivated a short straight moustache and combed his straight black hair low over his forehead to hide his baldness, his hairline having begun to recede by the time he was fifteen. Nubar also suffers from other afflictions — paranoia and a left eyelid that droops when he is excited; both are inherited from the first Wallenstein and subsequently visited upon all Wallenstein males. But as all Wallenstein heirs prior to Skanderbeg Wallenstein are unrelated to their fathers, the inherited affliction is inexplicable:. The question had never been answered, and with good reason.
Because to do so would have been to admit a-causal relationships in the Balkans, influences removed from logic which would have been highly confusing in their disorderly ramifications, and had always been thoughtfully ignored as nonexistent.
Whittemore often remarks in passing on the history or politics of the region involved in the action of the novels, remarks which, if investigated, prove to be accurate. His view of politics and history is undeniably quirky, forcing the reader to view the episodes in a new light. Be that as it may, it is a hugely entertaining piece of nonsense, a terrific read, a ripping yarn involving engaging characters doing amazing things in far-flung places and, again, Jerusalem embodies the dreams of all those caught in its spell. Once again the desert, a magical ancient city, and eccentric characters inform the action of the novel.
Nile Shadows opens where Sinai Tapestry ended, and revists the closing scene of that novel, revealing hidden significance in the death of Stern. It quickly becomes clear that no one is quite sure which side Stern was working on. There are two Allied Intelligence operations in Egypt: the Waterboys, who operate out of a drab building housing the Third Circle of the Irrigation Works, and the Monastery, who have their headquarters out in the desert in an ancient fortress building said to have once accommodated St. Anthony, the fourth-century hermit and founder of monasticism.
This reference to St.
Anthony evokes Sinai Tapestry — St. Both intelligence agencies are decidedly odd, the one typified by British eccentricity and the other quite sinister. The chiefs of these agencies are missing parts of themselves: The Colonel at the Waterboys is missing a leg; Whatley is missing an arm; and Bletchley lacks an eye.
Well, you may be right. I never thought of it that way before. Bletchley is an intriguing and likeable character, the head of Intelligence operations for the mysterious Monastery, his face a grotesque mask because of an accident involving a spyglass. Joe quickly learns to interpret the expressions that cross his ravaged face, a horrifying grimace signifying a smile.
Bletchley resurfaces in Jericho Mosaic as Bell, the one-eyed hermit and holy man of Jericho. Joe is assigned the code identity of A. Not rivers and mountains and deserts to be crossed, but memories to be explored. The heart of the mystery is a daring escape Stern made from a Damascus prison in It is inexplicable because Stern was due to be released within twenty-four hours.
A few weeks later Hitler invaded Poland, beginning the Second World War, thus posing the question of which side was Stern working. The influence of Strongbow extends to this novel as well, through the long friendship he enjoyed with Menelik Ziwar. Living and trying as he did, failing and dying as he did.
Nile Shadows , though more somber than the two previous novels, has its bizarre moments. When Joe is being transported by Bletchley through the desert to the Monastery, they pass through a dreamlike landscape where old engines of war lie discarded on the wayside, and a battery of British howitzers are bombarding the empty desert, facing the wrong way.
How can there be a right way to slaughter people? And anyway, mirages are common enough in the desert. It is interesting to note, that towards the end of the novel, Whittemore has Maud quote a passage from an ancient Chinese account of caravans in the Gobi desert. It is indeed a remarkable piece of prose. It speaks of secret agents, sandstorms, vanishing caravans in the trackless desert, among other things. The Quartet culminates in Jericho Mosaic As usual, there are new characters to fill the absence of those the reader has come to know and love, and they all have interesting histories.
The transformation of Yossi into Halim, the master undercover agent, is the main preoccupation of the novel. The action of the novel shifts among three main locations: Jerusalem, Jericho, and Damascus. Halim operates out of Damascus, and the action focuses on his activities as the Runner and his private life in that other ancient city.
The lives of all the protagonists overlap and become entwined as is usual in a Whittemore novel.
Follow Us. For each of them, Jerusalem represents a dream for the future, yet they are haunted by its past. Confusion had been lost or forgotten. Three writers, above all others, have served as touchstones for my own fiction. Now the madam of a high class brothel and nightclub, she is the most powerful woman in Japan and the incarnation of the Kannon Buddha. We glimpse his soul when Whittemore employs the special motifs of his character — a wistful refrain of cats, gardens, the Legion of Mary, the flowers of Tokyo, the temples of Kamakura, all of which represent moments of poignancy and fleeting happiness in his past. Get A Copy.
Jericho Mosaic is an amazingly relevant novel for our times, with the never-ending war as far from peace as ever. This book goes some way to explaining the origins and motivations of the ongoing conflict. It is a sort of history primer for the region. Whittemore never in any way takes sides or shows any partisanship with either party. His view is holistic; his characters believe there is a way for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to live in harmony. Over and over again, he has a triumvirate representing the three main religious groups. The message is clear: No matter how impossible the idea of a common homeland for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, among individuals peace is possible and happens all the time.
Jericho Mosaic , like Nile Shadows , presents a dark vision of the Middle East and is less playful than the earlier novels. However, larger-than-life characters and fantastical, dreamlike sequences still enrich the storyline. His style is closest to that of Jan Potocki as, like that author, every story is multi-layered and connects with other stories. He was a great humanist, and all the novels contain deep and meaningful conversations on the meaning of life, on how everything is interrelated.
He was 62 and most recently lived in Manhattan. The cause was prostate cancer, said his literary agent, Thomas C. Whittemore, known as Ted, was born in Manchester, N. He served three years in the Marine Corps, until the Government sent him in to language school in Yokohama, Japan. He briefly worked for the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay in New York City before turning to writing.
His first book, "Quin's Shanghai Circus" , was a war novel peopled by an odd assortment of characters drifting through landscapes resembling Tokyo, Shanghai and the Bronx.