In 1977, The Damascus Cover rose on the Los Angeles Times best seller list for 3 months in hardcover. All then ten paperback reprint houses bid on the rights for the paperback version which went to Fawcett, the highest bidder at auction.
Now, nearly 40 years later, a film of the novel is finished for release in theaters in 2017, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point and The Tudors), Olivia Thirlby, (Juno, Goliath), Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot and The Da Vinci Code) and Navid Negahban, who played Abu Nazir in Homeland. Some changes have been made due to the long passage of time but the director/screenwriter told me several times he found himself always returning to the spine of the novel as it worked so well.
With the film coming out, I decided to reissue The Damascus Cover as an ebook and paperback. It’s been out of print all this time. This fast-paced spy novel is full of plot twists, intrigue, a central love story, all set in Damascus. With both Syria and Israel so prominent the film producers see the novel and book as very timely. The story itself about can one use one of their own people without their knowledge, to reach the desired goal is timeless so it needed no update at all. In fact, the detailed descriptions of Damascus in the novel make the novel a bit of a historical text as what the city was like before the current destruction.
Los Angeles Times
“In the best tradition of the new espionage novel. Kaplan’s grasp of history and scene creates a genuine reality. He seems to know every back alley of Damascus and Cyprus.”
“A fine, taut, tense spy story full of furious action.”
St Louis Post-Dispatch
“It’s suspense all the way through.”
Chicago Daily News
“Exceedingly rich in color about the Syrian capital.”
“The plotting is beautiful.”
“… a smartly paced criss-cross laced with enough Mid-East semicruises to snare the MacInness armchair tourists.”
American Library Association (starred review)
“A mission inside Syria, a last love affair, and the unfolding of the plot within a plot are handled by the author with skill and a sure sense of the dramatic.”
The Damascus Cover (The Jerusalem Spy Series Book 1)
by Howard Kaplan
reviewed by Joe Kilgore
“Pain would follow, excruciating pain, and then if he was lucky, a quick death. But spies, Ari knew from experience, rarely bumped into luck.”
Spy thrillers require analytical discipline and creative risk-taking. Fortunately, both the left side of the author’s brain and the right are clicking on all cylinders in this intellectually stimulating and emotionally compelling set piece. It torments with the moral conundrums of le Carré, pulses with the action of Ludlum, and haunts with the guilt of Graham Greene.
Set in the Middle East, the protagonist is an Israeli agent whose undercover assignments have taken their toll mentally and spiritually. Offered the opportunity of a relatively routine assignment to smuggle Jewish children out of Damascus, he accepts. Thus begins his immersion into another false identity and a labyrinth of lies that will have him cozying up to a den of ex-Nazis, playing cat and mouse with Syrian security forces, and unwillingly falling for a beautiful American photographer who just might be his last chance at real love.
Kaplan spins an intricately nuanced plot that bobs and weaves between trepidation and treachery. He paces his tale with the speed and skill of a Formula 1 driver. Yet he never rushes the details of time, place, and atmosphere. His writing style is admirably spare, revealing just enough to make us ask questions and want to know more. Between his pages brutality shares space with intimacy, and we are reminded that both action and inaction have consequences. Originally penned in 1977, Kaplan’s narrative never feels dated, which is proven by the fact that some forty years later it has now been turned into a major motion picture. If the film is only half as good as the novel, it will be more than worth the price of admission.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review