Thursday, 14 May 1998

Colin Forbes: Year of the Golden Ape (1974)

Edition: Hamlyn
Review number: 49

This is another very seventies thriller from Colin Forbes. Its theme is the oil crisis, and what might have happened if it had occurred at a period when real extremists were running the Arab states.

The plot concerns a hijack attempt on a British tanker carrying American oil, which is to be used to take a nuclear warhead into San Francisco Bay, to cause a situation which the Arabs will then take advantage of. That this plot is eventually foiled will come as a surprise to no one, but this is a thriller with no hero: everyone is pretty much as bad as each other. There is much that is predictable; in the end, the thriller is a pale imitation of one of the more unpleasant novels by a writer like Alastair Maclean. A problem for today's reader is the racism, which I'm sure is unintentional; the phrase "golden apes" is coined by a journalist in the story to describe the Arabs; perhaps it is good to be reminded that this sort of behaviour would have been considered acceptable to a newspaper of the time. It was considered acceptable even more recently by some - I remember the coverage of the Gulf crisis by the English tabloids (and I was working alongside a principally Musilim workforce at the time).

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