Saturday, 27 January 2001

Gavin Lyall: Venus With Pistol (1969)

Edition: Companion Book Club, 1971 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 731

Like the "hero" of Midnight Plus One, Gilbert Kemp is aging and on the point of retiring from his role as a man of action. This is rather less admirable than that of Lewis Cane, as he is a professional art smuggler rather than a hero of the French Resistance. He is employed to help a rich Nicaraguan woman set up a national gallery there, evading the "tiresome" restrictions on the export of art. However, some sort of rival gang knows what is going on and people are being attacked and even killed.

The title of Venus With Pistol is that of a rather silly sixteenth century painting with which Kemp becomes involved, a picture of a naked woman with a pistol on her lap; a painting with obvious Freudian interpretations. The novel as a whole is never totally serious; it is a self-deprecating first person narrative. It is a passable read, entertaining if never really gripping. Midnight Plus One is rather better.

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