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Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore

Jerusalem Poker (1978)

by Edward Whittemore

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*note to self.copy from Al.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
"…..Mummy dust. Trading in futures, Religious symbols.
With that kind of backing, the three men seemed unbeatable. Year after year, they stripped visitors to Jerusalem of all they owned, bewildered emirs and European smugglers and feuding sheikhs, devout priests and assorted commercial agents and pious fanatics, every manner of pilgrim in that vast dreaming army from many lands that had always been scaling the heights of the Holy City, in search of spiritual gold, Martyr and Szondi and O'Sullivan Beare implacably dealing and shuffling and dealing again"

2nd in the quartet and a nice place to start. A place where harsh surrealness(?) meets whimsical reality. Where a 12 year poker game is played for the control of Jerusalem and an insane millionaire alchemist who tries to destroy them destroy what?. Or it’s a story of three (four?) lives, unreliable narrators all.

For the characters at first loom larger than life before we scratch underneath and find them unerringly human before the heroism bleeds back in and it goes full circle. Myths and legends deserving of the sweep history from the garrulous, gun running Irish man, saved by the dancing baking priest to Harun defender of Jerusalem for 3,000 years, wearing his rusty helmet and tattered cloak living in the slipstream of memory or maybe just insanity. It doesn’t matter much which, there is a different truth here.

Of all the four it has most contrast and I think therefore most interesting. It has the myth but also heavy history and these play on each other wonderfully. Whittemore really draws you in to care about the characters. It’s not perfect in a reread, I guess because the tension of who wins the poker game is lost, but the 1st time I was blown away.

So just be prepared to relax and enjoy the ride, as he does wander off track. It's a brilliant, utterly unique book and if you go in open minded it might just break your heart.

Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote clfisha | Dec 2, 2011 |
Of the 5 Whittemore books this one is the best. It is an amazing book and 1 of my all time favorites. ( )
  LastCall | Dec 15, 2005 |
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In the first light of an early summer day a naked Junker baron and his naked wife, both elderly, both heavily overweight and sweating, stood on top of the Great Pyramid waiting for the sunrise.
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On New Year's Eve, 1921, three men sit down to a poker game. The Great Jerusalem Poker Game, as it's eventually known, continues for the next twelve years--the players unwilling to leave a competition whose prize is control of Jerusalem. The players are as exotic as the game: Cairo Martyr, a one-time African slave, now the Middle East's chief supplier of aphrodisiac mummy dust; Joe O'Sullivan Beare, an Irish tradesman with a specialty in sacred phallic amulets; and Munk Szondi, an Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army colonel turned dedicated Zionist. But before the final hand is played to determine the destiny of the Holy City, a dangerous new player enters the picture: Nubar Wallenstein, an Albanian alchemist determined to achieve immortality, and heir to the world's largest oil syndicate. He finances a vast network of spies dedicated to destroying the players, and his aim is to win complete power over Jerusalem. Jerusalem Poker is the second volume of the Jerusalem Quartet, which begins with Sinai Tapestry and continues with Nile Shadows and Jericho Mosaic.… (more)

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