Egyptian Gold - and the Wages of Love
Updated: Jan 10
A 26-year old Stanford graduate geologist and his survey team travel from Tripoli, Libya over the vast Sahara to Alexandria, Egypt during the Arab holy month of Ramadan. Once there, the team helps a wealthy Egyptian born Sicilian family smuggle their people, dollars and gold away from the dangerous nationalistic regime of a rising dictator.
The reader will experience Libya’s oil boom and a brief on exploration techniques, a walk through an Arab Medina, a description of the world’s largest desert, a belly dance through the eyes of the young bachelor, flights over the Mediterranean and once in Sicily some complications, a torrid love affair, and the consequences of life changing decisions. This story combines adventure, history, travel, intrigue and romance into a fun ‘wonder what will happen next’ reading experience. A portion of this story is based on the author's personal experiences in Libya in 1960.
What people are saying:
Once I was one-third through this fast-paced book, I was forced to complete it. I learned a lot about the Mediterranean and its interesting history and cultures in this extraordinary well- done novel. Feltham's clear and polished writing will hook you in, and his well-developed story has some great twists and turns. The author knows that part of the world so well and combines that with his sensitivity and astute observations of life. Enjoy.
This is a great adventure story set in the 1960s post-colonial era of North Africa, tracking the trials and tribulations of a young American geologist on his first overseas assignment facing a world vastly different from his California upbringing. As he adjusts to living and working in the hot and arid climate, performing aerial surveys for the oil companies rushing to find pockets of underground wealth in their concession areas, he becomes entangled with an exotic woman who changes the course of his life.
His blind love causes him to move out of his comfort zone and take risks and cross ethical boundaries that he never would have imagined. In doing so, he puts his career and friends at risk and suffers the consequences when the secret operation hits some snags along the way. And then, when it appears the outcome is heading to a positive conclusion, a sudden shocking event turns his life upside down but eventually leads him to a new and unexpected romantic path that perhaps was his better destiny. Lots of twists and turns with interesting characters and flashbacks to the latter stages of the world war two decades earlier.
A good tale well told.
Dan Feltham draws us slowly into his yarn, enticing us with his deep familiarity with times past in exotic places that most of us only vaguely know about. Dan's nonfiction books, "Sahara Sands" and "When Big Blue went to War" are straightforward accounts of his experiences as an oil company geologist in North Africa around 1960 and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He draws on that history to weave a delightful novel.
North Africa is the setting for the first three quarters of "Egyptian Gold." Dan offers a satisfying description of the transformation of Libya from a traditional society with a millennia – old history of nomadic tribes to a modern country as the oil majors relentlessly searched the Sahara. He describes the camel caravans, the medinas – the old quarters of Arab cities with their labyrinths of narrow streets and the cacaphony of muzzarin calls to prayer, hawkers' enticements and shoppers' bartering, set among the smells of meat, spices, metalsmiths and human and animal offal.
The protagonists of the book are employed as oil company geologists performing aerial surveys, just as Dan describes in "Sahara Sands." The Lockheed Lodestar airplane they use for aerial surveys is an asset that can be put to other productive uses by the right people.
It is a time of ferment in the Arab world. King Faisal of Egypt had been replaced by the brutal nationalist Abdul Gamel Nasser a few years earlier. The laissez-faire era in which Europeans and Arabs, Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in harmony had come to an end. The Sicilian Lombardi clan had done well in Egypt, but the handwriting was on the wall. It was time to leave. But how? That's where the geologists' Lodestar came into their plans, and a complicated American/Arab/Italian drama ensues.
Feltham's yarn is pitch-perfect when it comes to the spirit of the times, the end of the 1950s. The dialogue in the book follows literary conventions of that time... the characters are a bit more articulate, and perhaps less coarse than real people would have been, but for all that they are thoroughly credible. Feltham shows his genius in managing plot transitions. Almost any thriller asks the reader to accompany the author on segues that seem improbable in real life. Feltham's plot twists seem thoroughly probable. "Suspension of disbelief" is not really demanded – the book flows naturally.
The loves stories in the book are more characteristic of the 1950s than this hard-boiled modern era. He portrays his protagonists mainly as noble, loving and loyal to their mates. I find it uplifting – and not a bad characterization of the era in which Dan and I grew up. There is little moral ambiguity, despite the protagonists' perception that their actions might indeed be questionable. Feltham doesn't leave any doubt where he would stand on the issues.
I find it refreshing to read a book featuring characters who are fully feminine and still confident that they can realize themselves best within a marriage. The book plumbs the mysteries of the male – female relationship, does not pretend to offer insights beyond the conventional, but yet in the end celebrates marriage.
The book offers a bit of everything. A very well researched history of Libya, Egypt, and Sicily. An engaging plot. Characters with whom the reader can identify, and exotic yet believable settings. Definitely a five-star effort.