by Stephen Holgate
Pub Date 30 May 2017
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A LETTER FROM THE PAST FORCES A DISGRACED BUREAUCRAT TO CONFRONT HIS FUTURE
TANGIER tells two parallel stories: one, a mystery, and the other a spy story set fifty years apart and told in a series of alternating sections. In the first, we follow Christopher Chaffee, a disgraced Washington power broker whose father, a French diplomat, died in a Vichy prison in 1944—or so he had always believed until a letter, received decades after it was posted, upends his life. Soon he is reluctantly inspecting the corkscrew of his own life as he searches the narrow lanes and twisted souls of Tangier’s ancient medina in search of the father he never knew.
The second is a tale of espionage and betrayal, set in Morocco during WWII. Rene Laurent, Christopher’s father, struggles to maintain his integrity—and his life—in the snake pit of wartime Tangier. The stories slowly intertwine as Christopher unravels the mystery of his father’s fate, and Laurent becomes trapped in a web of lies and corruption, and caught up, too, in the arms of a woman he knows he shouldn’t trust.
Ultimately, TANGIER is the story of fathers and sons, the alienation of being a stranger in a strange land, the seductive face of betrayal and, finally, the lengths we’ll go to for redemption.
Selected by Bookreporter as one of the top ten thrillers of 2017!
“The real Casablanca is nothing like the movie. But Tangier is. You can get into a lot of trouble very quickly in Tangier.” Like 1940s Casablanca, “Tangier was an easier city to get into than it was to leave.”
Stephen Holgate weaves an exquisite tapestry of wartime espionage, intrigue, and mystery, in his astounding debut novel. The only things missing are Bogart romancing Bergman, and Dooley Wilson (“Sam”) singing 'As Time Goes By'. With a novel-length flashback to 1940s French-occupied Morocco, Tangier is the real Casablanca.
In a parallel plot in 1995, Christopher Chaffee is forced out of his D.C. bureaucratic position, for padding expense accounts. His France-born mother receives a letter dated 1940 (the year Chris was born) from her son’s father, Rene Laurent, who presumably died in a Vichy prison. Now Chaffee is in Tangier, tracing that letter to its origin. At passport control, Chaffee explains his predicament: “I was born Christopher Laurent. My mother remarried and I took my stepfather’s name. The man I am looking for is my father.”
Ousted from France in 1940, Rene Laurent was “a diplomat without a country.” He boards, along with other exiled Europeans, in the Great Expectations-like château owned by a femme fatale: “Yet an air of weary elegance clung to the decaying villa.”
"A gripping and persuasive novel, with shades of both Graham Greene and Alan Furst in its atmosphere and the moral challenges handed to its two protagonists, father and son. You won’t get to the bottom of anything in Tangier, Christopher Chaffee hears as he sets out to discover what really happened to his missing father in war-time Morocco. With its sexual entanglements and war-time politics, dramatic tension mounts and the questions multiply. It’s a really terrific read."
- Rosalind Brackenbury, author of The House in Morocco, Becoming George Sand, and The Third Swimmer
"TANGIER possesses all the hallmarks of a good international thriller: spies, diplomats, men and women with ambiguous loyalties and motives, smoke-filled cafes, and a protagonist in search of information he might just regret finding out. But it goes beyond that. TANGIER also delivers rich characterization and thought-provoking insights into the psychology of power."
- Steve Wiegenstein, author of Slant of Light, This Old World, and The Language of Trees
"I have admired the writing of Steve Holgate for as long as I can remember, and count him as a fundamental influence on my own sensibility as a comedy writer. His brilliant, original, and frequently hilarious literary voice is on display everywhere in TANGIER, which has earned its place on my bookshelf among the best works of modern American fiction."
- Brent Forrester, writer The Simpsons and The Office
"An intriguing trip back in time, as a contemporary American searches for his own identity by tracing the wartime exploits of the French father he never knew in a complex world of spies and counterspies. Set in the exotic and sinister city of Tangier whose descriptions leap so vividly off the page, that the city itself becomes a character in the drama."
- Mark York, headwriter of Doug
"Writing that lets the story tell itself. Holgate weaves a tight web across a span of fifty-five years. A yarn beautifully spun. Forget sleep, turn the pages."
- Tony Wolk, author of the Lincoln in Time trilogy