After the Arab Spring — comes the Arab Fall
SHAIKH-DOWN offers a timely blueprint for Regime Change on an island in the Persian Gulf. This spicy comedy has a sharp sting in its tail.
Thirty years ago, Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa al-Khazi , the Emir of Belaj, stole the throne of the tiny gas-rich island from his uncle. Now BARF (the Belaj Armed Revolutionary Front) plans to dethrone Shaikh Khalid and install a republic. Their campaign attracts some unlikely allies: a pneumatic American airhostess and a gay British language teacher.
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Some authors start with characters and build a story round them. SHAIKH-DOWN started with a couple of ideas when I was in Bahrain in the 1970s. A few flight-attendants I met (we still called them air-hostesses back then) were moonlighting as what the French call “poules-de-luxe” with seriously rich Arabs. Then a boy who worked with me (it wasn’t in a bank) was “disappeared” by the Security Police. I decided I would have to write a novel about this which, perversely, insisted on becoming a comedy. Several of the characters, made up to fit the requirements of the story as it developed, are inspired by people I knew in London rather than the Middle East.
Shaikh-Down was originally published (1999) as Florence of Arabia by David Godolphin. This title was “recycled” by Christopher Buckley in the US, so when I republished in 2009 (with a revised ending) I gave the book a new title and the author a new name.
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