The Gold of Exodus

Howard Blum, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-684-80918-2
The search for the ""real"" site of Mt. Sinai, where Moses was said to have received the Ten Commandments, is the basis for this briskly paced and often comic nonfiction thriller from Blum (Gangland). The quest mixes the religious with the mercenary: the Bible says that before leaving the mountain, the Israelites buried the gold they had brought with them out of Egypt. An unlikely pair of American amateur treasure hunters--Larry Williams, an eccentric millionaire, and Bob Cornuke, a former SWAT-team leader from California--researched the subject and concluded that Mt. Sinai was not on the Sinai peninsula, as commonly believed, but was the mountain Jabal al Lawz in southwestern Saudi Arabia. The Saudis do not allow tourists into the country, but in 1988 Williams and Cornuke sneaked in on a forged visa. What they didn't know, and what adds a level of geopolitical irony to Blum's story, was that the Saudis had begun constructing a top-secret military installation on the mountain, and that Israeli intelligence was eager to learn about it. The result is a rather madcap adventure, as the two hapless, middle-aged Indiana Joneses deal with shady Arabs and Israeli spies in London, negotiate with bedouins for information and sneak past the Saudi army in the middle of the night, using only the Old Testament as a guidebook. While Blum's latest never quite builds to its promised climax, Williams and Cornuke's trip to the summit of what may or may not be one of the holiest mountains in the world is always wryly entertaining. 100,000 first printing; first serial to Vanity Fair; film rights to Castle Rock. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1998
Release date: 02/01/1998
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