cover image Picture in the Sand

Picture in the Sand

Peter Blauner. Minotaur, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-85101-7

In 1954 Egypt, the long-shot dream of a career in Hollywood for young Ali Hassan, the protagonist of this outstanding thriller from Blauner (Slow Motion Riot), seems on the cusp of realization. Legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille has arrived with his cast and crew to shoot scenes for his epic, The Ten Commandments, and has hired Ali as an assistant. The country has just fallen under the control of secularist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, and when the Muslim Brotherhood targets DeMille’s production as a means to discredit the new regime, Ali is swept up in the resultant intrigue and violence. Entangled in Nasser’s crackdown, he spends the next 17 years in prison. Blauner tells this suspenseful story within the narrative framework of e-mails exchanged between Ali, now an old man in poor health, and his grandson, Alex, who has left their home in the United States to join modern-day Middle Eastern terrorists. Ali offers his own life story as an attempt to persuade his grandson against making the same mistakes he did at that age. This is historical fiction at its absolute best—heartfelt, anchored in real events, and extremely well told. Agent: Richard Pine, InkWell Management. (Jan.)