cover image Mitla Pass

Mitla Pass

Leon Uris. Doubleday Books, $19.95 (435pp) ISBN 978-0-385-18792-3

Sour, self-indulgent characters and surprisingly awkward dialogue suggest that only the staunchest Uris fans will enjoy his new novel. Since it draws on the bestselling author's own life, many will buy it anyway. Aspiring novelist Gideon Zadok's paean to the Marine Corps is hailed as the definitive combat novel of World War II. To soak up some of the gravy he feels is due him, the young author moves his wife Val and two daughters to Hollywood, where the chip on his shoulder increases exponentially in size. Blaming Val when his second book flops, he pays her back by sleeping with dozens of women; she, meantime, nags unceasingly. Flashbacks show that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Gideon's father was a bombastic Communist party organizer, while his dissatisfied mother hopped from one man to the next. With his marriage heading for divorce court and his career on the rocks, Gideon takes off for Israel to redeem himself as a writer and a Jew. On the eve of the 1956 Sinai War, he tries to prove his courage and face down his painful past by parachuting into Mitla Pass with a company of Israeli soldiers. In the lull before battle, he weighs the love of his wife against his hunger for Natasha, a passionate, destructive Holocaust survivor. It's hard to believe that the unsympathetic, one-dimensional characters here were created by the author of Exodus and Trinity. First serial to Ladies Home Journal; Literary Guild and Doubl eday Book Club main selections. (Nov.)