cover image Hang Time

Hang Time

Zev Chafets, Ze'ev Chafets. Warner Books, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-446-52047-8

Shi'ite terrorists and Western politicians play foul with two Detroit Pistons basketball stars and their coach in Chafets's third offbeat thriller (following The Bookmakers, 1995). A bumbling terrorist minion mistakes Pistons coach Digger Dawkins and star players Tyrone Holliman and Greg Bannion for a Zionist Congress contingent and abducts the trio for Dr. Abu Walid, a Palestinian fanatic who's guided by a blind sheik. Abu Walid's demands are two: the release by Israel of 1500 Palestinian prisoners, and a public apology by American President Teddy Masterson for ""anti-Islamic policies."" In order to milk the situation for its PR value, Masterson orders pressure applied on the Israeli government to mount frantic search-and-rescue activity for TV broadcast but to drag its heels on the actual search. Meanwhile, the kidnapped Tyrone's brother, Rasheed, a former cop, flies to Israel to meet his old friend Yoav Kedmi, now a street-smart police chief, to work out an independent plan to free the hostages. At the same time, Abu Walid begins to have Coach Dawkins systematically mutilated, dispatching videotapes of the violence to TV outlets. This in turn triggers American reprisal bombings against terrorist sites in Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere, prompting Israeli officials to sit on their hands about the hostages as they reap the benefits of the American show of force. So, ultimately, it's up to Rasheed and Kedmi, to find the hostages and confront the kidnappers. Chafets's tongue impales his cheek in a stinging slap at U.S. and Israeli political posturing that only a former head of the Israeli Government Press Office could have given. He cleverly depicts his ethnically diverse cast through deft description and dialogue, setting them and their outrageous actions against black humor that only occasionally threatens to engulf the narrative. (Apr.)