The Foreign Desk

In days gone by (unspecified, but probably the sixties or seventies, based on the leg room described on the planes), Henry Henderson, aka Kenneth Zenith, covers the foreign desk for a British paper called The Frame, and receives instructions via hand-delivered letter from the paper’s elderly owner to decamp for the mountains of Spain — specifically, a rural town called Creleon, where rumor has it that a weather machine is hidden, one that holds the potential to control worldwide weather as a weapon. He promptly flies to the town in search of both the story — truth or fiction, whichever is most entertaining — and a good time involving copious amounts of food, drink, and chocolate truffles. During his ramblings, he meets another British reporter, James, and the two form a prickly pair to hunt down the speculative device. In the meantime, a letter from the elderly newspaper owner appears at Henry’s hotel, leaving The Frame to him in the owner’s will, which quickly results in Henry’s arrest, as the newspaper owner is soon found dead and Henry is accused of engineering both the murder and inheritance. Thrown into a cold & bleak Spanish mountain jail, Henry is eventually rescued by James and the British Consulate, returns to London, and discovers what fate holds for him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which recalls the heady days of foreign newspaper correspondents such as Martha Gellhorn, George Smalley, Georgie Anne Geyer and, most famously, Ernest Hemingway, when important worldwide stories were more than occasionally spiced with innuendo. Its scattershot delivery reflects the haze Henry lives in, a detachment from real life that fuels his travels and writing, but eventually leads to a clearer path. Recommended for those seeking a comedic adventure to transport them, if only briefly, from the drudgery of daily existence.

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