A sneak peek at the sequel to Cairo Mon Amour

Yes, I’m writing a sequel to Cairo Mon Amour, and here’s a 450-word extract. The working title is Bury Me In Valletta. While Cairo Mon Amour revolves around the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, the sequel weaves a story around the smuggling of arms from Libya to Ireland in the seventies. The picture, by the way is from a nineteen-seventies pack of Cleopatra cigarettes.

It’s London in 1975. Pierre, the Egyptian-Armenian private eye, and his wife Zouzou the film actress, are exiled in London and living under false identities. Zouzou has got work singing one night a week in a night club …

Extract starts here

A brief June downpour hadn’t quenched the alcoholic fervour of the Tuesday night crowd at The Orient Club in Soho. The tiny cube was crammed with drinkers at 11pm when Pierre and Zouzou arrived. A girl in a caftan belted out a song in front of a guitarist with a hairy chest, and another girl played a jewelled electric violin. A boy with an extraordinarily thick mop of orange hair walloped a drum set in the smoky shadows behind the guitarist.

The music seemed pointless to Pierre’s Egyptian sensibility. Music was meant to be convoluted, poetic, enigmatic. It was supposed to lead the listener to unexpected places. This stuff was repetitive, the same pattern played over and over, the drums bashing alongside to keep it from straying.

Zouzou pulled his ear to her mouth and yelled something about ‘West Coast sound’, whatever that was. She stood rocking her shoulders to the music, then joined a knot of dancers in the midst of the half-dozen tiny tables.

“Brandy,” Pierre shouted to the barman. He watched Zouzou gyrate and laugh with the dancers: A British late-night mélange – girls in gauze and feathers and almost nothing else, businessmen in unbuttoned white shirts, youths of interchangeable gender in leather waistcoats and huge hair, Iranian students on the loose, a red-faced Irishman capering in a tweed jacket.

Even Pierre began to be enthralled by the hypnotic pounding of the music. Zouzou stepped out from the tight circle and pulled him onto the dance floor, where he jerked and shuffled, now with Zouzou, now with an African man in a kaftan, now with a saucer-eyed blond girl, now with a slinky Persian boy in black, all bathed in a miasma of patchouli, beer, hashish and perspiration. How he had changed, he thought: Eighteen months ago, he was a man ‘turned in on himself’, a man who’d never had a youth. Zouzou had given him back his years.

When the music stopped, Zouzou went to the backstage lavatory to change and fix her make-up, while Pierre stepped outside and strolled up to Greek Street, where the air smelt of taxi fumes, urine, and frying spring rolls. A fat man laughed with a bouncer at the doorway of a strip club. A crowd of laughing men – a stag night party? – stumbled out the sex shop next door under the flashing yellow and mauve DUREX sign.

Pierre hooked a squashed lager can from the gutter, and dribbled it down the alley towards The Orient; a policeman coming in the other direction tackled him and booted the can under a car. “You’ll be playin’ fer West ‘Am soon, son!” he said, and Pierre laughed without mirth. He hadn’t the measure of these London coppers yet.

©2017 Stuart Campbell

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