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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Mecca for Murder

cover image By: Marlowe, Stephen (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 667: PS3563 .A675 M43 1956
Contributor: D. DiLandro

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Stephen Marlowe Geographic Locale: Washington, D.C., Toano, Virginia and Mecca, Saudi Arabia Date of Publication: 1956  |  Original Date: 1956 Setting: urban (Washington) and rural (Virginia estate) in the early part of the novel; in the latter half of the story, most of the action occurs in the Middle East, described as hot, dirty, and crowded Motives: murder, jealousy, kidnapping

Plot Summary

Detective Chester Drum is contacted to escort Fawzia Totah, an employee of the Islamic Center, to receive some goods from Davisa Lee Tyler, a local rich matron. Totah is adulterously going out with Tyler's son, Limerock, and she fears his mother. Arriving at the Tyler estate, Limerock's wife is found dead, implicating Davisa in her death. To combat suspicions against her, Davisa must stop the hit she's taken out on Totah -- allegedly a witness to her whereabouts at the time of the shooting. Since Totah and Limerock are in the process of joining the religious Hajj, Drum follows them to Mecca, where he uncovers an Arab/Communist plot against the United States.


Major Characters

Chester Drum "Chet", adult male, "like a big bear", blonde (or, as the Moslems say, he has "yellow" hair), ex-FBI agent, private investigator

Izzed-een Shafik adult male, Arabic, educated in the United States, Western ways and dress, terrorist for the Umma Brotherhood, a fanatical ultra-nationalistic Arab collective with Communist ties

Fawzia Totah adult female, half Arab/half American, 20s, beautiful, violet eyes, small, slim, former belly dancer, now a purchasing agent

Al Hajj Azaayim Bey adult male, generally known as "Azaayim Bey" or "the bey"; Arabic, middle-aged, fat, bald, small head; gives lectures about the Islamic Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca); has some seemingly high-placed connections in the Mideast

Limerock Tyler "Lyman", adult male, mid 20s, a dream, a hunk, bronzed, big, blonde; light colonel in the army, convert to Islam, accompanies Fawzia Totah on the Hajj

Suzanne Tyler adult female, mid 20s, small, pretty, round face, blue eyes, drinks too much

Mrs. Davisa Lee Tyler adult female, middle-aged, large, angular frame, "lean-hipped, long-legged", wealthy, head of the League of American Women Friends of the Near East

Theresa Maddox adult female, blonde, pretty, PhD; half the year she teaches comparative religions in the U.S., the other half, she's a teacher at an American oil company school in Arabia


Weapons

guns, fists


Level of Violence

for all the expectations of violence, there is really very little; what is shown is described only briefly and in unmemorable terms; there is no particular emotion attached to the violence


Sexuality

little sexuality presented; of the two women who figure prominently in Drum's life (Totah and Maddox), both press themselves on him physically at one time or another, but each leads to nothing. There are two instances of attempted rape, but neither of these come to pass. Sex of any sort is almost always thwarted.


Gender Roles

women are presented in somewhat surprising ways. Of the three major female characters, one is a rich, old-mannish woman, one is a belly dancer/purchasing agent, one a professor of comparative religion. However, although the female characters are present, the narrator doesn't necessarily notice them, seemingly diminishing the power of women in the narrative. The character of the ideal male is unclear; Chester Drum would seem to represent the pinnacle of acceptable manliness. Sexist roles and sex-related issues such as sexism are fairly absent.


Ethnicity

little overt racism. Many Arabic characters in the novel are at least somehow or somewhat criminal or ineffectual, but none is really cartoonishly stereotyped. Elsewhere, Moses, the Tyler's African-American butler, though physically large, is quite gentle and extremely literate, perusing classics on philosophy. He is aggressive only to aid his mistress, and then he is very fierce. He was apparently a boxing champion in the army; and is described very admirably for this and other qualities.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

frequent drinking, mostly on the part of Drum and the Tylers; drinking seems to be expected of the characters, but serves little purpose, and morally, drinking is neither valorized nor denigrated. Drum tries hashish once, but it's unclear whether he does so only to fit in or because he really wants to. Again, drug use is not endorsed, but neither is it necessarily denigrated.


Law Enforcement

few actual police-type characters; those who do appear serve no real function in the plot. FBI involvement is assumed, but its actual on-the-spot presence is not really shown. The local police in Virginia are presented as neighborly -- exceptionally friendly and rather stupid.


Added Features

there is mention of the "Reds". Shafik's ultimate scheme is to make it appear to the Hajji that an American GI has raped and murdered Fawzia Totah, a faithful pilgrim. Drum immediately sees how this plot would have Bolshevism flooding into the Islamic world, spelling ruin for America. Communism is referred to once or twice, but seems to be considered a major threat, universal and imminent, perhaps reflecting sentiments that circulated around America regarding the Communist threat during the 1950s.


Subject Headings

Islam/ Saudi Arabia - Mecca/ Middle East/ Murder/ Detectives, Private/ International Intrigue


Psychological Elements

Limerock Tyler explains how his mother taught him to compartmentalize issues, that is, place each problem in its separate mental "compartment", allowing no other issue or consideration to contaminate it.