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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Bloody Bokhara

cover image By: Gault, William Campbell (male)
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co., Inc. (746)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 566: PS3557 .A948 B566 1953
Contributor: J. Lukin


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: William Campbell Gault Geographic Locale: unnamed North Coast city, possibly Milwaukee Date of Publication: 1951  |  Original Date: 1951 Setting: urban; a milieu of shabby-genteel shopkeepers, with some excursions to homes of the wealthy Motives: robbery with murder Alternate Title: The Bloodstained Bokhara

Plot Summary

Levon Kaprelian, a handsome young assistant rug dealer, is offered an opportunity to make a fortune by seducing old ladies into buying oriental rugs at inflated prices. The beauty and availability of the young woman making the offer tempts Levon to accept. He has second thoughts when an older man who formerly practiced such a scam is found dead. But by then he has fallen hard for the young henchwoman and is willing to endure the suspicion of the police and the hostility of his family so long as he can remain with her. Another rug dealer turns up dead, however, spurring Levon to take an active interest in solving the murders. By prying about, he incurs the enmity of a retired old crime boss, a Turkish guru, and the police. He is disowned by his father, beaten and sodomized by gangsters, and threatened by ruthless competitors. Ultimately he solves the crime and is reconciled with the community at some price.

Major Characters

Levon "Lee" Kaprelian adult Armenian-American male, 26 years old, strikingly handsome, dark curly hair; smart; well-read; assistant rug dealer, World War II veteran

Sergeant Waldorf middle aged male, big, flat-faced; pugnacious demeanor and a hostility toward rug merchants

Selak Saroian adult Armenian-American male, twenties; huge, strong; mentally-challenged; never bathes; a washer and lifter of rugs; loyal to his employer and friends

Claire Lynne adult female, twenties, beautiful, seductive blonde; factotum to rug-brokers; knows more than she will tell

Ismet Bey middle-aged male; small; predatory, bird-like features; a Turkish guru from Southern California

Carl Lieder adult male of about sixty; tall, gray-haired; ageless-looking; rug dealer and gigolo

Art Felker adult male; homosexual; short, pudgy, blunt-featured; gangster with a taste for gratuitous violence

Henri Ducasse elderly French male; rug dealer who's losing his ability to seduce wealthy women

Level of Violence

two shootings; one of them fatal; two beatings, one of them fatal; one rape (or attempt - it's ambiguous); one person flung from a high window. Violence is rarely described; its results are sometimes briefly depicted.


both Levon and Claire are heart-breakers, inspiring unrequited sexual attraction in others. The only sexual relations mentioned are between the two of them and are described discreetly and happily by narrator Levon. The rape that may have been committed by Art upon a man inspires a police officer to crack a joke.

Gender Roles

both men and women are frowned upon when they use sexual wiles to manipulate people. The narrator's evaluation of others does not seem to be based on gender. He's aware of misogyny in society and tries to counter it by treating women respectfully.


the narrator expresses some prejudice against German-Americans. He tries to avoid being a stereotypical Armenian, consciously giving the benefit of the doubt to Turks. He also expresses respect for Poles. Aside from Turks and Armenians, no non-European races/ethnicities are mentioned.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

a little social drinking is depicted.

Law Enforcement

police are gruff, but ultimately fair and decent

Subject Headings

Rugs/ Swindlers and swindling/ Robbery/ Armenian Americans/ Wisconsin - Milwaukee/ Murder

Psychological Elements

Art's sadistic character and Selak's obsessive behavior (linked to his mental deficiency) are the only exceptions to rational conduct. The character who commits murder for financial gain is a pretty cold-blooded individual but is not characterized as a sick personality.