Title: The Samarkand Dimension
Author: David Wise
Wise, David (1987). The Samarkand Dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday
Date Updated: April 27, 2015
I often wonder why people who are good at one thing, try to use the tools of what they are good at and apply them to something else. To me it’s like trying to play a clarinet with drum sticks. David Wise writes nonfiction books about espionage and is widely regarded as the dean of espionage writers (perhaps, but I still prefer Nigel West.) The Samarkand Dimension is another of Wise’s ventures into writing fiction.
An Amazon-posted review says the following about the book. There’s a particular style of mystery that I haven’t quite classified yet. Maybe I’ll take a line from TNT and call them “mysteries for guys who like mysteries.” They usually involve a whole lot of sex, a whole lot of gorgeous, curvy women with whom the protagonist doesn’t have sex (unless he’s James Bond, who should have had at least twenty-seven venereal diseases by now), many things blowing up… you get the idea. And all of them, at least all that I’ve read, share a particular writing style, from Ian Fleming to the team who cranked out the Nick Carter books to David Wise. Imagine if Dolph Lundgren were narrating a book, and you have the general idea. Accent and all.
Given that, the good points about David Wise’s The Samarkand Dimension: Lots of gorgeous, curvy women, with whom protagonist David Markham both does and does not have sex; gunfire (although nothing blows up); and writing that can be read in a Dolph Lundgren accent without sounding too terribly silly.
The bad points: the editing, the proofreading, and the printing. Someone was more than asleep at the wheel when this thing was edited and proofread.
David Markham is a CIA operative who’s chosen to go into the Soviet (yes, we had Soviets back then) psywarfare installation at Samarkand and try to find out how far along those evil Russkies are in their psy testing. They’re far enough along to turn a top-secret missile back on its tail and send it crashing into Vandenberg Air Force Base; what else are they capable of?
Not a bad plot, and pretty well-handled. And the underlying mystery (which I can’t give away without all kinds of spoilers) ends up being the kind of whodunit that made me sit there clutching the book and saying “you guys are GOOD.” I never saw it coming, but then I’m awfully thick-skulled about this sort of thing sometimes. Others may get it a lot faster than I did.