The Golden Keel
|Followed by||High Citadel|
The Golden Keel is the debut novel by English author Desmond Bagley, first published in 1963. Written in the first person narrative, the introductory biography of the protagonist is closely patterned after that of the author.
Peter Halloran, a migrant to South Africa after the end of World War II has established himself as a successful and profitable designer and builder of yachts and small watercraft. Life is good – business is good, and he has a beautiful wife and daughter. One day, in the local yacht club bar, he meets Walker, an alcoholic ex-soldier, who tells him an improbable tale of a hidden treasure. When Walker was a prisoner of war in Fascist Italy, he managed to escape with a small band of Allied prisoners, including an Afrikaner named Coertze and some Italian partisans, and waged a guerilla campaign for several months in the hills of Liguria against the Nazi Germans. Towards the end of the war, their band ambushed a truck convoy, which contained a massive treasure in gold bars, jewels and even the State Crown of Ethiopia. Rather than turn the treasure over to the authorities, they hid the trucks in an abandoned mine and sealed the entrance. Now that the war is over, the treasure is for the claiming, provided that they can think of some way to smuggle it past Italian customs.
Halloran thinks little of the tale until several years later, when life has turned sour. His wife having been killed in a traffic accident, he finds that he needs a change in life. A chance re-encounter with Walker leads to a meeting with Coertze, and with the three men agreeing to a partnership to recover the treasure. Walker and Coertze know where it is, and Halloran has the perfect solution to getting it out of the country. But questions start to worry Halloran – such as why only Walker and Coertze survived out of the much larger group of guerillas, and why Walker is so terrified of Coertze? The mystery deepens as the men travel to Tangiers, and from thence to ports around the Mediterranean and find their steps dogged by unsavory characters. It is soon clear that they are not the only ones after the treasure.
It has been suggested that this story was inspired by the tale of the smuggling of the Norwegian Gold Reserves out of Norway during world war 2, on board the 42 ft yacht "Gometra", designed by Alfred Mylne in 1925.
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