What follows is a review of my novel Indecent Proposal, which has recently been re-issued by iUniverse. The novel was orignally published in 1988 by Donald I. Fine. It was then republished in 1993 by Pocket Books as a movie-tie, to coincide with the Paramount movie of the same name featuring Robert Redford and Demi Moore; based on my novel. The movie was huge, taking in $266 million box office internationally. The novel was translated into more than 22 languages. ComteQ Publishing then published a third edition — and now, here’s the iUniverse edition with a new cover and new intro. [This now is the only authentic version] But the novel is the same, same as I wrote it back in the mid-1980s on a kitchen table, sweat pouring down for the lack of air-conditioning. Next thing I knew translations of it were coming fast and furious from all over the world, and there we were walking the red carpet in Hollywood. Between takes in Vegas, Robert Redford said, “You wrote the novel?” I pleaded guilty. “Nice job,” he said.
Redford also said, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” I told him to stick to his day job. He was doing all right as an actor.
So what follows are the words of John W. Cassell. I’ll take tributes like this any day, from a writer of such high stature. Read HIS books!
I was very pleased to discover that Jack Engelhard is re-releasing his Leviathan INDECENT PROPOSAL on iUniverse. It should be “up” on amazon within the next few days. [Ed Note: The iUniverse edition, published July 9, 2010, is now up and available at Amazon]
WHY should I get excited about a re-release, when the book remains for sale to this day in several different languages?
Maybe because it is time once again to renew our soul searching over the question “what would you do for a million dollars?” What, in other words, is our individual sellout point?
I remember during the book’s first trip to the sales firmament someone bringing up that very question as we drove along the fringe of Pago Harbor headed for the High Court of American Samoa where the car’s three passengers each had a busy docket of criminal cases. Mind you I wasn’t aware the question was connected with a best seller 5,000 miles away across the Equator in the United States. Someone was…. and as we made our journey it was readily obvious there was very little one WOULDN’T do for such a princely sum.
I didn’t read the book until a year or so ago, but the conversation that hot humid morning in the tropics had me well prepared for the dilemma facing the protagonist and his wife.
Now a new generation is up and established….one that perhaps never heard this intriguing question, much less seriously applied it to themselves. With amorality the way of life for politicians and just about everyone else in this unhappy land, it could only do us good to have a few million more people ask this question seriously of themselves.
SERIOUSLY is the key word here. I wonder how many people have truly gotten down and dirty with this issue. Several years before the book came out, four of us were sitting in a conference room at State Police Headquarters at four in the morning, counting roughly half a million dollars in blood-soaked twenties one of our guys had just seized from a cocaine corridor mule. I never thought I could get bored counting twenty dollar bills, but the monotony was getting us all as we entered the third hour of counting.
Suddenly one of the detectives looked up. “Anybody here know what their price is?”
He meant for what amount would you ‘take the money and run’.
We all looked up. The counting stopped. Each of us examined the faces…the souls…of our three brother counters.
“Nothing would. I would never sell out.” The youngest guy there said that. The three of us sort of smirked as if to say “grow up kid” or “wait’ll you’ve been at this racket a few years.”
The older troops among us were only able to conclude that half a million wasn’t our price. The counting went on.
The point is that when you really get into this question, you can learn a lot about yourself. An awful lot.
Maybe…just maybe….the re-release of this blockbuster will put a whole new generation in touch with themselves. Over the years several authors have plagiarized the title. In fact even on amazon a title search will yield a heartbreaking plethora of efforts to cheaply capitalize on the concept Engelhard made famous.
But no one has addressed a concept with such moral intensity as Engelhard does here.
I’m hoping the debate starts all over again. It couldn’t come fast enough as far as I’m concerned.
More than that though, this was one best seller worthy of the name. Fabulous reading on every page, with so much more to offer than the proposal itself. No one can orchestrate TENSION like Engelhard does. The subplots come fast and furious, leading the reader on one of those joyfully exhausting chases that cry out for another three or four hundred pages of this kind of inspired writing when the end is reached.
Just to give a rough idea of the breadth of this book, I’m concluding with the review I did of it a while back. Here’s hoping this one goes to the mountain top twice!!!
Any review of a Jack Engelhard novel demands superlatives. My supply was exhausted reviewing BATHSHEBA DEADLINE, THE DEADLY DECEPTION, DAYS OF THE BITTER END, THE GIRLS OF CINNCINATI…
I just now got around to reading Indecent Proposal …A LEVIATHAN among best sellers.
Normally, I am not moved by best sellers. There is a lowest common denominator quality to them, too often nowadays propelled by hype. I’m exhausted enough as it is.
Then I stumbled over the tripwire that is INDECENT PROPOSAL…not the fifty or so shameless efforts to traffick on this book’s name…but the original…the Engelhard book.
No…not the movie. it’s hard for me to find fault with any cinema that would pair Robert Redford and Demi Moore…but while full of entertainment value…THE MOVIE IS NOWHERE CLOSE.
Forget The Proposal even…forget its superbly crafted tension and approach-avoidance and moral dilemmas…emotion Engelhard piques to perfection… forget even that….
This book is LIFE…and not just any life…but the life of a man hardly anyone alive nowadays can IMAGINE. Even the most succinct description I can field: “the Last of The Hemingways” sunders on the Reality.
In this book his name is Joshua Kane…his earliest memories being of a deadly journey across the Pyrenees…mouth stuffed to keep him from alerting the German patrols and their dogs. He rode camels in Sinai and tanks in Golan…and Zodiacs into Lebanon.
He writes speeches for other people at a PR firm, having once tried to become “a real writer”. He drives an old Malibu that belches black smoke. He rides to work on a smelly, unsanitary SEPTA bus and then an el with little more to recommend it. He quests after the Faith of King David wearing a shabby blue suit with brown socks….all the while haunted by both quests and memories he couldn’t possibly explain.
Except Jack Engelhard does such a good job of explaining as he propels this character and his gorgeous, brilliant and delightfully goofy blond Main Line Philadelphia wife Joan from the Empire State Building to Haifa to the casinos in Atlantic City with the lure they offer of dismal Fate cheated.
Peerless dialogue and graphic action that can and often does bring a tear…and can and often does make you laugh out loud are your constant companions as you travel this road map of the human condition, most likely devouring its wisdom and warning in only two sittings.
John W. Cassell