Light at Dusk: A Novel


Will Law, a rising star in the U.S. Foreign Service, mysteriously walks away from his post and, in Paris, falls into the arms of his onetime lover Pedro. When the child of a mutual friend is kidnapped by a Nationalist gang, Will is reluctantly drawn back to the diplomatic world he abandoned. Fighting against a rising tide of French anti-immigrant hatred, the Americans launch a deperate search across the city. In the process, Will must challenge the moral burdens of his past, and in an attempt to rescue the child,...

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Will Law, a rising star in the U.S. Foreign Service, mysteriously walks away from his post and, in Paris, falls into the arms of his onetime lover Pedro. When the child of a mutual friend is kidnapped by a Nationalist gang, Will is reluctantly drawn back to the diplomatic world he abandoned. Fighting against a rising tide of French anti-immigrant hatred, the Americans launch a deperate search across the city. In the process, Will must challenge the moral burdens of his past, and in an attempt to rescue the child, he must also find a way to redeem himself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Elegant, exquisitely mannered prose; tight suspenseful plotting...Light at Dusk will not look out of place...on the shelf somewhere between Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene.”—Ben Ehrenreich, LA Weekly

“Light at Dusk...has sinew and heart and a bracing sobriety.” —Randall Curb, Boston Review

“A spellbinding narrative.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Gadol brings you into his story quickly. His prose is lyrical but beautifully spare.” —Richard Wallace, Seattle Times

“[A] riveting, cinematically seductive tale.” —Booklist

Seattle Times
Gadol brings you into his story quickly. His prose is lyrical but beautifully spare.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The City of Light becomes the city of lost children in Gadol's (The Long Rain) intricate tapestry of jealousy and self-discovery. It's some time in the future, and in Paris, bombs explode in the Metro and children of immigrants are kidnapped by angry mobs. "France for the French" is the battle cry of the far-right French Front, which, having gained political power, is increasing its hostility to foreigners, especially those from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, while retaliations by radical immigrant factions have Paris under siege. Diplomat Will Law has walked away from his job at the U.S. Foreign Service in Mexico and drifted to the terror-ravaged city, where he reignites an affair with his erstwhile lover, Pedro Douglas, a student of French architecture. Then Will encounters Jorie Cole, another American expatriate, and Nico, a four-year-old boy who is apparently her son. After Nico is kidnapped by a roving gang of terrorists, Will learns that Jorie's story is more complex than she initially let on: Nico is the son of Jorie's Lebanese lover, Luc Chamoun, whom Jorie planned to leave, taking Nico with her. But now the boy is gone, and Will joins forces with Jorie to search Paris for him, leading to a suspenseful climax. As the title hints, this is a novel of perception and misperception, of light refracting reality. Pedro is alternately a main character and the third-person omniscient narrator who relays the quasi-imagined events of Will and Jorie's journey even when absent from the scene. The tragedy in Mexico that haunts Will is gradually revealed, and it casts its moral shadow into the present. Gadol blends ruminative philosophical passages within the framework of a crisp, action-packed story. The intricate plot remains lucid with finely wrought crystalline writing that leads the reader through a spellbinding narrative.
Robert Plunket
Gadol's writing is so smooth and elegant.
The Advocate
Bethany Schneider
[A] brooding, elegant thriller...Guilt, desperation, passion, and the rainy, violent underbelly of Paris—Gadol's blue-tinted little novel is perfect.
Kirkus Reviews
A lyrically detailed gay suspense novel, with romance and suspense sharing interest equally. Will Law has quit the American foreign service after, tragically, going too far out on a limb in his Mexican posting. Seven years after their breakup, he writes his ex-lover Pedro in Paris that he'd like to see him again. Pedro, the narrator, is an art historian focusing on French architecture. He and Will spend their first three days together in bed, then go out into a bread riot backed by the ultra-rightist French Front, which wants the immigrant laws reversed—and more white Gallic babies for voting purposes. Will's father was a top FS officer, and one of Dad's friends has gone to great trouble to get Will reinstated in the service, with a new posting in Jakarta, but he'd be a spy. Gadol's (The Long Rain, 1997, etc.) backgrounding in FS adds much to Will's weight on the page. Before Will can back out of the new assignment, he meets an American, Jorie Cole, and Nico, the four-year-old son of her Lebanese lover, now in Nigeria. The skinheads from the French Front have been doing dastardly things to dark-skinned immigrants, and, as Jorie stands talking with Will, some chain-wielding skinhead terrorists swoop down on Nico and kidnap him. All kids who have earlier been kidnapped, as the French police know, eventually have been returned unharmed. As an American, Jorie is especially disillusioned about raising Nico in France, where, despite being born there, he's not a citizen, is subjected to racial slurs daily, and has almost no rights. Will helps her through the police questioning and tries to save Nico. One good act helping Jorie recover Nico, Will thinks, willturnhis life around after his Mexican fiasco. Success will, however, have its fatal demands. Strongly written in language gray as a Paris rainfall, with moral ambiguities heavy as mist.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312280802
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,435,802
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Gadol is the author of The Long Rain, Closer To The Sun, The Mystery Roast (Picador), and Coyote. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Finally the day came to go out into the city.

    I remember that someone tuning a cello in the courtyard woke me at six that morning, a long bow-stroke repeatedly riding one troubling string, sliding from sharp to fiat, sharp to flat. After a while, I realized that it was not a cello but a cat, and I lay in bed waiting for one of my neighbors to either feed or free her. But the plaint continued, and eventually I found my robe and headed downstairs barefoot, taking the oval stairwell a little too quickly after a long night of wine and play. I had to sit down at the threshold of the courtyard to catch my breath, and by then, the cat cries had ceased.

    I had been renting a top-floor apartment in an elderly building on the edge of the south Sixteenth for almost three months, and I'd heard this cat many times before but only seen her twice. I knew she was brown and sleek-haunched, possibly green-eyed, and even though the day began brightly enough, finding a brown cat in a gray stone courtyard proved difficult. I looked behind some bikes, behind trash cans, and under the car parked in a corner. A tenant in the building had driven the sedan across the cobblestone one afternoon some weeks before my arrival and apparently left it for dead without explanation. I didn't know much about cars, but I could tell that it was vintage and valuable, with its sloping hood and arrogant chrome. It was burgundy and upholstered in caramel, and here was what was strange: The keys were in the glove compartment. I had discovered this one morning along with the concierge, who made it her habit to keep thecar washed, its windshield free of grime, its fenders agleam, as if it were her responsibility in the way that the iron railing and floral newel of the stairwell were also hers to maintain in good shine.

    No cat cowered under the car or on the ledge of a low window or anywhere where she might answer me. I called out to her the way I would call out to my own cat back home, whom I missed a great deal—travel was incompatible with cat-ship—except I spoke in French.

    It was October 15 and cold. I gave up.

    Before I went upstairs, I heard what I thought was an unusual shuffle of feet out on the street, and when I was back in my apartment, I looked down at the sidewalk. There were many more Parisians out and about at this hour of a weekday morning than I was used to seeing. They were all headed in the same direction, a steady stream, away from the Bois and toward the main boulevard.

    My apartment consisted of two large rooms partitioned by sliding doors, the room that I used for my bedroom and a larger parlor with tall windows. The narrow molding around the ceiling edge made it look as if the place had been trimmed with eggshells. There were traces of gilt. I stood in a window and became anxious when I glanced back at a settee layered with books about French architects and histories of the Revolution, at the table littered with snapshots of pale eighteenth-century buildings and my several notebooks. Maps, index cards, a laptop open like a steamed clam and collecting dust. Research had kept me busy me all summer and into the fall; important deadlines now were imminent, although I had done no work at all for the last three days.

    Through the doorway to the small kitchen, I could see a budding grove of empty cabernet bottles on one counter along with a considerable berg of dark chocolate and a bowl of flawless pears—gifts. The man sleeping in my bed had brought them. I looked at him and some of my panic abated.

    His name was William Law, and he didn't stir while I stood at the foot of the bed. Count among his enviable virtues a propensity for undisturbed sleep, which was true of him as long as I'd known him; you never wanted him in the passenger seat if you required conversation to keep you awake on a long drive. It was Friday; he had arrived early Tuesday morning, and except for dinners in a corner café down the street, we had not left the apartment. We had sequestered ourselves and successfully ignored the beat of the city, but today all that would come to an end.

    Will slept, the blankets pulled back longitudinally to reveal half of him, a ruddy range of arm, back, butt, and leg. I decided to poke around his luggage, an abused leather bag containing his worldly effects, so he claimed. I had forced him to admit that he did maintain a storage vault elsewhere, in Washington as it turned out, but he seemed to consider everything he kept there dispensable, book boxes, an heirloom quilt, his childhood globe. I looked in his bag expecting to find I don't know what. I had seen his entire wardrobe, Will who dressed in the reds and browns of fallen leaves. He owned a single suede jacket, which was inappropriate for the increasingly wet weather in Paris. Most of his clothes were draped over an armchair or carousing with my own hasty discards on the floor, our khakis in delicto.

    Will shifted and pulled a pillow over his head.

    He also had brought a backpack with him, and again, I already knew its contents. He had been reading a book related to my dissertation topic that I'd recommended, although his bookmark was lodged in an early chapter. I saw the wad of letters I had sent him. There was a camera, no film. And there were some token artifacts, proof of his recent travel—for all the time that we were renegotiating our romance after long silence, he had moved every month—some tom currency and thin coins, various city plans. I had examined everything he had brought, and still I could not answer so many questions, chief of which was this: We had not seen each other in seven years—what made him suddenly seek me out?

    Will pulled the pillow off his head, exposing his semi-blondness and a measure of stubble. I froze. I was holding his passport. He didn't open his eyes.

    It was a regular American passport like my own, not a diplomatic one. I flipped through it and glanced back at his body, more of which was available now for review—his entire back, the span of his shoulders. I learned nothing new from the passport—or maybe I mean that I didn't discover any lies—and only verified the borders he had crossed. He carried around a date book, too, which was blank for the majority of the expired year; in fact, the first entry logged was the estimated-time-of-arrival of the plane that had carded him from Rabat to Paris, and the only other notation was for an obligatory lunch date today with an old friend of his late father's, which I knew about.

    I did think it possible that William Law was a spy. It would not have surprised me.

    His body, on the other hand, continued to supply me with new clues. The Will now stretching and reaching his left hand for something to grasp—the headboard sufficed—did not match the Will who I met when he was nineteen and had not yet grown into his frame. We were in college and all of us were too skinny for own good, sporting blazers and trousers that somehow looked tight, short at the cuffs. The Will with whom I had lived in the years after college, the Will who I could safely call the love of my life—he was wheatier and had more hair; he was fair, he sunburned easily. Now he wore his hair cut short, and he looked tan with leisure, his bikini line evidence of days given over to the sun and sand. Or to a rooftop deck with a view of the souk—that was what I imagined. This new Will looked as if he didn't go to bed without doing several hundred sit-ups and push-ups. When he moved an arm, you learned something about anatomy.

    And then hold that image of a tall and tan, traveled man against the image of the man I thought I would buzz into my building earlier that week, a man I genuinely and maybe naively believed I would hug hello, that's it—a man in a poplin suit and silk tie and polished cordovan oxfords. The career consul, visiting from the tropics. His father's son. Needless to say, the Will who showed up did not match the Will I expected, and I don't mean to imply that I was disappointed so much as cast into a fog. Will Law had followed some turn in his life which I did not yet understand. He had resigned from the Foreign Service, which was a busy life; then he became a man with an empty date book and a well-stamped passport. How did that happen? Why had he left?

    Years had gone by, I had lived my life. We were a decade out of college; I had to check my math to convince myself that this was fact. We'd lived together, we'd lived apart longer. We had lost each other. Then six months ago, Will began writing me letters: Each one ran a brief page, a few jerry-rigged sentences, yet each read true and passionately. They came to me weekly, often before I could respond. He talked about how he wanted to start his life over, and—here was how I figured in the ramble—about how his best times had been spent with me: Our autumn jaunts to the Law family house in Maine, which we would have to ourselves. A languid trip here to Paris the summer after college—our days were so easy back then, how did we drift? He wanted to see me, he wrote; would I meet up with him? We arranged a rendezvous in Paris while I was conducting my research, and he took his time making his way here but finally showed up.

    There was the hug in the foyer, pro forma, but then a kiss as well. Right away a kiss that went well beyond communicating the relief of reunion. A kiss, a letting-go—and suddenly his letters added up. Whatever grief he had caused me vanished like a flap of doves. Before long we were stumbling across the room, through the sliding doors, unwrapping each other. We picked up right where we'd left off, or so it seemed. Hours later Will said, I brought you what you used to like. Red wine with dark chocolate. And pears.

    "What time is it?" Will asked. He flipped onto his back and propped himself up on his elbows.

    I heard someone shouting down on the street.

    "What day is it?" I asked back.

    I tossed off my robe.

    The cat cried out again in the courtyard, a louder, more desperate wail, the cat I had seen twice and remembered as having green eyes. Naturally I would think she had green eyes because so did Will; green by day, gray at night. He blinked at me. He pulled me closer. I crawled over to him, hovered awhile, and descended.

    Finally the day came. We would have to venture beyond the corner café. We would need to engage in serious talk. But what if we had stayed in one more afternoon and one more evening? I cannot help but wonder. What if we had stayed inside.

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