Jack Debney is an extremely talented short-story writer, best known to readers of pioneering literary magazines such as Stand and the New Edinburgh Review. Seven of the stories in this, his second collection, have atmospheric Egyptian settings and five have the same protagonist, Jim Skaife, a young Englishman teaching in Alexandria in the Sixties. Debney himself taught English there in the same period, and his evocation of the Greek-owned cafés, with their whores, pimps and con men (and the mesmerising exhibitionist of the title story), is done with the verve and vividness of Lawrence Durrell, though with a good deal more affectionate sympathy.
These stories work especially well where Skaife functions as a neutral foil to a compulsive Alexandrian monologist. The boozy Mrs Waguih – an Englishwoman married to an Egyptian and friend of Prince Abbas, who gave her a Rolls as 'a petit cadeau' – is a masterly creation. In all these