- The Golden Keel
name = The Golden Keel
image_caption = 1986 UK paperback cover
language = English
William Collins & Sons
media_type = Print
pages = 221 pgs
isbn = ISBN 0-00-615583-9
preceded_by = none
"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 protagonistis closely patterned after that of the author.
Peter Halloran, a migrant to
South Africaafter the end of World War IIhas established himself in a successful and profitable designer and builder of yachtsand 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 Walter, an alcoholicex-soldier, who tells him an improbable tale of a hidden treasure. When Walter was a prisoner of warin Fascist Italy, he managed to escape with a small band of Allied prisoners, including an Afrikanernamed Coertze and some Italian partisans, and waged a guerilla campaign for several months in the hills of Liguriaagainst the Nazi Germans. Towards the end of the war, their band ambushed a truck convoy, which contained a massive treasure in goldbars, 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 and daughter 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 Mediterraneanand find their steps dogged by unsavory characters. It is soon clear that they are not the only ones after the treasure.
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