On the terrace of an elaborate hilltop apartment overlooking a Central American capital, four people sit making polite conversation. The American couple -- an elderly physician and his young wife -- are tourists. Their host, whom they have just met, is a young man of striking good looks and charm. The girl, his mistress, is very young and very beautiful. Sitting there, watching the sunset, the Slades seem to be enjoying the sort of fortunate chance encounter that travelers cherish. But amid the civilities and small talk, the host's casual remark to the American woman proves prophetic: "It's not exactly what you think."
Masterfully -- with the poetic control that has always characterized his work -- Paul Bowles leads the reader beneath the surface of hospitality and luxury into a tortuous maze of human relationships and shifting moods, until what seems at first a merely casual encounter is seen to be one rooted in viciousness and horror.
About the Author
Paul Bowles was born in Queens, New York, in 1910. He began his travels as a teenager, setting off for Paris, telling no one of his plans. In 1930 he visited Morocco for the first time, with Aaron Copland, with whom he was studying music. His early reputation was as a composer and he wrote the scores for several Tennessee Williams plays. Bowles married the writer Jane Auer in 1938, and after the war the couple settled in Tangier. In Morocco Bowles turned principally to fiction. The Sheltering Skyinspired by his travels in the Saharawas a New York Times bestseller in 1950, and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. It was followed by three further novels, numerous short stories, nonfiction, and translations. Bowles died in Tangier in 1999.