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Several chapters in, feeling as though I’d stumbled into either or both of a H. Rider Haggard novel, or “Lost Horizon”, and looking for the film which really ought to have been made (starring Harrison Ford), I felt that I simply MUST find out something more about the author, of “The Rose of Tibet”, Lionel Davidson. On reading http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obitu... my jaw dropped open. What praise indeed from Graham Greene, Daphne du Maurier, Philip Purser, and Frederick Forsyth. What had since happened to this man whose work had been likened to John le Carré and Eric Ambler? Do not omit to read the Preface of “The Rose of Tibet” Much valuable information is contained there; for the text of this book is anything but a quiet and sedate read. Davidson cleverly and almost seamlessly sets the principle scenes of his fictional tale within the the mid-C20th history of Tibet. He then proceeds to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction by incorporating some of the real life characters of the time: the Dalai Lama, Heinrich Harrar, Peter Aufschnaiter, Arthur Hopkinson, his publisher, and others. Whilst writing by reference to a collection of old Indian Ordnance Survey maps, Davidson makes no serious attempt to similarly mirror the topology of the factual Tibet. Rather refreshingly, I don’t think Lhasa was mentioned more than thrice. Davidson pens such squealingly appealing tongue-in-cheek lines as “The proclivities of the holy women of Yamdring had come, certainly, as a great surprise to him. He didn’t think they would surprise the astrological correspondent of the ‘Hindustan Standard’ ”. Davidson kept this reader constantly on tenterhooks, looking to find out as to whether this book would turn out to be a complete ‘Ripping Yarns’ of an adventure; or something considerably greater? Only on reading of a thousand priestesses, (remember, the real Tibet was, and is, very much a man’s world) did I wince slightly, before turning to speculate as to whether or not Ian Fleming might have borrowed more than a few ideas from Davidson! There again, looking at “The Rose of Tibet” from a different viewpoint, I thought it open to parody; but if that was subsequently done, I can think of no example.Where Davidson really surprised me was by his ruthlessly subtle injection of superbly observed sharp humour into the story of high adventure in a strange land that he tells here so rivetingly well. The sixty-seven year old Governor of Hodzo (Ch.8) with his air cushion, is just one such picture of delight. The hero of this novel, Charles Houston (swiftly, in my mind, Harrison Ford c. 1981), is likewise probed, and found to be human “he saw that to survive he would have to exercise the combined talents of a Scheherazade and a demon lover, and he was not feeling up to it”(p.165).There is so much that I dare not write here for fear of spoiling surprises within so very many perfectly believable yet unexpected twists and turns of the exhilaratingly adventurous plot. The final extraordinary escape through and out of Tibet, and the encounter with a bear, will forever rest in my mind as amongst the most vivid, precise, and exciting descriptive prose I have yet read. Right to the very last line, this book doesn’t let go of its reader. Why Lionel Davidson is not better known, and his books more widely read today, I simply cannot conjecture.

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