From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
JACK ENGELHARD had a good idea. For his second novel - "The Horsemen" was the first - he would update the always serviceable legend of Faust to get some modern mileage out of it. Mr. Engelhard also created very contemporary players. Joshua Cantor, a Jewish writer and gambler, who makes a bargain with the Devil (a handsome oil-rich billionaire). The struggle between these two embraces a number of primal issues: the sanctity of marriage versus a love of money, the Jew versus significant non-Jews such as shiksas and sheiks, skill versus luck, materialism versus spirituality, Israel versus the Arab countries, the past versus the future, and the religious world versus the secular one.
Like his hero, Mr. Engelhard is a gambler. Can his slim, trim novel carry that much baggage?
The author even italicizes certain abstract concepts before roping them onto the backs of his characters, whom he then places in opposition. For instance, Joshua is a survivor of both the Holocaust and the 1967 Israeli war. Now, however, he is living a quiet life in Philadelphia, married to a beautiful Main Liner named Joan who has it all, sensuality, grace, humor, blond hair, rich parents, nice lingerie. Everything.
Joshua loves Main Lining. To him Joan is "Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall. Joan was more than the American dream...she was America." His only problem is he doesn't have enough money to live in the style he thinks Joan and he deserve. That's why they have to go to Atlantic City so often. Joshua hopes to score a big win that will allow him to quit his crummy job (writing speeches for a corrupt corporation that does business with former Nazis) and live happily and affluently ever after with his golden haired, Bryn Mawr-educated, wide-shouldered, classy wife who deserves the very best.
Enter tall, dark, handsome high roller Ibrahim Hassan - a royal figure from some sandy country - who is betting millions of dollars at a blackjack table cordoned off for his exclusive use in an Atlantic City casino. Hassan, the high roller, sees Joan, the high-typer, and, in devilish fashion, determines to tempt and compromise the happy couple. After a few swift moves, he takes them out to a four-star restaurant and surreptitiously propositions Joan. When she later tells Joshua, he rushes off to confront Hassan, who then offers him a million dollars if he can sleep with Joan for just one night.
In precise, almost clinical language, Mr. Engelhard tracks the changes Joshua and Joan go through after receiving their ungodly offer. Suspicion, jealousy, anger, second-guessing, pain and fear begin to torment them as they struggle with his and hers temptations (his - money, hers - his happiness). It's her body and his soul on the line.
Is this book fun to read? You betcha.--INDECENT PROPOSAL: The New York Times Book Review, FAUST ON THE BOARDWALK, By Barbara Raskin (March 19, 1989) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.