This book is supposedly banned in Dubai but it’s relatively easy to find a second-hand (or third/fourth/fifth hand) copy there, pretty much every long-term expat has read it. “Fitz Lodd” usually raises a chuckle, and there are many who claim to know who he was based on as well as other characters in the book. The “Ten Tola Bar” was also based on a real life nightspot.
It’s a fascinating read, particularly the parts about the Emirates, smuggling, oil and gold. The book is set in the 1960s, some years before the various emirates became the United Arab Emirates.
The amorous sections are rather dated and of limited appeal, as is much of Fitz Lodd’s relationship with Laylah. I wrote this article some years ago on a now defunct site, which I will reshare here:
Why Fitz Lodd is a Ten Tola Twit
Dubai by Robin Moore (1976): A rollicking good read, and still extremely relevant thirty years since its publication, if one can stomach the cretinous American “hero”.
Tola 1: Despite being a senior army officer with a couple of decades of service, with ample experience of the Middle East, Fitz Lodd manages to lose his cool in about thirty seconds when being needled by a partisan Jewish journalist known for “twisting words around”.
Tola 2: When falsely branded anti-semitic, Fitz Lodd accepts all pressure to take early retirment and save the US army embarrassment, going quietly without any fight or any proper compensation.
Tola 3: Although he is popular with the Arabs solely because they believe the anti-semitic accusations against him, Fitz Lodd tries endlessly to publically refute the allegations, despite repeated cautions from other, wise expat businessmen.
Tola 4: Despite being given specific intelligence that Britain is going to redraw maritime boundaries and screw up “Kajmira’s” oil rights, Fitz pushes on with his attempts to get a concession there.
Tola 5: Although he could make millions more dollars in business, Fitz Lodd decides to try for an ambassadorship, for the pathetically lame reason that he wants to impress his girlfriend.
Tola 6: When his girlfriend dumps him, Fitz Lodd loses all ambition, because none of his plans and “thirst for power” means anything “without Laylah”.
Tola 7: The split second his ex-girlfriend get dumped by the man she dumped Fitz for, and sends Fitz a whingey little note, Fitz is back on a plane and into her arms.
Tola 8: Despite having nothing but vague hints that he may get an ambassadorship, Fitz makes a massive financial donation to the Republican party.
Tola 9: Despite still having nothing but vague information on the likelihood of an ambassadorship, Fitz sells his “treasured” Ten Tola Bar (his sole livelihood) to clean up his prospects. Readers will be unsurprised and quite delighted when of course he is doublecrossed by the US government (again) and passed over for it.
Tola 10: It takes Fitz until page 501 to actually wake up and smell the qahwah:
“Christ,” Fitz muttered, “if that’s what we’ve got in the Middle East Department, the Arabs were one hundred percent better off with the British power structure.”