Appointment in Samarra begins the morning of Christmas Eve as Lute Fliegler and his wife, Irma, lie in bed at their home in Gibbsville, Pennsylvania. Lute is a car dealer who works for Julian English, the main character of the novel. Later that day, the town’s most prominent members attend a dance at the Lantenengo Country Club. Irishman Harry Reilly likes getting attention by telling stories to the crowd. Julian watches him with contempt and fantasizes about throwing his drink at Harry’s face. The band is playing, and people are dancing. Suddenly the word goes out that Julian threw his highball at Harry’s face.
The next morning, Julian wakes up with a hangover and remembers the events of the night before. Julian’s wife, Caroline, gives him the news that everyone in town already knows about the incident at the party. Harry is wealthy and powerful, and having him as an enemy is bad news for Julian’s business. Julian asks if Harry has ever meant anything to her. Caroline denies it and reminds Julian of the insults he used against her the night before on the way home from the party. Julian wonders if his dad knows about the incident.
Al Grecco works for Ed Charney, the local bootlegger. Prior to meeting Ed, Al Grecco was involved in other criminal activities and was in and out of jail. On Christmas afternoon, Ed calls Al Grecco at the Apollo restaurant, where Al is having lunch. Ed’s son broke his arm, so Ed is going to stay home with him and his wife. He wants Al to spend the evening at the Stage Coach, a local club for the second-tier society of Gibbsville, keeping an eye on Helene Holman. Helene is Ed’s mistress and a torch singer at the club. Ed wants to make sure she doesn’t offer herself to other men.
Julian and Caroline go to Julian’s parents’ house for dinner. Doctor William English comes from one of Gibbsville’s oldest families. William’s father committed suicide after getting caught in a bank fraud, and William fears that his son, Julian, inherited his grandfather’s immoral tendencies. Julian notes that his father doesn’t seem to know what happened the night before at the Country Club. Though tense, the visit progresses uneventfully, and the young couple leaves on a good note. On the way home, Caroline asks Julian to stop by Harry’s house and apologize. He agrees on the...
(The entire section is 1092 words.)