A Boston-Brahmin banker. A rags-to-riches immigrant hotelking. Two intermittently interesting, mostly clichéd life stories (1906–1967)—which unsubtle Archer (Shall We Tell the President?) has linked up [in Kane and Abel] using coincidences that belong only in Italian opera and plot secrets that only Dickens could get away with (and did)…. So how do these two heroes—both of them tiresomely brilliant and decent—hook up? Well, there's a brief teasing glimpse of waiter Abel serving William at the Plaza Hotel. But the real connection is made after Abel has become the indispensable right-hand man of a midwest hotelier: when the 1929 Crash comes, Abel and his boss need help from William's bank, William refuses, and Abel's beloved boss commits suicide. So Abel vows vengeance on William while—with aid from a mysterious anonymous backer(!)—he manages to salvage the hotel chain and achieve tycoon-dom. And with World War II the Abel/William contacts really start hopping. Even the most indulgent readers will surely gag when Abel just happens to save William's life on the battlefield (neither of them recognizing the other!) And next … what else but a coincidental meeting between William's son and Abel's daughter? (The two fall madly in love and marry over both fathers' protests.) Abel continues to try to destroy William, however…. Finally, after William dies, Abel—who apparently hasn't read Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend—learns that William was his anonymous backer all those years ago…. Obviously inspired by Hollywood's corniest movies and Howard Fast as well as the great Boz, Archer works hard to put in every known commercial grabber (except, thankfully, gratuitous hard-core sex); but, though a few individual scenes have some melodramatic snap, the ludicrous plotting and cardboard characterization make [Kane and Abel] a long, ragged trek—for the most undiscriminating saga-seekers only.
A review of "Kane and Abel," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1980 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLVIII, No. 2, January 15, 1980, p. 74.