The Tower and the River: A Novel

Harold Stephens
Publication Date: 
April, 1998
List Price: 
393 pages

Astronaut Grant Thompson is destined to go far in the newly formed U.S. Space Program, but instead of being sent to the moon he is assigned to the Naval Attaché at the American Embassy in Paris. Only after he arrives does he learn the Pentagon's true motive. He unwittingly becomes involved in a triangle of intrigue, romance and discover.

Excerpts from The Tower and the River

Chapter 7, The Last Word

When they had finished the coffee and put the tray by the bed she curled up in Grant's arms. "Now," she coaxed, "you must tell me what made you so sad last night. Is it your mama or your papa?"

"No, no," he confessed. "Nothing like that."

"Then I know what it must be," she reasoned. "It is that they do not want you to go back. Those people in Washington, n'est-ce pas?" Grant arched his brow and nodded.

"Then they must know," she continued; "they must know that Danielle needs you more than they do, or they would not let you stay. You see, I wrote to your President and said, 'Danielle loves your Grant Thompson and it is not right for you to take him away,' and the President understood. He must be a very good man. I think I love him, too."

Grant smiled. How could anyone be angry with this little girl? This girl who teased and joked and could make serious things trivial and minor.

Chapter 16, Dog Days in June

The next morning, in their red and yellow jeep, Grant and Danielle drove to the nudist camp on the Marne River. It was the most difficult and trying thing Grant ever had to do, to take his clothes off and show himself in public. And when Danielle saw him come from the locker room and appear on the beach in the flesh, she never laughed so hard in her life. He looked so miserable and uncomfortable as he kept searching for pockets to put his hands into. Then when he saw Danielle, he immediately rushed up to her and quickly laid down on the sand beach, face down, without even bothering to take the time to stretch out a towel. He refused to turn over until he was so baked on one side he had no other choice. Danielle broke into laughter again. "Why," she asked, "why do you close your eyes so tightly?"

"It helps me think better," he said, and then he told her a story about the time he was in jungle training in Central America. The natives had built open latrines for the officers. The exec explained to the natives that Americans do not like to look at one another while they are going to the toilet. The natives thought it over and after a brief conference told the exec they understood. At each seat in the latrine they hung a facemask. Now all an officer had to do when he sat down was put on his mask and he would not be able to see the others.

And that's what Grant felt he was doing now. By keeping his eyes tightly closed, no one would see him.

But later he made the mistake of opening his eyes just as Danielle was returning from a dip in the river. He saw the droplets of water clinging to her naked flesh and then came an uncontrollable desire for her. He quickly shut his eyes again, but the image remained -- only now, it was worse. He saw himself making love to her right there on the beach as everyone watched in silence. He had to quickly turn over on his stomach to stop the image and save his pride.


Harold Stephens captured not only the mood of Paris but the spirit as well. A good read.

--David Longsworth, Look East

Anyone who longs for Paris, or misses the city, will enjoy The Tower & The River.

--George Ellsworth, Life & Times