A “festival” of slaughter, or sacrifice, halal style, not necessarily limited to
livestock by bleeding them to death, but is often practiced on infidels
Here are some
excerpts from The Black Stone, a detective novel set in 1930 San Francisco, in
which the hero, Cyrus Skeen, discovers the bizarre, brutal, and murderous
nature of Islam. The volume of information available to us today about Islam did
not exist in 1930. But what he was able to find caused him, his wife, Dilys,
and Mickey Kane, a top rank newspaper reporter, to make disbelieving, defamatory,
and wonderfully blasphemous remarks about Islam. Skeen is investigating the
horrendous murders of a young Jewish girl and a newspaper reporter who had
stolen the “Black Stone” of the Kaaba. He is pursued and murdered by members of
The Muslim Brotherhood. Skeen encounters an agent of the Brotherhood, and deals
with him in his typical no-nonsense style. He discovers another murder in his
own office building. Enjoy the excerpts.
Cover Illustration: 
Leader of Ikhwan Sultan bin bajad Al-Otaibi, who allied himself
and his tribe with the Sauds to conquer the Arabian Peninsula. The Sauds
did not wage war against the Ottomans, but sat out WWI sipping tea with
the British. The Sauds are erroneously depicted in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia as following Lawrence to attack and slaughter a Turkish column.

“You go
ahead,” said Skeen when they returned two hours later. They stood outside
their bedroom door. “I want to look up something. It’s something Professor
Lerner mentioned. It won’t take a moment.” 
“Don’t be
long, Cyrus. You look tired in spite of your energy.”
In his study, he
consulted his several sets of encyclopedias for information on Islam. None was
to be found in the Funk & Wagnall’s,
nor in the Collier’s. There was some
information on mosques and something called the Kaaba in Mecca in the twenty-volume
New International Encyclopedia. All
the articles he was able to find referred to Moslems as
He was up until
two o’clock. He closed the last volume, yawned and stretched his arms. He had
acquired some basic information about Islam from the articles, but not nearly
enough to satisfy his appetite or his curiosity. He would be taking the roaster
back out tomorrow after all, to the library and some book shops. He switched
off the desk lamp and went to the bedroom…..
“Did you know,”
Skeen asked casually over breakfast the next morning, “that Mohammedans,
when they go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, must walk counter-clockwise around the
Kaaba seven times, and run between some hills looking for water, and perform a
schedule of other rituals, all designed to make them feel like silly, worthless
 “Kaaba?” asked Dilys, who was paying
only half attention to her husband. “Sounds like a Greek dish, smothered
in the finest feta cheese sauce, and best served with ouzo.” She was
reading the morning Observer-World. She had fixed a breakfast of scrambled
eggs, bacon, and toast. Skeen had just poured himself a second coffee and was
on his first cigarette of the day. He was reading from notes he had made last
night in his study and had passed the newspaper over to Dilys.
“The Kaaba,”
read Skeen, “is a cube-like structure smack in the middle of an open-air
mosque about the size of Kezar Stadium, about forty-four feet high and fifty in
length. Other scholars reverse the dimensions. It is built of granite on the
outside, marble on the inside. It sits on a spot, according to Mohammedan lore,
that Allah designated that Adam and Eve should build a temple, or an
altar.” Skeen paused. “Of course, that story must have been concocted
after the Kaaba had been a pagan shrine for an undetermined number of centuries,
housing scores of other deities. Allah’s own genealogical antecedents seem to
be rooted in a moon god of fecundity.”
Dilys looked up
from the newspaper. She said, wearing an incredulous but amused frown,
“You’re making that up.”
Skeen chuckled.
“No, I’m not. It’s all in the encyclopedia…”
Skeen smiled
wickedly. “Great material for a stand-up comedy monologue at the Fantasma
Theater.” He went on. “The Kaaba is skirted by an enormous black silk
table cloth, with Koranic verses embroidered in gold, high enough out of reach
of light-fingered pilgrims.” He paused. “Presumably, the roof is
bare, but somehow water-proofed. All in all, the Kaaba that exists today is
just one of several that have been built, destroyed, collapsed by floods,
damaged in war, redesigned, and gussied up ever since it probably began as a
stone shanty erected by heathens thousands of years ago, housing wart-nosed
witches they probably called vestal virgins, visited by decrepit old priests
who performed Masonic-like rites over bowls of foul-smelling incense.”
Dilys chuckled.
“I can just picture it now. Thousands of the heathen votary doing a syncopated
conga around the place to a mad drum beat. Some cranky old priest on the roof with
a megaphone acts as a cheerleader, prompting them to shout en masse some obscene imprecation in Arabic, or whatever they spoke
back then.”
“A very fine
parody, darling,” said Skeen, “worthy of Cecil B. DeMille’s
talents.” He continued reading. “Today, observers write, about one
hundred thousand pilgrims perform the Hajj
Dilys looked up
from the newspaper again. “Hodge? As in hodge-podge?”
Skeen shrugged.
“I suppose so. Or perhaps it it’s ‘Hadge,’ as in ‘badge.’ There was no
pronunciation guide in the encyclopedia.” He frowned. “As for Mecca,
historians and cartographers aren’t even sure the place existed when the
alleged prophet, Mohammad, or Muhammad, is said to have graced the Kaaba with
his presence and laid the Black Stone. They think it might have been a
backwater town, a kind of camel stop, noted by Ptolemy, called Macoraba. Which,
in turn, raises a question mark over the existence of Mohammad himself. It’s
all quite hilarious.” Skeen put aside his notes. “And that’s all I
was able to glean from my sources here.” He finished his coffee.
“I’ll be going downtown today to find more books on Islam. Care to come
Skeen returned
early in the afternoon with a bag full of books on Islam he had purchased in
two Market Street bookshops. He repaired immediately to his study. Aside from three
recent books on current events in the Middle East, he had bought The Qur’an, by Mirza Abul Fazi, which
featured the text in Arabic and English, and The Holy Qur’an, by Maulana Muhammad Ali, which featured
annotations on the English text. The two other books were Whither Jerusalem? by Hortense Abigail Pickett, a traveler in the
Mideast who taught at Oxford University, about the Jewish-Arab conflicts
beginning in the late 19th century, and two books by H. St. J. B. Philby, The heart of Arabia: a record of travel and exploration, from 1922,
and Arabia of the Wahhabis.,
from 1928, both books published in London by Constable.
Dilys came into the study around midday and
espied the pile of books on Skeen’s desk. “Well,” she said, sitting
on the edge of the desk, “I guess I won’t be seeing much of you today….”
Skeen said, “I’ve been dipping in the Koran.
It’s worse than the Bible in many respects. Utterly schizophrenic in
parts. One moment you’re being urged to behave like St. Francis, and be kind to
all animals, even Jews and other infidels. The next it’s inveighing against
Jews and other infidels, calling for their extermination. It’s beginning to
read like a manual for a career in sadomasochism, authored apparently by a
person currently incarcerated in Sing Sing, and provided with a liberal and
lifetime supply of cannabis or some other hallucinatory pharmaceutical product.
You know, one of those serial killer convicts who finds religion.”
Dilys said, “Surely you’re
Skeen shook his head. “Remember that my
sole encounters with Islam in the past were two of Mr. Winston Churchill’s
books about his experiences in the Sudan and the Northern Frontier in which he
describes Moslems, or Mohammedans, or Muslims and their practices and
fanaticism, then my declining an invitation to join the Ancient Arabic Order of
the Noble Shrine last year – can you picture me wearing a red fez decorated
with mystical symbols? – “
Skeen obliged. “In the one Philby book I
discovered the Saudi Ikhwan – “
“The icky one?” asked Dilys, pausing
to scrutinize her husband’s face for a moment.
“The Ikhwan,” repeated Skeen,
spelling the term. “Plural for Moslem ‘brothers.’ Tribal allies of this
Saudi king. They’re Wahhabists, sticklers for pure Islam.”
Again, Dilys looked incredulous.
“Wahhabists? As in the Wabash River? Or should it be the Swanee?”
“No, not quite. I’m not sure of how to
pronounce it, either. Say! I think I’ll use that phrase of yours the next time
anyone asks me about the Ikhwan.”
“What phrase?”
“The icky ones.”
Dilys shrugged. “I thought that was what
you said. You’re welcome to it.”
“According to Philby and Picket, they’re
first-class throat cutters. Very similar to the Thugees of India.” Skeen
chuckled. “That would be a sight. Allah versus Kali. More interesting than
both Dempsey-Tunney fights. Kali, you see, would have twice the punching power.”
“She’d have four arms. She could deliver
a double sucker punch. I wouldn’t put my money on Allah.”
“I’m not a betting woman….”
Kane made a face.
“But, what’s with this blasphemer stuff? What do you think that’s all
Skeen took a deep
draught on his cigarette. “I have a hypothesis, but first, I put the
question to you: What kinds of people would resort to murder in the name of
their religion?”
Kane shrugged.
“Klansmen? Really wicked Bible Belters? Evil Evangelicals? Babbling
Baptists? Recidivist Revivalists?” He paused to wag a finger. “And it
wasn’t just murder, Skeen. Dwyer was tortured while he was strapped to that
chair. There were cigarette burns and knife cuts all over his torso, and on his
face. There was a cigarette butt in one of his eye sockets.” He paused
again. “And his hands had been cut off, too. I saw the police photos. Getz
saw them, too, but didn’t mention any of that in his article, just the head in
the wash basin. He said Bauer, our editor-in-chief, said there was a limit to
describing murders for the public.”
Kane finished his
sandwich last, and went for another coffee. When he returned, he asked Skeen,
“So, fill me in on these Mummers.”
Skeen chuckled.
“Mohammedans. Or Moslems. You can look up all the variations at the
library.” He lit a cigarette and briefly described Islam and its fundamental
tenets and rules.
Kane looked
incredulous, but he believed what Skeen had told him. “What a bunch of
crackers!” he said. “Do these guys also speak in tongues, and roll on
the ground, and foam at the mouth?”
probably speak Arabic, for starters. At least, that’s what the Koran is written in, although there’s
evidence it was originally penned in Aramaic. They pray five times a day, on
their hands and knees, and bang their foreheads on the ground or floor. As for
foaming at the mouth, that seems to happen when they’re on the warpath, or
beating their wives, or cutting men’s throats.”
“And this
Catawba in Mecca, these pilgrims run around it seven times and kiss something
called the Black Stone? Is that anything like the Blarney Stone? You kiss it
and you’re given the gift of gab?”
Skeen chuckled
again. Kane was just as amusing as was Dilys. “It’s the Kaaba, and I don’t
know of any purpose in kissing the Stone, other than to prove you have a rock
fetish, are not a little addled, and wish to be in the company of a multitude
of fools.”
“Do you
think any of these Catawbans live here?”
Skeen shook his
head. “It’s doubtful.”
“That Hajj pilgrimage you described: It sounds
like one long college fraternity initiation.” Kane sighed. “Well, I
think I’ll read up on this gang, too. Library, here I come.” He put out
his Lucky Strike. “But where can you take it from here? What can you do
about it? I mean, suppose it wasn’t a genuine Catawban who killed the Lerner
girl and Dwyer, but someone who wants everyone to think it was…?”
The hallway on
the thirteenth floor was usually quiet. This evening, there were more visitors
than usual. The line of frosted glass doors identified an insurance office, a
dentist, a personal injury law office, and, at the very end, a literary agency.
Skeen was only acquainted with the tenants. He had never exchanged more than
ten words with any one of them.
 As he approached the elevators, three people
stepped into the cab. The elevator operator closed the doors immediately. A
woman came out of the law office, shouting “Hold it, please!” but she
was too late. She pressed a button and stood waiting. As Skeen approached, she
turned to look to her left. Hearing Skeen, she glanced at him and said,
“There’s something wrong with that man down there. He must be having a
conniption fit.”
Skeen sighed. It
was probably Mr. Schupe, whom he had left at the elevator to wait for a ride.
He must have been sicker than he realized.
He crooked his
head to look past the woman. He saw a man in a blue suit on his hands and knees
on a gray spread of cloth, bowing and muttering to himself, and performing
other supplicating motions with his hands. Then he bowed completely and banged
his head on the floor three times. His overcoat, shoes and socks lay to the
side of the cloth.
“What the
hell?” he thought at first. Then he realized what was happening and what
the man was doing. What startled him were the red streaks on the side of the
man’s face he could see.
He raced back
down to his office, causing Clara to jump out of her chair. Dropping his
briefcase on her desk, he rushed to his office, quickly unlocked a desk drawer,
and took out a Colt revolver.
Checking the
cylinders and thumbing off the safety as he ran back out past an alarmed Clara,
he saw that the man was still performing his ritual. The woman at the elevator
frowned and spotted Skeen’s revolver. She screamed.
The man at the
end of the hallway looked up to face Skeen, who had slowed to a quick walk, the
Colt at his side, ready.
The man’s face
was a swarthy tan and pockmarked. He had black hair, a black moustache, and
black marble eyes. The eyes glared back at Skeen.
His face also
bore the scabs of many scratches, on the cheeks and neck and around the eyes,
evidence of recent wounds that were healing too slowly.
Skeen raised the
Colt. “Hands up, mister!”
Instead, the man
rose to his full height and spat on the floor with contempt. His face wrinkled
into one of unmistakable malice. He reached into his coat and drew out a
bloodstained dagger. Raising it high in the air, he cried, “Alluha Akbar!” and charged Skeen,
his bare feet slapping on the marble tile.
Skeen fired and
hit one of the man’s left kneecap.
The man cried
once and instantly collapsed to the floor. But he raised himself to one knee
and tried to hobble towards Skeen, his dagger raised again over his head.
Skeen fired at
the man’s dagger wrist. The wrist jerked back and the dagger flew out of his
hand and landed with a clatter in front of the insurance office door.
With his other
hand, the man clasped his injured wrist. But he still tried to move towards
Skeen, shouting indecipherable imprecations at the top of his lungs, staring up
at Skeen with indescribable hatred.
“Oh, be
quiet!” said Skeen, who thumbed on the safety, gripped the Colt by the
barrel, and pistol-whipped the man on his skull.
The man’s eyes
closed and he fell unconscious, his forehead striking the tile in front of him.
White froth oozed from his lips….
It was a one-room
office. Skeen saw a desk, bookcases, and tables with piles of manuscripts. In
the rear were a coffee table and two plush armchairs on a modish carpet. Next
to a couch was a stand holding a coffee urn. Nothing seemed to have been
Judith Juliette
was a thin, fiftyish woman with black hair that was turning silver. She and
Skeen had exchanged the usual morning and evening greetings when they
encountered each other in the hallway or in the building lobby.
Now she lay on
the floor in back of her desk, her mouth open with a curled up sheet of paper clenched
between her teeth. She had apparently been gagged with a woolen scarf, which now
covered her eyes. Her throat had been cut, as well as her wrists, and her face
had been beaten to a pulp. Her blouse had been ripped open, and her bra
removed. Slashes and gashes were all that were left of her breasts and chest.
She had not been raped. Her skirt still covered her legs. Skeen bent and moved
the scarf from the woman’s eyes. They had not been gouged out, but stared back
up at him in frozen agony. He gently closed them.
Skeen rose and
fought an urge to be sick.
Instead, he bent
and pulled the sheet of paper from the woman’s mouth and opened it. In
primitive lower case letters, it read: ded
ju bitsh. alluha akber
. It had been scrawled on the back of a blank memo. 


Vipsanius Agrippa (
BC – 12 BC), Roman statesman, general, and architect, Louvre, Paris; resembles
Cyrus Skeen, according to Dilys, his wife, who owns a copy of the bust.