Sphere, London, 1968
The blurb on the back:
Taffy Thomas lay to attention, nose pressed to the white line on the floor between Staff Tucker's gleaming boots.
Following on from his success with The Division, a tough, no-holds barred account of life in a youth remand camp, Bill Meilen gave us this tough, no-holds barred account of life in a British army glasshouse. Again, he can claim personal experience of the institution (‘This is a story about hell,’ he writes in the Preface. ‘I was there’), and again it’s excellent.
Set during the Korean War, it concerns a ‘young and skinny medic’ who accidentally shoots dead a comrade and is found guilty by a court martial of ‘a grave breach of Military Discipline and Good Order, in that you have negligently discharged a firearm, the property of the War Office.’ (p.16 – Don’t you love the wording of that charge?) Sentenced to six months inside, he finds himself the target of a particularly violent Staff Sergeant.
It’s a brutal piece of work, but it’s efficient and effective, showing us the dehumanising effects of martial law on both the prisoners and the guards. Originally it was a TV play, broadcast in 1965, with this novelization following on.
I have to admit that I’m baffled by the claim on the back that it’s for ‘aficionados of brain-washing at its worst.’ Are there such people? If so, are they sufficiently numerous to warrant a paperback imprint? Anyway, ignore that – it’s actually recommended to anyone with an interest in military culture or in the psychology of imprisonment.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 3/5
William Wilson, The LBJ Brigade