BY R. W. MIL LAR The Mortal Fire, by Henry Gibbs (Jarrolds, 18s.).
The Three Yard Ensign, by A. Kennard Davis (Barrie & Rockeliff,
The Impermanence of Heroes, by C. F. Griffin (Barrie & Rockcliff,
End As A Man, by Calder Willingham (Arthur Barker, 21s.) Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin (Michael Joseph, 21s.).
HENRY GIBBS'S The Mortal Fire is set in a Himalayan " country with the usual warring elements; a ruler who would be liberal when it is too late for liberalism to work; jealous and disloyal ministers. a fanatical revolutionary party and Russian and Chinese agents. fishing in troubled waters.
The set-up is totally convincing, there is much exciting incident and you feel the tenseness of being trapped in a revolution. even if those through whose eyes it is mostly seen are no more than stock figures, a British artist in love with one of those wise and beautiful Oriental ladies who have always fascinated novelists and an American fleeing from the horrors of Madison Avenue, also from his wife.
I could not care what happened to any of them but I was fascinated by the background and the march of events.
Shabby The Three Yard Ensign is very nice holiday reading, even if it's just a holiday in your armchair. It is about a roan trying to keep his independence, in present day conditions, by trading along the East African coast in a small shabby motor vessel with a scratch crew.
He knows that the forces of the modern world, economic and political, are against him, but be has a more tangible enemy at hand, a rival skipper who is out to down him and who doesn't mind how he does it. Everything about the book seems authentic and even those not mad about the tropical seas can enjoy it. Seafaring addicts will gobble it up.
Despised Miss C. F. Griffin's The Impermanence of Heroes has some affiliations with the much-praised To Kill a Mocking Bird. Those who prefer the bracing airs and the more Britannic moeurs of the New England seaboard to the exotic vapours from the Southern swamps may indec I prefer it. Two children, Jessica and her brother Brock, live in a small seaside village annually overrun by the much despised "summer people", who know nothing about fishing and real sea-lore.
A very different character from these comes to live in a lonely house on the point, a badly maimed ex-soldier whose harsh unfriendliness alienates everybody but Jessica and Brock, Jessica, who is rising twelve, becomes enthralled by him and by the model ships, each with a lurid history, that he confines in bottles. Of course this is a growing up story; candid, uninhibited childhood moving towards the emotional quicksands of adolescence and of course there has to be a violent end. The book is told with a mixture of poetry and realism; it leaves its mark.
Nervous End as a Man, Calder Willingham's expose of life among the cadets in a Southern military college has been out of print for some years, hut now re-appears in
an unexpurgated, edition. Many people will have seen the film which was made from it.
The book is brilliantly written in the nervous, kaleidoscopic American manner; it explores every quirk of nastiness possible among young men herded together under hidebound discipline. I found myself ,wondering whether they would have been any less nasty had the discipline been "modern". Presumably the book is meant to purge the soul; unundouhtediy it turns the stomach.
James Baldwin. the negro novelist turned prophet. is so much in the news that a re-issue of his first book is very welcome. Go Tell It on the Mountain is an almost apocalyptic story of sin and retribution: the chief characters are a negro preacher arid his children; the telling a mixture of Biblical rhythms and deep simplicity. Although it is not overtly "racist", the heart of the negro problem, what the white man's civilisation has made of him, is terrifyingly revealed.
On the Bookshelf
Theology and Sociology, by Fr. D. O'Shea, f.C.S.G., Is. 6d.). Comprises two lectures given by the vice-Rector of Oscott College at the 1962 C.S.G. Summer School. There are helpful paragraph references to Mater et Magistra. Fr. O'Shea maintains that sociology and theology are inextricably linked, and relates sociology to the "multiplication of social relationships" posited by Pope John.
Ibis is my Story, by William Purcell (Hodder. 4s. 6d.). Personal accounts of Christian experience by Douglas Hyde, a Japanese woman who was in Hiroshima when the bomb fell, an exNazi T.tiftwaffe pilot and others. Good bedtime reading.