Some autumn reading
suggestions from Patrick Wilson
The letters are a valuable insight into
the day-to-day life of being a slave labourer
on one of the most remarkable engineering
feats of the 20th century. Steel provides a
detailed picture of the horrors that prisoners
endured – the sickness and disease, the heat,
the brutality and the food – or lack of it.
Secret Letters From The Railway,|
edited by Brian Best (Pen & Sword,
£19.99. ISBN 1844151182)
The horrors of working on the infamous
Burma-Siam Railway and, in particular,
the construction of the famous Bridge
over the River Kwai have been well
documented. However this remarkable
book provides an extraordinary and fresh
insight into the experiences of one man,
following the fall of Singapore.
Charles Steel, within days of being
captured by the Japanese, began a weekly
letter to his new bride Louise, although
the Japanese forbade all writing of letters
Incredibly, over the next three year
he somehow succeeded in writing and
concealing some 183 letters during
captivity and a further 32 after the Japanese
surrender. Part love letter, part diary,
this unique correspondence describes the
appalling conditions that Steel and his fellow
Yet whilst horrifying in places, his letters
do not make depressing reading. Laced
with humour, and interspersed with poems
and anecdotes, they are often uplifting
and underline the strength of human spirit
We learn about the behaviour of his
captors, as well as how Steel turned the tables
on them by means of ‘creative accounting’.
These letters are a true labour of love,
particularly given the retribution that he
would have suffered had the letters existence
come to the attention of his brutal captors.
So many prisoners-of-war of the Japanese
struggled to cope mentally with the horrors
into which they were thrown. For Steel,
however, one feels they provided him
with the necessary hope of eventual
salvation. This is an incredible testament
of love and fortitude.
Nastase’s exuberant behaviour continued
away from tennis. Good looks, combined
with outrageous behaviour and irresistible
charm, turned him in to a 1970s superstar.
Mr Nastase by Ilie Nastasie|
As the bad boy on the court and the charmer
off it, Ilie Nastase’s life, full of picaresque
adventures, makes an entertaining and
colourful read. Nastase emerged as a tennis
star and celebrity in his mid-20s having
endured a tough childhood in Romania.
He was the winner of two Grand Slam
titles, the US and French Open and was
twice a Wimbledon finalist. His tempestuous
time on the tennis court, incessant arguing
with umpires and spectators, and numerous
fines and disqualifications led to daily frontpage
Yet he ignited an explosion of interest in
tennis in the seventies. Nicknamed ‘Nasty’
by the press, this book provides him with
the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
He oozed sex appeal and celebrity status,
drove fast cars and partied with some of the
world’s most desirable women, including
Bianca Jagger in New York’s Studio54.
Interestingly, the book also provides
a glimpse of the real people behind
the celebrity faces of tennis, including
John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and
A compassionate side of Nastase is
illustrated as we see him help Bjorn Borg and
the late Vitas Gerulaitis get through difficult
times at the end of their tennis careers.
This thoroughly readable autobiography
takes us on a remarkable life journey, through
his highs and lows, and provides a real insight
into the good, the bad and the ‘nasty’ sides of
One joy of this book is that it does not
have to be read in any particular order – just
open it at any page and often very detailed
answers to questions constantly being asked
by Masons are revealed.
The Freemason at Work by Harry
Carr (revised by Frederick Smyth),|
7th and Revised Edition
(Lewis Masonic, £19.99, ISBN
0 85318 189 6),
T: 01455 254450
This is the second reprint of the seventh and
revised edition of the outstanding work by
the late Harry Carr, first published in 1975
and revised by Frederick Smyth in 1992.
That underlines its huge popularity.
One of the classic books on Freemasonry,
it is a compilation of 201 questions Harry
Carr answered from all over the world on
Freemasonry when he was secretary of
Quatuor Coronati Lodge, the Premier
Lodge of Masonic Research, and editor
of its Transactions.
For the Mason hungry for that daily
advancement in Masonic knowledge,
this is a veritable Bacchanalian feast.
The index, too, is a fascinating journey
in to the often baffling and intriguing world
of Freemasonry. Indeed, here is a book
to enliven those Lodge meetings when
there is no candidate.
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