Greek Memories. By Compton Mackenzie. (Chatto and Windus, 10s. 6d.) Reviewed by PETER F. ANSON IT is nearly seven years ago since Greek Memories—the third volume of Mr Compton Mackenzie's War Memories —was published, and immediately withdrawn from circulation, the author having been charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act. The trial took place in camera at the Old Bailey. Mr Mackenzie was advised to plead guilty, and was fined f100 and f100 costs. But what with one thing and another the case cost him nearly f5,000, and he found himself practically a pauper. Had it not been for £500 in cash sent along by the Doily Mail against eventualities, the author might have . had to spend the night in Brixton jail. As it was he had to sell nearly all the manuscripts of his books and other treasures as well. Copies of the original edition of Greek Memories are now extremely rare, and there will be many readers who will be glad to get hold of a book which was on their library list, but which never reached them.
In a postscript to the original preface Mr Mackenzie gives us an amusing account of incidents connected with his arrest and trial. He states that "in fairness to the authorities whose sagacity decreed my prosecution, I should add that the present edition has not been censored, and I beg readers to accept my assurance that they have not been deprived of any secret.
HE also takes the opportunity to make some very candid remarks about the administration of the Official Secrets Acts. "At this moment," he writes, " we are snaking a parade of our freedom, and certainly for the moment we have at any rate an illusion of more freedom than the victims of authoritarianism. Nevertheless, the tendency of our democratic rulers moves steadily towards repression, and the Official Secrets Art is a convenient weapon for tyranny. . . . The ease with which public servants, protected by the Official Secrets Act, can now hide the proofs of their incompetence is completely destructive of true democracy, and until bills of impeachment have become once more a feature of our political life, true democracy will not revive."
The highest praise that can be given to Greek Memories is to say that it is infinitely more thrilling than the best " thriller." It is an almost unbelievable story of espionage and counter espionage in war time. As a convincing proof of the utter folly of modern warfare the book may be compared to the now famous Green. Table ballet evolved by Kurt Jooss. I had already read it in the original edition, and hardly felt it would be worth while to wade through the 450 pages again. But having started I found it impossible to leave off. It is a pleasure to meet all the characters once more after an interval of several years, and I feel convinced that no living author can equal Mr Mackenzie as a writer of memoirs.
The Great Drama of Kumasi, by Wynyard Montague Hall (Putnam, 15s.). Gold Coast colony and the relief of Kumasi depended upon Captain Hail. An Empire builder's book.