Put Out More Flags. By Evelyn Waugh. (Chapman and Hall, 8s.) Young Art and Old Hector. By Neil M. Gunn. (Faber, 8s. 6d.) V for Vengeance. By Dennis Wheatley. (Hutchinson, 10s. 6d.) Lost Fields. By Michael MeLaverty. (Cape, 7s. 6d.)
Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT MR. Evelyn Waugh's great gift is his ability to recreate vividly and wittily a situation. Such
novels as Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies depicted unforgettablY a passing phase, however much in those phases may have been regrettable, the author managed to wring out of them the last ounce of fun for the delight of his readers. Even, one imagines, the most shocked could hardly sepress a chuckle.
Put Out More Flags is, on the contrary, wholly without fun. It is tragic with a sickening and destructive
tragedy. It tells of rottenness that cries to heaven for a merciful and quick extinction. The billeting episodes, where Basil makes money by blackmailing decent and innocent people by the threat of imposing on them three far from decent children, have a peculiar horror of their own; the implications are unbearable. Each character seems eaten by some hidden or exposed cancer whose growth is helped by the atmosphere of the present war.
It is, no doubt, the author's sensitive sincerity that forbids him to give relief in a picture of a world in which he sees no relief.
YOUNG Art and Old Hector is as near perfection, in its own way, as any author is likely to get. Simple, spontaneous, original, never dull and sometimes entrancing. Young Art was, l'or most of the hook. the youngest member of a Highland crofter's family. He is intelligent, inn scent and eight
years old. He is bursting with life and very aware of the baffling problems that life presents at every moment of the day. He finds an understanding friend in Old Hector; Hector is well on in the seventies and full of the kindly wisdom and under standing that age bestows on the right sort of character.
Each chapter details some episode in Art's life and Hector's part is important. There is the episode. of the illicit still in which Art plays a crucial if not wholly understanding role, and Hector shows his quality. To pass the time until the spirit is ready, or the gaugers come. Red Dougal, an accomplice, teases Hector with being " the very fount and origin or law-breaking
and all that's wrong." " Law-bit:ek
ing, yes," said Old 1-lector. " But
wrong is a difficult word. Many a
day I have pondered over it, bus I am not sure that I have found the answer." He expounds a sincere philosophy which must appeal to any in whom a spark of independence may remain. Laws are necessary and to break them is wrong. But a law can be wrong.
Where all is so good each reader will discover for himself what to him is the best.
IN V for Vengeance Mr. Wheatley A makes a good story of the thriller type out of • conditions in Occupied France. Gregory Sallust and his Russian friend Stefan Kuporovitch work in collaboration with a French
woman, Madeleine Lavalliere. They seek to obstruct the hated German in any and every way. There are thrills, adventures and murders and brutality.
r OST Fields gives us the life of a Li poor family in Belfast. Johnny, the father of a family, loses his job
when the mill closes down. They have always been a decent and independent family but poverty presses and, once the bailiffs are in, the ortly hope is that Johnny's mdthei with her oldage pension shall leave the country cottage that she loves and the graves of those dear to her and bring the help of her pension to the hard-pressed family. She does so and the sacrifices that it entails on both sides and the efforts mutually made to hide them are brilliantly narrated.
It is a grim and sad picture but an
invigorating one. They are Catholics and Catholicism is taken for granted in a very realistic and satisfying way. A vivid, tense, restrained and moving book.