Thursday, January 04, 2007

King Rat


I just finished reading a book by James Clavell called 'King Rat'. I really enjoyed it. It's about a POW camp in Japanese occupied Singapore near the end of WWII. A US army corporal, with good business sense, controlls the black market of the camp, and is constantly threatened with the possiblility of being exposed by friend and foe. He is reviled and respected at the same time.

'King' by name, and by reputaion, the corporal becomes the most powerful man in the camp. Although he always looks out for number one, he befriends an english officer, Peter Marlowe, and finds himself weighing profit vs. friendship. Before he can, the world changes.

It's the kind of book I found hard to put down. And I'm not much on 1960s war literature. According to what I've read, it's a somewhat autobiographical account of Clavell's experience in the Changi POW camp in Singapore. The 'King' is modelled after an american enlisted man who basically kept the camp alive. Clavell is the english officer, Marlowe. After the war, the 'King' was threatened with courtmartial, but was ultimately left to vanish into obscurity. Until Clavell honored his memory with the book.

The book was turned into a movie in the late '60s. I haven't seen it. But Clavell also wrote the screenplay for the 1958 production of the scifi movie, 'The Fly', and another POW movie called 'The Great Escape'. It might be worth a look.

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