AND VICTORS: THE LIFE OF A WILFUL SURVIVOR
VICTIMS AND Victors is a
kind of thief's journal recounting the
author's life spent "tilting"
at authority, from his early (formative?)
days at borstal to years in prison until
finally going straight (save for a short
spell as a journalist) and becoming
is taken up with that time behind bars.
The text combines laconic humour with
matter-of-fact horror in equal, strangely
complimentary, amounts as it seeks to
illuminate a portion of British life in
the '40s and '50s that has seldom been
borstal the author dodges conscription
(he feigned blindness!) and is witness to
the ritual defilement of sweet-faced
newcomers. Those who were passively
compliant in such acts are noticeable by
their "extra portions of plum duff
at dinner time".
trivial by outside standards yet
coveted inside are the cornerstone
of institutional existence. Striking is
the similarity between such houses of
correction, run by a regime based on
oppression and fear and the great British
author later remarks: "There's long
been a rapport between the criminal and
the privileged upper classes ... the
thinking criminal deeply respects the
initiative of those who send little boys
up chimneys and little girls down coal
prison Don Tomson survived by immersing
himself in books, edifying the mind
rather than crawling bodily for the
walls. He dwells over Milton and Spenser
perhaps they inspired some of his
fabulous lines like "I fouled my
trousers fore and aft".
grim memoir. I'm certain that porky pies
abound (or at least the fancifications of
an ageing memory) but in detailing a
system built on brutality and terror, the
question posed between the lines is
poignant and simple. What has changed?
answer to that lies the deepest horror.