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Macalister or Dying in the Dark.

Search as one might, it would be difficult to find a more moving verse drama than this panegyric of an exceptional man who, through fate and bad luck, was executed in brutal circumstances by the Germans in Buchenwald in 1944. He was only 30.

It is the story of John Macalister, a Canadian lawyer, who after marrying a French girl before the war became obsessed with the knowledge that Nazism was evil and had to be combated.

His involvement with the FSP sections attached to SOE in 1941 led to him being determined to 'go into the field' in spite of the author of this review categorically laying down that under no circumstances was he to be allowed to follow his chosen path. That he was overruled, led to Macalister's death because, in the desperate conditions of the times when radio operators were in short supply, it was necessary for potentially unsuitable agents to be sent in.

'Unsuitable'? How wrong can one be about a real man?

How wrong one can be is revealed in this immensely moving reconstruction of the parallel lives of the author (an artillery man in the Canadian army in Italy and elsewhere) and Macalister interspersed with the thoughts and feelings of Macalister's widow, mother and a military historian.

Professor Douglas LePan tells, with intense poetic accuracy, Macalister's journey through pre-war life, his involvement with SOE in wartime, first as an FSP accompanying agents in training, then as a Conducting Officer of men such as Harry Ree and Francis Cammaerts. What a trinity of splendid men, so unlike those who pontificate about and marginalise French Resistance.

This tribute is by any standard a work of art and a dedication to someone who should have survived the horrors of WW2. One can only have a lump in the throat at the end of this book.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Contemporary Review Company Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lee, Peter
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1996
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