Gavin Maxwell is the author of The People of the Reeds, a fascinating account of a journey into the marshes of southern Iraq. It was while he was collecting material for a book on the Sicilian bandit Salvatore Guiliano, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1950, that he became intrigued by the intensively individual people he had come to know a little about in northwestern Sicily. This book presents a picture of the Sicilian way of life and outlook, how the people think and behave, and is a revelation of unutterable squalor, desperate bitterness and total domination by the three rulers in Sicily: the Church, the State and the ever-present Mafia. In a number of interviews- with a doctor, a priest, a prostitute, a school-teacher, a nun and a returned immigrant-Maxwell provides a view of everyday life which, in its immediacy, is more devastating than any amount of description. He annotates explicitly the incidence of incredible sexuality and lawlessness which is a simple fact of life among a terribly oppressed people and he echoes the, by now, traditional reaction of the northerner for the southern manifestations of Catholicism which is as much a matter of superstition as it is of dogma. This is not simply a sociological protest; Maxwell manages to convey his involvement with the people and a land that is both harsh and starkly beautiful.