THE CUSTARD BOYS by John Rae

THE CUSTARD BOYS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first novel deals with the sorry to savage episodes which take place in a small, rural English village during the last war and which involve a group of adolescent schoolboys, mostly evacuees from London, outsiders, passing time with rather cruel diversions (cat hunting, shooting) until they are old enough to fight. If the war provides an exaggerated military frame of reference for their limited look at life, it also motivates some of their activities here: they beat up the son of a harmless conscientious objector; they taunt a newcomer, the son of an Austrian-Jewish refugee teacher. It is John Curlew who tells the story as he becomes a friend of Mark Stein- a homosexual friendship which is not strong enough to withstand the censure of the others when Mark chickens out on a planned fight with the village boys. A court martial is held, and a mock penalty- before a firing squad, but child's play has its tragic consequences when a live round of ammunition is used and Mark is killed.... Rae tells his story well, with clean strokes and a bitter fervor; still it may be difficult to enlist a general readership.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy