Bamboo Guerillas: Book of the Month – July 2016

As mentioned in last month’s Book of the Month, Mews Books, a newly formed small USA publisher in the 1970’s, commissioned me to write “The Truckers” series.  All their UK books were distributed by New English Library under the editorship of the late Peter Haining in 1977.  Hardly had I had time to change the ribbon in my manual typewriter before Peter phoned me to say that Mews wanted me to write a war series.  Peter told me to set it in Malaya, focusing on the inhumanities and cruelty inflicted on captured British servicemen and told me “go over the top, there are no boundaries in these books!”  So I did just that and both books were completed in about six weeks.

However, all was not well at Mews.  Series books were fast becoming unfashionable and they decided to close their project.  The outcome was that NEL took on the remaining books.

Soon after I received a phone call from a young editor at NEL.  She said that the violence and sex in Bamboo Guerillas was far too explicit and could I tone it down!  I said ‘no!’  I had been directed to write it as such and I was not prepared to spend time on a lengthy, unnecessary rewrite!

So in 1977 “Bamboo Guerillas” was published by NEL, with some editing (!), but no mention of it being no.1 of a series, no.2 never appeared.

It went to a reprint without mention of this in the latter.  The first edition has a red cover depicting an Allied Forces soldier gruesomely stabbing a Japanese soldier.  The front cover blurb is “Kill or be killed in a savage Jungle War.”  The reprint is in very slightly larger format showing a charging Japanese with extended bayonet.  The cover is predominantly white yet it is stated that this is a first edition!  Curious.

Some years ago I was introduced to the cover artist of the “reprint”, Tony Masero, who kindly signed my own copy for me.

I cannot find the copy manuscript of the books.  They probably got lost in our move from Tamworth to Black Hill and doubtless NEL destroyed the originals after publication of the first.  If I still had them then we would publish the second in the series.  The idea has crossed my mind to write a sequel.  “Bamboo Guerillas” is one of my most collectible titles, especially the “reprint.”  I guess the print run was small.  Copies do crop up from time to time, though, on the internet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *