King Rat tells the story of a group of American, English and Australian POW in Changi, the Japanese prison camp outside of Singapore, in the approximate location of the Singapore airport of today.
The King is an American corporal who has mastered the workings of the black market. Everyone in the camp reveres and secretly hates him for his “success.” Where everyone is close to starvation or suffering from disease, where men are dressed in rags and loincloths, the King has all the food, cigarettes and clothes he needs. His entourage, those feeding off him, includes men and officers alike. Over the years, he has built a reputation of being the person that can “get things” and trade. Outside the camp, the traders and guards trust him and his integrity. Inside, prisoners come to him with their little treasures and ask him to trade them for money, food or favors. He obliges, for a fee.
In a world of prison camps, in North Korea, in China, in Guantanamo, in Africa and in the Middle East, in prison camps where men are hurt and broken, reading King Rat brings life in prison alive in front of our eyes. We feel what it’s like in stark, shocking reality.
I am grateful to those that came before me and paid so dearly so I can sit here and have the right and freedom to write what I want.
I am grateful for having had a chance to read James Clavell’s King Rat.