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On the icy slopes of the great ice-mountain of Bylot Island, set against the metallic blue of the Canadian Arctic sky, Shepherd has a vision of the world as it used to be, before the human race was weakened by stupidity and greed. Peter Benton, the young journalist to whom Shepherd tells his story, is dramatically snapped out of his cozy cynicism and indolent denial of responsibility, to face a dreadful reality. He discovers that he can no longer take a back-seat in the rapid self-destruction of the world, and is forced to make a momentous decision.
Nicholas Monsarrat was born in Liverpool and educated at Cambridge University, where he studied law. His career as a solicitor encountered a swift end when he decided to leave Liverpool for London, with a half-finished manuscript under his arm and only forty pounds in his pocket. His first book to attract attention was the largely autobiographical 'This is the Schoolroom', which was concerned with the turbulent thirties, and a student at Cambridge who goes off to fight against the fascists in Spain only to discover that life itself is the real schoolroom. During World War II he joined the Royal Navy and served in corvettes. His war experiences provided the framework for the novel 'HMS Marlborough will enter Harbour', which is one of his best known books, along with 'The Cruel Sea'. The latter was made into a classic film starring Jack Hawkins. Established as a top name writer, Monsarrat's career concluded with 'The Master Mariner', a historical novel of epic proportions the final part of which was both finished (using his notes) and published posthumously. Well known for his concise story telling and tense narrative on a wide range of subjects, although nonetheless famous for those connected with the sea and war, he became one of the most successful novelists of the twentieth century, whose rich and varied collection bears the hallmarks of a truly gifted writer. The Daily Telegraph summed him up thus: 'A professional who gives us our money's worth. The entertainment value is high'.