Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Masters was educated at Wellington and Sandhurst, the son of a Lieutenant-Colonel whose family had a long tradition of service in the British Army in India. He joined the army in 1933 and was posted to a Gurkha regiment. He saw service in the north-west Frontier and was rapidly promoted. At the outbreak of World War II his regiment was sent to North Africa and he served in the desert and in Iran and Iraq in the capacity as Adjutant. Later in the war Masters was sent to Staff College at Quetta. Here he met the wife of a fellow officer and began an affair. They were later to marry, this was cause for a small scandal at the time. After Staff College he joined a Chindit battalion and served behind the Japanese lines in Burma. His brigade (the 111 brigade) was ordered by general Lentaigne to hold a position code-named ‘Blackpool’. The position was attacked with great intensity for seventeen days, eventually the brigade was forced to withdraw. These events Masters later wrote about in his autobiographical The Road Past Mandalay. He also described how he gave the order to shoot 19 of his own men, casualties who had no hope of recovery or rescue.
At the end of the war Masters left the army and attempted to set up a business promoting walking tours in the Himalayas, one of his hobbies. The business was not a success and to make ends meet he decided to write of his experiences in the army. His novels proved popular and he became a full time writer and moved to the United States.
Apart from the autobiographical works (mentioned above) Masters is also known for his historical novels set in India. The best known of these is Bhowani Junction which concerns the Partition of India and the Anglo-Indian community. It was made into a film. Its main character is called Savage and Masters was to use the surname again in a series of novels in an attempt to trace the entire history of the British in India through one family. Unsurprisingly, considering the subject, his works are not without their critics, many of whom think his work to be revisionist or non-critical of the Empire. He has even been described as an apologist for the Empire. The critic Ronald Brydon has stated 'For [me], the saga of the Savages, heroes and conquistadors of the Raj, was a political pornography in which [I] savoured the illicit sensualities of imperialism.' Others have detected a greater sophistication in his dealings with the British Empire than simple revisionism. Another recurrent theme in his work is Rock climbing. In the fifties and sixties his books sold in large numbers, particularly Bhowani Junction. Now most, if not all, of his works are out of print.
- Nightrunners of Bengal
- The Deceivers
- The Lotus and the Wind
- Bhowani Junction
- Far, Far the Mountain Peak
- The Venus of Konpara
- To the Coral Strand
- Bugles and a Tiger, a personal adventure
- The Road Past Mandalay, a personal narrative.
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