Passport to Hell
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Om Passport to Hell
Passport to Hell is the story of James Douglas StarkStarkieand his war. Journalist and novelist Robin Hyde came across Starkie while reporting in Mt Eden Gaol in the 1930s and immediately knew she had to write his queer true terrible story. The result was greeted by John A. Lee, war veteran, author and politician, as the most important New Zealand war book yet published. Born in Southland and finding himself in early trouble with the law, the young Starkie tricked his way into a draft in 1914 by means of a subterfuge involving whisky and tea. In his subsequent chequered career in Egypt, Gallipoli, Armentires, the Somme, Ypres, he showed himself a soldier and not a soldier, with a contempt of danger and discipline alike. Hyde took the raw horrors, respites and reversals of Starkies experiences and composed a work of literature much greater than a mere documentary of war. She portrays a man carousing in the brothels of Cairo and the estaminets of Flanders; looting a dead mans money-belt and filching beer from the Tommies; attempting to shoot a sergeant through a lavatory door in a haze of absinthe, yet carrying his wounded captain back across No Mans Land; a man recommended for the V.C. and honoured for his bravery but also subject to nine court martials. It is a portrait of a singular individual something of a visionary, in Hydes words who has also been described as the quintessential New Zealand soldier. And against the contradictory elements of Starkies character, Hyde shows a war machine that preaches Thalt shall do no murder one moment and sends men over the top the following day to kill. Robin Hyde was one of New Zealands true literary trailblazers, and in this book she redefined the parameters of novel and memoir. In its psychological acuity and emotional depth, Passport to Hell is one of the finest war books we have. Published to mark the centenary of this quintessential New Zealand war story, this newly reset edition includes Hydes final authorized text from 1937 and an introduction and notes by D. I. B. Smith.