Monday, October 17, 2011

The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall

Set in Garmouth in 1941 during the heavy bombing raids of the second world war, this Carnegie Medal novel focuses on Chas McGill and his friends and enemies who collect war souvenirs. Chas chances upon a fully-operational machine gun which will rival the nose-cone his morally-corrupt, arch enemy Boddser has in his possession. He and his friend Cem steal the gun from a fallen HE 111 German bomber plane; never mind the dead German pilot still inside the cockpit. Together with Audrey, Clogger, Carrot-juice and Nicky they set about building their own fortress. Fatty Hardy, the local cop, for whom the lads have absolutely no respect, suspects something is amiss and is hot on their tail trying to avert the inevitable tragedy. Throw in an injured Nazi, Rudi, who finds himself imprisioned by the gang, and you have the making of an exceptional wartime novel which offers excellent insight in the lives of families, (some of which are dysfunctional) struggling with rationing, continued bombing raids, rumours of a Nazi invasion and of course their uncontrollable offspring. Below is the first episode of the 1983 BBC television series based on the book. It is fairly true to the novel, although the end is somewhat shortened but certainly not disappointing. I read this fairly challenging novel to my first grade 6 class at Edith Creek and there are now four copies in the Little Library of Rescued Books, all with different covers. A great book to read along with friends. The author, Robert Westall born in 1915 has sadly passed away, and is one author whom I would have loved to have met. There is one precious video clip of this fascinating man on the web talking about cats and a another novel he penned called Blitzcat :

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