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The Red Sailor by Patrick O'Hara

I haven't read the book, but I've enjoyed reading about the book. This sort of thinking applies to Patrick O'Hara's The Red Sailor, a rare book I hadn't heard about it until a week or two ago.

O'Hara was ex-Royal Navy, a rough diamond in a ship full of rough diamonds. He was a "Borstal Boy", in an out of juvenile detention as an adolescent. Like many in this predicament, he joined the armed forces, serving in the Royal Navy of the forties and fifties. True to form, he spent some of that time behind bars in RNDQ (Detention Quarters).

The main character in The Red Sailor, James Varne, is an ordinary sailor who lives for time onshore in the red-light districts and drinking dens of Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. By this man's account, the character was based on a shipmate of O'Hara's by the name of Trevor Thomas.

Thomas was a promising boxer who wouldn't fight for the navy. From Here to Eternity anyone? The pressure was predictably applied to the man who wouldn't glove up, culminating in a dishonourable discharge, the sailor described as "violently aggressive and totally unamenable to discipline."

I get the feeling that O'Hara's story would be just as interesting as Trevor Thomas's. It's a shame that he didn't write his memoirs. Now, that would be a story.


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