THE PRISONER by Robert S Malan. Book review

THE PRISONER by Robert S Malan, illustrated by John Cockshaw Luna Press, Edinburgh, UK p/b £12.99 (UK) 102 pages,  

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

One of the hardest things to convey in words is the idea of a dream, especially if it is splintered and surreal. Though many authors have tried portraying them they often become too coherent and indistinguishable from the distorted life of the dreamer. Getting the effects across is easier if the medium of film is used where clever camera work can give that sequence of twisted events that are just out of focus or reach. The print solution Robert Malan and John Cockshaw have come up with is to combine their talents.

Malan has provided the words. The protagonist, John Andreas, is a prison guard with a loving wife, debts and a life that appears to be going no-where. When the new Warden (governor), offers him a new assignment with the prospect of promotion at the end of it, Andreas takes it. All, it seems, he has to do is talk to a prisoner in a cell he didn’t know existed in the bowels of the building. He thinks he is supposed to get information from the man who is securely fastened into a chair, but he has no clue as to what, or what questions to ask. During this assignment, he is plagued by strange dreams.

The imagery for the dream sequences is provided by John Cockshaw. This is not just an illustrated book, it is a marriage between words and images. Cockshaw’s art has the sketchy, insubstantiality of a dream and matches the text perfectly adding that darker element that words alone have difficulty in relaying.

This is a book well worth looking at, if only to see what can be achieved by using multi-media approach. However, the story on it own is still worth reading.