John Masters was a soldier before he became a novelist.
Born in India, he was sent to England to complete his education before attending Sandhurst.
It was there the rumour began about his ancestry, that (in the language of the time) he 'had a touch of the tarbrush'.
This encounter with racist bigotry would be turned to good effect in his most famous novel,
BHOWANI JUNCTION (later filmed with Stewart Granger and Ava Gardner).
At Sandhurst it just made him more determined to succeed.
John Masters joined a Gurhka regiment on receiving his commission, and his depiction of garrison life
and campaigning on the North-West Frontier has never been surpassed.
(About 18 hours)
01 The Deceivers 1.5
01 The Deceivers 2.5
01 The Deceivers 3.5
01 The Deceivers 4.5
01 The Deceivers 5.5
******The Deceivers portrays both the thuggee cult and Honourable East India Company
government in an accurate way. Historically, the Honourable East India Company,
which was exploiting the natural resources of India for their own colonial interests,
was the world's first joint stock company - chartered by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1601.
(The British government took over administration of India from the Company in 1857,
and the corporation dissolved in 1858.)
The main character, William Savage, is a Captain of the British Indian Army and tax collector
(or, as he would rather view himself, colonial administrator) of the fictional district of "Madhia".
He is deeply committed to his duties, which he considers to lie with the people of his district,
rather than tax extraction for the East India Company. He is fluent in four dialects and has a highly
developed sense of honor. At the beginning of the story, he marries his fiancée Sarah Wilson,
the daughter of Colonel Wilson and 20 years his junior. In the course of the story he discovers
a mass grave, filled with the remains of travellers, all of whom were evidently strangled to death
in ritualistic fashion, among them a recently killed British officer. This leads him to begin an
investigation, in the course of which he arrests Hussein, who confesses to being a thug, or deceiver.
Colonel Wilson arrives and is furious at the measures that Savage has taken to find the ones
responsible for the mass murders. He refuses to believe Savage's story of the thuggee cult,
blaming the murders on dacoits (bandits) instead. Savage then decides to become a thug and
infiltrates their society with Hussein's help. His character is loosely based on William Sleeman,
who historically started an extensive campaign involving profiling, intelligence, and executions.
02 Nightrunners of Bengal 1.4
02 Nightrunners of Bengal 2.4
02 Nightrunners of Bengal 3.4
02 Nightrunners of Bengal 4.4
******This introduced the fictional Savage family, whose history of service
in British India rather resembled that of Masters's own ancestors.
The novel is set at the time of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The central character,
Captain Rodney Savage, is an officer in a Bengal Native Infantry regiment.
Restless with garrison life, he is still devoted to his regiment
and its sepoys (Indian soldiers).
In spite of his empathy with the sepoys Savage does not realise that fear
and resentment are driving them to intrigue with local rulers and other
conspirators against the rule of the British East India Company.
The complacent life of the British community in Bengal is shattered
when the Rebellion breaks out. Most of the British officers of the
Bhowani garrison and their families (including Savage's own wife)
are killed in the outbreak or subsequently murdered.
Savage escapes the massacre along with his infant son and an English woman,
Caroline Langford. The small group of refugees are sheltered
by sympathetic Indian villagers.
For some time Savage's sense of betrayal and loss drives him into insane hatred
of all Indians and he kills an Indian officer who was his friend. Eventually the
humanity and tolerance of the villagers, combined with his growing love for Caroline,
enable him to recover and to reach the British forces gathering to suppress
the rebellion and infected with their own hatred and desire for revenge.
03 The Lotus and the Wind 1.4
03 The Lotus and the Wind 2.4
03 The Lotus and the Wind 3.4
03 The Lotus and the Wind 4.4
****** It begins in 1879, when Britain and Afghanistan are engaged in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
Anne Hildreth and Robin Savage have met and become attracted to each other
before the narrative starts. Anne is the daughter of a Commissariat officer
and is travelling with her parents to the military post at Peshawar in the
North-West Frontier Province of India. En route, she witnesses the murder of an Afghan stranger.
Meanwhile, Robin is part of a military column in Afghanistan. He is the son of a distinguished
soldier and has almost been forced to follow in his father's footsteps, but has no taste for action.
As the result of an accident, and a superior officer's bungling, he is accused of cowardice,
and is also sent to Peshawar to await a Court of Enquiry.
Life threatens to be awkward, but an acquaintance, Major Hayling, connects a souvenir collected
by Robin in Afghanistan with the murder witnessed by Anne. Realising that Robin's true passion
is for solitude and empty spaces, he recruits him into the Secret Service and sends him in disguise
into Central Asia. Accompanied by a faithful Gurkha orderly, Robin sets out to discover the motive
behind the murder and determine whether it is connected with the ambitions of Tsarist Russia.
04 Bhowani Junction 1 of 5
04 Bhowani Junction 2 of 5
04 Bhowani Junction 3 of 5
04 Bhowani Junction 4 of 5
04 Bhowani Junction 5 of 5
******The book is set in 1947, shortly before India gained independence.
Victoria is an Anglo-Indian, the daughter of a railway worker. Patrick, also an Anglo-Indian,
considers himself her boyfriend, but her feelings towards him are platonic. In self-defense
Victoria kills a British officer who has attempted to rape her, and is helped to avoid detection
by a Sikh, Ranjit, who hopes to marry her.
As presented in the novel (and rather simplified in the film), Victoria had decided to escape
the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Anglo-Indian community by joining the British Army
during the Second World War - but with the war's end and her coming home, she is confronted
with the problem all over again. Her becoming engaged to Ranjit was an attempt to become
assimilated in the wider Indian society - since British rule is visibly on its way out -
until she realises that this marriage would require her to give up her name (and essentially, her identity).
She runs away from the Sikhs and literally into the arms of a dashing British officer, Rodney Savage,
becoming both his lover and his unofficial adjutant in the last hectic days of British rule in India.
But in the end she realises that she cannot escape her origins, and - rejecting both the Indian man
and the British one - chooses Patrick, an Anglo-Indian like herself.