Peek's book is about the three years and more he spent working on the railway the Japanese forced their prisoners to build through Thailand to Burma during the second world war. What makes the book unusual is not Peek's abiding hatred of the Japanese. If you had survived what he did, while more than 20,000 PoWs had died (many fewer than the number of dead Thai, Malaysian and Burmese slave labourers), you would hate the Japanese too. He is generous enough, anyway, to recall his horror watching newsreels of German atrocities "carried out by nations we used to think were civilised and, indeed, almost our kith and kin". No, what surprises is Peek's hatred of Churchill and the other war leaders he alleges ordered the abject surrender of Singapore, where Peek had lived for most of his 20 years. Even worse, he writes, were the inadequate equipment and training of the British forces in Singapore, although thousands of volunteers, like him, flocked to the colours and were eager to fight. "Surely," Peek writes, "the truth will come out some day when the stringencies of war have gone and guilty men can be named in public." Almost as unsettling is Peek's condemnation of the officers in the camps who, with a few exceptions - one or two colonels and all the doctors - shirked their duty to look after their men by rarely appearing among them, speaking to them rudely when they did, while enjoying relatively good rations, wearing uniforms instead of loincloths, reading, playing bridge and even fishing. Of one such officer, he writes: "To what extent is this colonel's obsession with his precious self-dignity responsible for the camp's abysmal squalor, the hundreds of deaths already and the hundreds more which will surely happen? [To his men] he is, despite his Military Cross, a moral coward at the lowest level, putting his personal dignity before their desperate needs." The needs were desperate. Almost everyone had diarrhoea all the time, there was no toilet paper, the latrines overflowed, and men emptied their bowels squatting with their bare feet in the shit of their comrades. There is plenty of detail of how skin ulcers - which cost Peek's brother his leg - look, feel and smell, and how the men strove to preserve their modesty by mending their bedraggled loincloths (they had no other clothes except hats).