The four narratives which make up this posthumous collection draw upon William Styron's experiences in the US Marine Corps, and give us an insight into the early life of one of America's greatest modern writers. William Styron earned a commission as second lieutenant in the U.S Marine Corps in 1945, shortly after his twentieth birthday. He was scheduled to participate in the assault on mainland Japan, most likely as the leader of a mortar platoon, but in early August the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war. Before he was discharged Styron served a six-week stint as an officer at the military prison on Harts Island in Long Island Sound. In December 1945 he was mustered out of the Marine Corps, and lived with his father and stepmother at their home in Newport News, Virginia, before completing his bachelor degree at Duke University and embarking on his first novel, "Lie Down in Darkness". Early in 1951, as he was composing the last two chapters of his manuscript, Styron was recalled into the Marine Corps for service in Korea.
The stories of "The Suicide Run" are set in the gruelling camps and sweltering training fields that marked the limbo point between civilian life and the horrors of war. Fictional yet autobiographical, the narratives of this collection focus on young men who, broiling in the claustrophobia of military life, always conscious of the imminence of action, try to maintain their sanity in the wake of their abrupt removalfrom normal life. In "The Suicide Run", two young men at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina embark on suicidal 36 hour leave periods - crossing the 500 miles to New York and back at breakneck speed for a few hours with their mistresses and a reprieve from the 'sexual famine' of army life. In "Blankenship" a young idealist and deserter at a military prison hits a nerve in a model officer, with disastrous consequences for both, and in "My Father's House", the young protagonist returns home from war to be met by the cold war of his stepmother's disapproval, and be haunted by all the battles he almost fought...Imbued with a sense of frustration and looming fear, keenly rendered in Styron's pithy and acutely observational prose, this collection is a fascinating insight into military life and the 'mysterious community of men' that comprises the US Marine Corps, and a posthumous glimpse into the mind of a mighty writer.