Michael Francis Gilbert was born in Billinghay in Lincolnshire, England, the son of Bernard Samuel Gilbert and Berwyn Minna (née Cuthbert) Gilbert, both writers. He was educated at St. Peter’s School, Seaford, Sussex, and Blundell’s School. Influenced by his uncle, Sir Maurice Gwyer, lord chief justice of India, he decided on a legal career and taught at a preparatory school in Salisbury while studying law at the University of London, where he received an LL.B. with honors in 1937.
In 1939, Gilbert joined the Royal Horse Artillery. He served in North Africa and Europe (mainly Italy) from 1939 to 1945, was promoted to major, and received mentions in dispatches. Gilbert was captured in North Africa and imprisoned in Tunis and in Italy. His Death in Captivity (1952), a classic escape story involving a murder in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, builds convincingly on these experiences, while Sky High (1955) treats a soldier’s postwar adjustment difficulties. Death Has Deep Roots (1951) and The Night of the Twelfth (1976) refer to “the hate and the fear, the hysteria and the exaggeration and the heroism” of the Occupation and to details such as “The Network of Eyes” used by the French Resistance to keep track of Gestapo officers and collaborators. The computer engineer protagonist of The Long Journey Home (1985) covers territory engraved in Gilbert’s mind from those wartime days, as he makes an...
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