David Caute Simon Raven - Essay

Simon Raven

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

David Caute, inspired by a spell of National Service in West Africa, has come up with a first novel which, if it attempts far too much, is none the less striking for what it achieves. At Fever Pitch is the tale of a young subaltern serving with a native regiment in an African Colony which is on the verge of independence. The subaltern's sex life is a mess…. All of which, one would have thought, would have kept one young novelist quite busy enough. But Mr. Caute also takes on the political situation in the colony—not just as a background, but as a subject for full investigation—and takes it on with considerable virtuosity at that. He thus has two major themes; and one can fairly say that his handling of both is vigorous, intelligent and keen. For a relatively short novel, however, At Fever Pitch is overloaded: there just is not enough room for either element, sex or intrigue, to be finally and properly worked out. So we end up in rather a muddle. But when I think of some of the wafer-thin confections now masquerading as novels, I bless the name of Caute for this generous first offering.

Simon Raven, "Kinds of Contraband," in The Spectator (© 1959 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), Vol. 202, No. 6815, February 6, 1959, p. 199.∗