The Judge proclaimed that he was to be hanged by the neck until dead. The question is, will Charlie Bernstein live long enough?
The irony of being treated in the prison hospital for TB whilst awaiting the decision of the Home Secretary as to whether he should be hanged, is not lost on Charlie. He stands convicted of murder, undertaken without a thought of the consequences. Feeling torn apart from the world, he realises there is no resolution to be found from his torment, other than the one at the end of a rope.
The story lays bare the life of Charlie Bernstein, both as a boy and a man, during and after the Second World War. It defines his relationships with those around him, the politics of the have's and have nots; the rhythms of affections and disaffections; the ebb and flow of faith, hope, and violence. It is also a depiction of the stages by which a human spirit can descend into darkness, and although set in a society which, while different from the modern day, nevertheless portrays the same barbarity and injustice.