Books: Upsetting the Round Table

THE GREAT CAPTAINS (302 pp.)—Henry Treece—Random House ($3.75).

Was King Arthur a gentleman, or was he a sort of Legs Diamond of the early Middle Ages? Was it the age of chivalry or the age of the shiv? Were the "parfit gentil knights" of the Round Table just a passel of paleo-Stalinist thugs? Henry Treece, English poet, critic and historical novelist (The Dark Island), wields a mean historic mace and it lands squarely on the romantic Arthurian legend of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. "Malory was wrong," says Novelist Treece flatly. He admits that...

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