Lowry entered New York's Bellevue Hospital in May 1936. Whether he went as a voluntary patient or was tasked to write about conditions at the institution is unclear. He was treated at the psychiatric unit for two weeks until the hospital authorities found out that he was British and not eligible for free treatment. He later wrote 'Lunar Caustic' which was based on his experience at Bellevue.
Although largely autobiographical, Lowry as usual uses a protagonist with a wonderful name; Bill Plantagenet is a ship's musician on a very bad bender in New York. The hospital looms up, inescapable on his bar-crawl. He knows he has to go there but tries to put off the fateful hour.
His experiences are an insight into the appalling effects of alcohol abuse together with the abusive and degrading treatment given to patients and inmates.
This edition is from the Penguin Modern Classic series, a cheap and small paperback made to go in a pocket or handbag-very practical.