Three Go Back is one of the classic novels of prehistoric life, along with such works as Jack London's Before Adam and William Golding's The Inheritors (which reverses the roles that Mitchell allots to Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal Man). It is a lyrical idealization celebrating the possibility of a free, fulfilling and uncomplicated existence. It was written in a mood of deep disenchantment which many people in Britain felt in the years after the Great War, but it has its own kind of passionate optimism: a hope that the corruptions afflicting the human spirit (no matter what their origin might be) can be set aside. It is not difficult, even today, to sympathise.
John Leslie Mitchell (1901-1935) enjoyed a brief but prolific literary career, publishing several novels and non-fiction books under his own name and a series of novels under the pseudonym Lewis Grassic Gibbon. His tragically premature death was caused by peritonitis. His pseudonymous novels, which present a memorable picture of Scottish rural life, now have a considerable reputation, but the fiction which he issued under his own name is only just beginning to attract attention again. He used this fiction to argue the notion that men are naturally good and noble, but that civilization has corrupted and spoiled the human spirit. This thesis is graphically presented in his fantasy novel The Lost Trumpet and his futuristic story Gay Hunter, as well as Three Go Back.BRIAN STABLEFORD, 1986