Irish Crime Fiction

An Interview with Declan Burke for the Launch of "The Lammisters"

[Dominique Jeannerod] How did you come to write The Lammisters? 


[Declan Burke] “The very first inkling came to me in Dungannon, as it happens, when I was teaching a one-day course on crime fiction writing. I was going through a list of what aspiring writers should and shouldn’t do when it occurred to me that I was interfering with the attendees’ most precious resource, their imaginations. There and then I decided I was going to write a book that broke every rule I was ever taught. That’s not strictly possible, of course, but it did give me a huge amount of freedom to write whatever I wanted to, and especially when I quickly realised that no one would ever want to publish the book I was writing.”

What was your original idea?

“I usually start with a setting, and then begin to people it with characters, and then give them a story to work with. I’d always wanted to set a book in Glenveagh Castle, in Donegal – it’s a beautiful setting, and I was fascinated by the idea that, in the 1930s, artists of all kinds would come from all over the world to stay at Glenveagh (Greta Garbo was probably the most famous). And I’d recently fallen head-over-heels for the work of PG Wodehouse, who I’d only very belatedly discovered. So the original and very vague idea was for a Jeeves and Wooster-style story set in Glenveagh; but when I sent my Bertie Wooster, aka Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, to Hollywood to bring a few movie stars back to Donegal, Archie refused to come back. And so The Lammisters is set in Hollywood, in 1923, amid the bootleggers, film stars and movie moguls of the Prohibition Era …”

John Connolly, with whom you co-edited a few years ago what I consider the best anthology of world crime fiction (Books to Die For, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012) has recently devoted a book to Stan Laurel. Now you are exploring Hollywood in 1923 and portraying  characters, real or invented, representing that mystique, like Cecil B. DeMille and “Vanessa Hopgood”.  What is it that fascinates you both with early Hollywood Cinema?

“I can’t speak for John, of course – I loved his Stan Laurel book He, by the way; a quiet masterpiece, I think – but I’ve always loved the classic movies. I’ve earned a living as a film critic for 25 years now, and I’ve always been fascinated not just by the films of Hollywood, but Hollywood itself. And especially early Hollywood, which was a true melting-pot. Anyone who has read Gore Vidal’s Hollywood or Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, say, knows that Hollywood was never just about making movies – it was about myth-making, and the unholy alliance of money, politics and culture. A heady brew. Also, I love the idea that silent cinema was not only obliged to communicate increasingly complex stories without dialogue, but that that very absence of dialogue allowed the movies to appeal to a global audience.”

Who is the inspiration for the mysterious Vanessa Hopgood ? Is it Clara Bow?

She isn’t really based on any one person. More a hazy ideal of what the platonic ideal of a Flapper movie star might be. In the back of my mind she’s very similar to the young Norma Desmond, before she got old and the screens got too small …

Is it fair to say that in that book you have sought to bring together both your experience as a literary critic and as novelist? 

“It certainly is fair to say that, although it’s probably fair to say that that’s true of most of my books (and probably everyone’s books) – it’s impossible, I think, when you’re writing, not to respond, consciously or otherwise, to whatever it is that constitutes your reading. That said, The Lammisters is far more influenced by what I might call my extra-curricular reading, or the reading that isn’t commissioned for review. Over the last four or five years I’ve been reading back into the past, and discovering, or in some cases rediscovering, writers like Dickens and Austen, and Cervantes, and Henry Fielding, and totally falling in love with literary styles that might be considered outmoded today. The Lammisters is a comic novel, and I loved the incongruity of hardboiled gangsters and movie stars talking to one another as if they’d just stepped out of Pride and Prejudice, or Tristram ShandyThe Lammisters’ style is also, I guess, a commentary of sorts on the way the language of public discourse, and certainly at the political level, has been debased and upended and turned inside-out over the last decade or so. But that’s a story for another day, perhaps.”

What interested you more in the process? Telling a great story or almost forensically dismantling the art of storytelling? 

“This question made me laugh out loud. It’s always terrific fun to write a new story, and to try to make it as original as you can – I’m still a little bit awestruck by the idea of creating something from nothing. With The Lammisters, I didn’t set out to tell a story about telling a story; that was just the way it evolved. The story is told by a narrator who has been abandoned by his author and left to his own devices, and so the narrator is keen to prove his credentials by reminding the reader about the various aspects of the storytelling craft. Sadly, the narrator has yet to learn that less is more …”

I remember meeting with you in the IFI in  Dublin, after the publication of The Lost and the Blind (2015): you were saying how much this book had taken from you and even considering it might be your last novel. How did the writing of The Lammisters happen in that context?

“You’re right, Dominique – I did feel very drained after writing The Lost and the Blind: it was a pretty traumatic year, personally and professionally, and that book was the one that gave me the least pleasure when I was writing it. And as far as I was concerned, at the time, if I wasn’t having fun, then there was no point to writing. The Lammisters was the complete antithesis to that – I wanted to write a book purely for myself, that wasn’t written according to any genre conventions, or any deadlines, or anyone’s expectations. And I wanted it to be fun, because it seemed to me – as a result of Brexit, for example, and Donald Trump’s election, and what seems like the inexorable rise of far-right extremism, with its racism and antisemitism – that the world was becoming a darker place. I wanted to be able to cheer myself up on a daily basis. The book certainly delivered on that front.”

How much does this new book still owe to Crime Fiction? 

“Well, it’s a comic novel, and I’d hate for any crime fiction reader to pick up and feel cheated by the fact that the story plays very fast and loose with the expected conventions. That said, I love the crime novel, in virtually all its variations, so there’s certainly elements of crime fiction involved – the characters go on the lam, as the title suggests, and one of the main characters is not only a bootlegger and a bank robber but the terror of all right-thinking Republicans everywhere. The Lammisters isn’t a crime novel; but I don’t think I’d have been able to write it if I hadn’t written my crime novels first.”

Are there shadows of Crime authors you felt looming in particular over the book? 

“Definitely, yes. The first writer I fell madly, deeply and hopelessly for was Raymond Chandler, because of his language, his style. I’ve always said that if Chandler had written science fiction, or romantic fiction, I’d probably have ended up writing that. So Chandler’s hardboiled style is an important jumping-off point for The Lammisters. But I also love crime writers with a comic sensibility – Carl Hiaasen, Barry Gifford – and there’s no doubt that their approach is a factor too.”

You are a keen reader and commentator of European Crime Fiction: what are your main discoveries in that area over the past few years? 

“It’s been mainly Scandinavian reading for the past while, I’m afraid. One of my recent discoveries – and apologies if this is old news to anyone – is Antti Tuomainen, who reads a lot like the Finnish Elmore Leonard. Again, it’s blackly comic crime fiction, which I adore. I read Stina Jackson’s The Silver Road earlier this year, and I thought it was a superb meditation on grief. I thought Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth was a flawed but very interesting contemporary take on Shakespeare, although my favourite of the Norwegian writers – of any of the Scandinavian crime novelists – is Karin Fossum. Her The Drowned Boy is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last decade, in any genre. Of the non-Scandinavian writers, David Torrans introduced me recently to Pascal Garnier, who is superb; and Hannah’s Dress, by Pascale Hugues, is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in years.”

To what European authors do you feel more related, and at what level? 

“This is a bit of a loaded question, I think, because once I start naming writers it’s going to sound like I’m comparing myself to them, which is certainly not my intention. If I can put it like this: I love reading Umberto Eco, and especially his wilder flights of fancy (Baudolino, say), because it seems to me as if he cares very little for any rules or regulations of writing. The same applies to Italo Calvino – when I read If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller many years ago, it made a huge impression on me. I guess I’ve always loved writers who are prepared to take chances, to go beyond the accepted and the expected – as a young man, for example, I loved Milan Kundera’s books, because they seemed to challenge everything I had read up to that point.”  

Violet Hill

 

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Belfast-born author Henrietta McKervey will be reading at the Delicate Infractions Conference this week end.  Her  third novel, Violet Hill, was published by Hachette Ireland in 2018.

Here is a taster:

 December 1918: Post-War London is grieving, the city a wound whose dressing was taken off too soon. Violet Hill, the only female private detective in the city, is hired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s business manager to uncover spiritual trickery he believes is deceiving his employer.

January 2018: Susanna is a super-recogniser, one of an elite Met Police team of officers with extraordinary powers for facial recognition. When a freak injury causes her unusual ability to suddenly disappear, a dangerous criminal whom she no longer recognises decides to close in.

More information on the conference can be found here

The programme is available here : 

 

Belfast-Munich-Dublin: An Interview with Ellen Dunne

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Interview with Ellen Dunne

Ellen Dunne. Wie Du PNG

 

 

[Dominique Jeannerod] What made you decide to set your first novel (Wie Du mir, 2011) in Belfast ?

[Ellen Dunne] I became interested in the Northern Irish Conflict aged 17, when I watched the movie “In the Name of the Father” by Jim Sheridan, in early 1994. The story of the Guildford Four upset me so much, I wanted to understand the real background. So I endlessly read articles and books and watched TV documentaries. I always have been writing, and after a while, a story formed in my head, and intuitively I chose Belfast as location.

How would you introduce your protagonist, Patsy Logan? Why does she work in Munich ?

Patsy Logan is Irish-German, lives in Munich but has an Irish father with whom she spent many summers in Dublin. Her stories are set in Munich and also in Dublin. Why? I have been living in Dublin for 13 years and lived in Munich for a year, and to me, the two cities have almost nothing in common, apart their size. Munich is a very affluent, balanced, well-groomed and orderly city, with often grumpy inhabitants. To me, Dublin is much rougher, with a lot more social differences (and thus problems) and a somewhat chaotic setup. A contrast that mirrors Patsys inner conflict and intrigued me.

How would you describe the genre of Crime Fiction to which your novels belong? And do you see an evolution between the first and the most recent ones?

 I always was more interested in characters and their motifs than in plot twists. I guess it is fair to say that my stories are mixtures between crime and contemporary literature.

 

Who are the top ten main International Crime Fiction writers in your personal Pantheon?

I read mainly British/Irish as well as German speaking crime writers, so here goes, without a particular ranking: English speaking: Tana French, Adrian McKinty, Kate Atkinson, Stuart Neville, Dennis Lehane, Eoin McNamee German speaking: Simone Buchholz, Friedrich Ani, Oliver Bottini, Jan Costin Wagner            

How did you discover Irish Crime Fiction?

Initially, through my interest in the Northern Irish conflict.  

Who are the Irish Crime authors who might have influenced you?

I hope I developed my own voice by now, but I guess it’s hard to not be influenced by writers you enjoy. For example, I adore Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series and also Tana French’s novels, but also like Stuart Neville’s thrillers. Also enjoyed Eoin McNamees Resurrection Man and The Ultras a lot. As I do read a lot of non-crime fiction, it is a short (but growing) list, sorry.

Had you heard of them before settling in Dublin?

 Eoin McNamee, yes – all the rest I only found out about while living here.

 Have you contacts with other writers of Irish Crime Fiction?

Much less than I would want to; mainly due to the fact that I write in German.

What is Irish Crime Fiction all about, according to you? And Northern Irish Noir, as you arguably write both?

 I haven’t read enough of Irish Crime fiction to comprehensively comment on this. Coming from abroad, to me there is this two-faced quality to Ireland, with so many friendly and easy-going people, which makes its social problems and organised crime underbelly all the more jarring – and a good source for stories. There a lots of stories about the crisis and its fallout still. And for Northern Ireland especially the conflict, which writers only in recent years start to really explore. I am excited to see that it gets more attention internationally, too.

Could you tell us a bit about Eire Verlag? Is there a market for Irish Crime Fiction abroad?

Eire Verlag is a very small German press; the publisher has a personal interest in Ireland and we got in touch over private connections.
In general, there is definitely a market for Irish Crime fiction in the German speaking market. Many writers are translated into German, there is a big interest in Ireland as a country.

Do you go to Crime Festivals and meet many authors?

I do attend literary and crime writing festivals regularly. It is a great way to get in touch with authors and network. It is important to network among writers, it’s a lonely job.

Did you write Cigarette Break – A Short Belfast Story directly in English?

There was a German version first, so the English version was between a rewrite and a translation. I did it all myself, with an Irish proofreader to check.

What made you decide to set this story in Belfast (again)? And did you feel the need for a prequel to your first novel?

As it is not a real prequel but a short story that gives background to my first novel, Belfast had to be the logical location. I wrote the story as part of a World Book Day promotion.

To what extent was the timeline important? Will there be other Belfast or Troubles novels?

 There is nothing planned yet, but who knows? I have never stopped being interested in the topic, and the recent tragic events around Lyra McKee’s murder show that the Troubles still effect the whole island.

How much reading/documentation does it take you to write novels set during the Troubles?

 I’d say a lot, it is a complex set-up. It’s hard to tell for me though, as I first got interested in the topic and the story developed naturally out of it. So I guess I did much more “research” than necessary.

 Who are you readers? Where do you meet them? Do you interact with them online? Do they comment on your stories?

My readers are usually people that read a lot and are ready for “something different”; often not the typical crime readers. I meet them often online in book groups or at book fairs, or they write to me after reading the book and tell me how they liked it. Mostly these interactions are great, I enjoy them.

What are the languages in which your books are translated?

I have one of them translated in English, “The Lost Son”

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What are the four Crime Fiction novels you recommend to your friends?

Available in English:

The Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty
The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French
The Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz
Light in a dark house by Jan Costin Wagner

 

Is there any question you would have liked me to ask? Sorry for not mentioning it…. Please do now…

This was a very comprehensive interview, it was fun. Thank you!

 

Thank you, and looking forward to your next book! To be followed

Border? What Border?: Irish crime fiction and Brexit

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Northern Irish crime writers Anthony Quinn and Brian McGilloway will converse with crime fiction scholar and writer Andrew Pepper about the theme: “Border? What Border?: Irish crime fiction and Brexit”. The centrality of Northern Ireland in the ongoing negotiations will be an opportunity to test the ability of crime fiction to become a vehicle for representing and understanding the dramatic challenges currently faced by the European Union.

Thursday, March 21,  6:00 pm,

  Peter Froggatt Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast,

Lecture Theater 02/011

All Welcome !

PFC

 

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Murder One Crime-Writing Festival

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Murder One Crime-Writing Festival, 

 Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin 

November 2nd – 4th.

Lynda La Plante and Michael Connelly, Declan Burke and Declan Hughes,  Niamh O’Connor, Liz Nugent and Jane Casey, Anthony Quinn, Val McDermid, Peter James, Marc Billingham and many more  Irish  and  international crime fiction authors are all scheduled to feature at this three-day  festival. For more information and to see the programme,  please visit the Festival Website http://www.murderone.ie/

 

An interview with Richard O’Rawe.

By Daniel Magennis. PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast.

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A Northern Celtic Tiger, Northern Heist (Merrion Press, 2018)

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

I meet Ricky O’Rawe in the lobby of a hotel close to Queen’s University in Belfast. It is an uncommonly warm and sunny afternoon for an Irish autumn. The university is preparing for the arrival of Hilary Clinton, who has been awarded an honorary degree. As I wait, foreign voices – tourists – drift across the space. People seem calm and happy. Belfast is not what it once was.

O’Rawe arrives. He has a pleasing lilt that marks him out as someone from the West of the city. His previous works, all nonfiction, have dealt with divisive and emotive issues such as the 1981 IRA Hunger Strikes and a biography of Gerry Conlon, whom O’Rawe had known since childhood. He tells me that, unlike his earlier books, he found Northern Heist, a work of fiction, liberating.

“Fiction can be whatever you want it to be … There’s nothing sacrosanct. There’s no sacred principle you have to stand behind and that’s the beauty of fiction – you can take it anywhere you want.

“Compared to my other works, I found dealing with Mr Ructions [Northern Heist’s honourable thief protagonist] … incredible. I enjoyed him, I enjoyed writing about him and I enjoyed shaping him and shaping his world… love the freedom of fiction.” It may be a form that permits greater imagination, but it is one that requires its own sort of rigour. “That’s not to say it was easier to write as opposed, let’s say, to the Gerry Conlon book. There, there was a narrative from A to Z … so I knew where the book was starting, and I knew basically where it was going to end.”

Northern Heist has long been a labour of love for O’Rawe. The novel, in one form or another, has been gestating for many years.

“I had a whole different ending prior to starting the Gerry Conlon book. I’ve been footering with Northern Heist for about eight years. I had other major projects that I was doing… so in the end I had to set it aside. But I always sort of drifted back to it.”

A substantial revision saw O’Rawe rewrite the second half of the book entirely and his maverick protagonist, Ructions, did not survive his momentous heist.

“In the first edition, Tiny kills Ructions, up on the farm and it was a dramatic ending, but it was the wrong ending. And now we have Ructions alive – and everybody likes him, everybody I’ve spoken to loves him. And not only that, but it leaves it open for a sequel. There’s a tremendous sequel in there. It’s in my head and all..”

In the end it was O’Rawe’s daughter Bernadette who had proposed a solution. ”You know what – you can’t kill Ructions” – and so Ructions was saved. At least, that is, for the moment…

‘I’m hanging up my guns, I’m going to burn my balaclava.’ But, all of a sudden, he might have to knit a new balaclava. And he’s to get the guns down again.

“But that’s the question – will he get away with it in the sequel? Because everybody comes out of this alive. Tiny is still alive at the end of it, the cop’s still alive at the end of it – the chief inspector – Ructions is still alive. There’s a variety of interests there and Tiny is a force to be reckoned with, he’s far from gone… he [Ructions] wouldn’t be the first criminal to say, ‘I’m hanging up my guns, I’m going to burn my balaclava.’ But, all of a sudden, he might have to knit a new balaclava. And he’s to get the guns down again.”

What was it about the Northern Bank robbery of 2004, on which Northern Heist is based, that sparked O’Rawe’s imagination?

“It was actually three robberies. There were three robberies that caught my attention. There was the Makro robbery …and there was a huge robbery down at the docks where £1 million of cigarettes was taken and then there was the Northern Bank robbery. So even at the time, before I was thinking of writing this, I looked at this and said to myself, ‘this is the work of a certain gang of guys, this is not different gangs running around doing different tiger kidnappings. These things are too well thought-out. It’s either the work of some genius thief, or it’s the work of the IRA. In which case, again, it would be a small cabal of people.’

“So that was my original thoughts on it and then when the Northern Bank robbery occurred you had different people saying different things. You had the two governments saying it was the IRA. The Garda commissioner, the Chief Constable said it was the IRA, and you had the IRA saying, ‘It wasn’t us.’ And therein lay the contradiction for the writer and the writer in me said ‘you know what, I’ll tell you who done it – Ructions.’

“So that leaves a question mark; and in steps Ructions and Ructions does it. So that’s how the Northern Bank etc. came into play. And the thing about the Northern Bank was, it was a very interesting tiger kidnapping… It was timed so precisely. If it hadn’t been done on the day that it was done, it would never have been done because the next day all the keys were being taken off all of the keyholders.”

Northern Ireland is a place where you can certainly write thrillers… It’s just a matter of imagination.

The robbery in question, the December 2004 Northern Bank robbery at the bank’s Belfast city centre headquarters, threatened the then fragile peace process. Over the years, the Troubles in Northern Ireland have provided material for hundreds of novels. “I think Northern Ireland is a place where you can certainly write thrillers… It’s just a matter of imagination and looking for it.”

O’Rawe’s past may have afforded him a sense of how the Irish underworld works and it is perhaps unsurprising that many of Northern Heist’s characters are inspired by real life.

“I had certain characters in my head, who I envisaged, who were real-life characters to a point… I had a vision and I always try to pick someone with an interesting face and, say, ‘this is who it was and this is his traits, and what makes this guy unique?’ … I always try to do that, so the reader has an idea of the type of person you’re talking about. But a lot of the stuff that’s in Northern Heist… it’s a wee bit real life. The characters are not far away from real people.”

I ask him about the distinctive gangland speech of many of the characters of Northern Heist; “I think that sort of subterranean world, that underworld, where moves are made and if you don’t play the game you’ll get shot very easily. I think they do have a lingo of their own. They talk about moves, they talk about clipping people. They talk in a sort of vernacular that is virtually unique – but they also speak the same way in Dublin. If you watch Nidge [the lead character in the RTÉ drama ‘Love/Hate’] – gangsters in Dublin have the same way. They have the same sort of way of communicating. If you fuckin’ mess about you will get shot and they need to know it. A guy needs to say it to you and you need to listen to him. Don’t open your mouth or he’ll take a needle and he will prick you and that’s the sort of stuff that comes across in the book. But that’s natural in that sort of world.”

It is a world that O’Rawe’s honourable thief manages to navigate remarkably unscathed to pull off Ireland’s largest ever Bank heist. While the reader may find themselves admiring, even liking, Ructions, there is of course a darker edge to him. “The thing about Ructions is this; you never know whether or not he would have carried out his threat to hurt the families…”

Nevertheless, O’Rawe does not see Northern Heist as part of Northern Ireland’s prime literary export of recent years; Noir.

“I don’t class myself as a noir writer. I actually don’t particularly like that stuff. That’s not a reflection on any of the writers. I like stories to be… sort of vibrant, and light, and enjoyable. I don’t really get it with three guys and they’ve just emerged from some fuckin’ pathway to hell, and they’re up to be a scourge on the world. That doesn’t work for me – just me personally.

“I’m not running anybody down – there’s a huge market for it – I just think that, sometimes, what you write reflects your personality. Not all the time, but sometimes, and I’ve a fairly… upbeat personality, if I do say so myself [he laughs]”

Reluctant to be pigeonholed as an author of Noir, O’Rawe is equally keen to avoid the broader classification of crime fiction author.

“I don’t want to get into detective stories, where the detective always catches the bad guy. Bad guys rarely ever get caught. Cops only clear up about 6% of all crimes. So I have a penchant for the underdog, for Ructions. Not that I particularly want to get into crime… I have other stuff I want to get on with. I’ve a number of projects… But I don’t necessarily want to be in that genre. And I don’t really want to be known as someone who writes about cop stories. Do you know what I mean? And I like the unpredictability of the likes of Ructions, using him as an example. But I don’t like reading a book where I know what the end is. And the ending, invariably, in all of these things is that the cop catches the bad guy. I like stories to be absolutely different.

The wages of sin is death” and he’s saying “Fuck – I don’t get any of that. The wages of sin is great.

“I’m at my happiest when I’m writing well. I like humour, I like writing anecdotes in the middle of something very serious. Like, for example, Ambrose was coming out of the street and him and Billy and they’ve eight million quid in the back of the truck and the preacher is standing there with the bible and he’s saying “The wages of sin is death” and he’s saying “Fuck – I don’t get any of that. The wages of sin is great. I love sinning. I love that sort of craic in the middle of it. That’s just me.”

At one stage in Northern Heist, Ructions says to his boss and uncle, Panzer, ‘… after this, we’re all out. Nothing will be the same again. It’s over. Our day has come and gone – and I’m glad’ (p. 99). I ask O’Rawe if his book describes a world where the old ways are being left behind; that is quickly changing?

“Yes. The thing is for Ructions and Panzer, they pulled off what all criminals want – the big Pay Day. The payday that means they don’t have to do it anymore. They don’t have to take the risk. So for them’uns it’s the end of an era; Panzer’s bowing out anyway. But he has achieved his lifetime ambition, of pulling off the massive heist that they’ve always dreamed of.

“But in relative terms, the Northern Bank heist was actually at a point in time when things changed. There wasn’t too many tiger kidnappings and banks [being robbed] afterwards. The banks adjusted; brought in security firms … there’s no bank robberies at all now, bank robberies are done on the stock market.”

O’Rawe’s own life has seen pages of history turn. Having been the IRA’s second in command in HMP Maze/Long Kesh during the Hunger Strikes in 1981, his 2005 book Blanketmen, saw him present a very different version of events from that of Sinn Fein’s.

“As you know, I was an IRA volunteer. I would say that I am a pacifist now. I have absolutely no time for armed struggle. In any shape or form. I actually look back on all that and I see it as a huge negative. An awful loss of life, dreadful loss of life and I don’t think the outcome, the political outcome in terms of Republicanism, was worth one life or worth one minute in prison. So I’m very disillusioned with the whole thing.

“Demonstrably, those who were advocating a different way were right. You, politically, ended up in the same place with the Good Friday Agreement as we were in 1974 with the Sunningdale Agreement, the only difference is 2,000 people died and tens of thousands of people done years in jail.”

Does violence work? Not in Ireland. Never has.

A cliché it may well be, but is the pen mightier than the sword?

“The pen is mightier than the sword. The other way of asking that question is, does violence work? Not in Ireland. Never has.”

O’Rawe’s journey has seen him go from militant Republican to self-professed pacifist. He has since been strongly and publicly critical of Republican political leadership. Does he feel he has a duty to write about the events he witnessed and had a part in?

“From my point of view, I had a duty to write about the Hunger Strike. I felt I had. But that’s because I was a player. I was very involved in it. Ordinary writers have no imperative to write about anything other than what they want to.”

Responding, during a recent radio interview, to the calls of some that he should not be writing – and profiting – at all from his past, O’Rawe notes, “Those who would shout at their radios are the very same people who would love to censor writers. I will not be censored by no one. I am a free thinker and a free writer, and I will not be censored by no one … the same question was put to me [during an interview on American radio] and I said “those who would scream at radios are the same people who would burn books. Once you go down this road of saying “this writer’s alright and that writer’s not alright” then you’re in real deep trouble.”

 

Northern Heist, published by Merrion Press, is available online, in eBook and Paperback, and in bookshops.

Northern Ireland: More than rain. An interview with Adrian McKinty

By Daniel Magennis. PhD Student. Queen’s University Belfast.

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Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series.

I meet Adrian McKinty in the Piano bar in Belfast’s Europa Hotel – the self-proclaimed ‘most bombed hotel in Europe’ – to discuss his multi award-winning Sean Duffy series, the Northern Irish identity and growing up in Carrick during the darker years of Northern Ireland’s short but turbulent history. Continue reading

Still Silver’s city? Maurice Leitch’s 1981 prize-winning novel re-released.

A review by Daniel Magennis. PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast.

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Front cover of the May 2017 reissue of ‘Silver’s City’ by Turnpike Books.

A German once said the Irish always reminded him of a pack of hounds pulling down a stag, but, Nan, we only drag down our own kind. Or try to. (107-8)[1] Continue reading