Emerging Writer Member Profile
I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD.
“For Mithras’ sake. Look, there’s yer man - drunk off his head as usual,” said Garrick Armstrong, trying to conceal the nervousness trickling into his voice. He managed a grin, though. Gazing out from the front seat of the Ford Cortina his fellow combatant, Jack Henderson, was driving.
“Friggin’ eejit,” continued Garrick as Jack cruised the Cortina past a scarecrow-like figure stood on the pavement. Hand clasping the neck of a wine bottle. Flint-hard eyes shining behind a tangle of grey hair.
“Fergie, that his name, like? Used to work down the docks, or something?” Said Jack glancing out of his window, then back to Garrick.
“Nah, that’s Trev’s da. Right Trev?” said Garrick laughing. Trevor McKay didn’t answer, just sat quietly in the shadows behind Jack.
Good, thought Garrick, the high and mighty Mr McKay’s just as nervous as the rest of us.
Leaving the last of north Beltarf’s main roads behind, they entered one of the cramped ghettos running parallel to the Aughrim Road. A lattice of narrow streets walled by rows of red-bricked terraces skimmed past. Every so often a streetlamp, which had survived the nightly rioting, bowed its head above a cone of copper light. The late evening’s rain had polished silver veins from the dark skinned asphalt.
Garrick swiped the the edge of a fist across the passenger window, slicing through the foggy sheen of moisture clinging to the glass.
“You need to put the blower on, Jack,” said Garrick leaning forward, adjusting the woollen balaclava he’d rolled up to his forehead. “Or you’ll be driving us right into a friggin’ checkpoint.”
Jack nodded, then briefly dipped his head and began flicking some switches and knobs before the vents hummed with dusty air.
Trevor saying loudly, “Any chance of - “
“Got it, I got it,” said Jack lowering the fan’s speed. Clearing the windscreen with a warm, curving air.
“Here, think we should’ve stuck some false plates on this jalopy?” Said Garrick eyes scanning the road. He knew the car was clean, but just wanted to say something to fill the silence - distract him from worrying about the job maybe going badly for them.
Trevor snorted, said, “Don’t be a dick.”
Garrick pictured Trevor’s face;behind: nostrils, no doubt, flaring in his busted nose. Shaking his head and smirking. I hope ta fuck Harry’s right about this job bein’ a piss a piss, or it could just as easily go to shit very fast.
Jack let the steering wheel glide back through his hands, turning the Cortina back onto a busier road, then said, “Sure, I picked up the car from… what’s his name..? Aye, one of Ricky’s contacts in the trade. Told me it’d been gotten from an auction for us - night before last, or so.”
“Oul Ricky’s handy for the motors,” said Garrick. “Less reasons the peelers - or the army - have to stop us, the better.”
The Bitter End of Dreams by E.S. Haggan.
This is the novel about the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar.
To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities.
I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have strived to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.
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