Sunday, 24 May 2020

In my previous post I aimed to explain why I wrote The Girl From The Killing Streets. This morning let me try to amplify that.

I am no longer in what is often described as “the full bloom of youth.” One day I will not be here. I will be a part of the past. History. Maybe that is why two thoughts so often occupy my mind these days. Firstly, what have I learned from the experience of being here? And, secondly, what will I leave behind for future generations?

It was an eye-opening thought when it first occurred to me: what will I take with me when I leave this life? Only one thing, I decided. I will take with me only what I have learned from the experience of being here. Everything else will be left behind. From that I deduced that ‘learning’ has been a major part of my purpose in this life. Not classroom learning. My task has been my personal develoment through ‘experiential’ learning. In other words, learning from my various life experiences. So, I ask myself, what have I learned? Well, some of that experiential learning went into my books.

Then I turn my thoughts to what I will leave behind for future generations. As a former air traffic controller, I have very little to pass on. But as a writer, there is a lot I can leave behind when I eventually leave this life. When I write a novel I aim to do more than relate a story. I aim to make the reader think. No more so than in my latest book, The Girl From The Killing Streets. Outside of Northern Ireland, most people have only an edited view of The Troubles, based on what they read in their newspapers or saw on their televisions. As for the younger generation, how can they possibly fully understand what it was really like in Northern Ireland in those harrowing days? I cannot take anyone physically back to that time but, as a writer, I can help them understand how it felt. And, when I am gone from this life, the fruits of that exercise will remain… in my writing, in the words I leave behind. People will still be able to read my book and gain some understanding of what it felt like. If they can learn about the past through my writing, and make sure it never happens again, my work as a writer will have been of value.

That’s a comforting thought.

Monday, 18 May 2020

My revealing novel 

I learned more about the Peninsular Wars from reading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels than I learned in school history lessons. I learned more than the bare facts; the dates and places. I learned what it was like to be there in the heat of battle. I learned what it felt like. A novelist is well-placed to show the reader those emotions. There’s nothing new in it. Through the medium of a novel, Dickens showed us what it felt like to be a penniless orphan.

Why am I telling you this? Because historians try to give an accurate account of the past, but their output often comes across as too academic. So many history books are devoid of that important element: the collection of sentiments, hopes and frustrations felt by the people who were there at the time.

I lived and worked in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, at the height of the Troubles. I remember more than simply what happened. There are many detailed accounts of that already in the public domain. I now live in England and people ask me what it felt like to live in Northern Ireland in those distant days. Their questions go beyond what happened. I find it difficult to explain in a conversation, in a way that fully captures the feel of the moment. However, I am a novelist, so I had a solution in my writing.

My way around the problem was to write a novel that encapsulates the essence of what it felt like. As Bernard Cornwell did with his Sharpe books, I have used fiction as a means of bringing out the feelings of reality. Fiction in place of reality? Ironically, it seems to work.

The Girl From The Killing Streets is a crime story, but it is more than that. It is a story set against one fateful day in the lives of the people of Belfast. Bloody Friday, 21st July 1972.

The story begins eight years later when a young woman is incarcerated in Armagh Gaol for two murders committed on Bloody Friday. A journalist interviews her and comes away with the clear impression that her story does not ring true. So he interviews others who were in Belfast that day in 1972 and puts together a totally different story of what happened. It is a story of family intrigue, family secrets and dangerous relationships. It is also a story of how people felt when their city was blown apart.

The Girl From The Killing Streets is published by Darkstroke. With bookshops now closed, it can be ordered in paperback or ebook from Amazon. Follow this link:

“This book is a thriller from start to finish I was hooked. Well written from an expert storyteller.”
Amazon review

A remarkably dark and stylish thriller. The next best thing to being there.
Della Galton. Novelist and creative writing tutor