The Patriot Game
The blurb on the back:
Disillusioned with IRA policies, sick of squabbling factions, appalled by the senseless slaughter of innocent civilians James Grogan decided finally to do things his own way.
It’s all in the timing. This was written at perhaps the most fascinating point of the Troubles, just after the first bomb attack in England (on the Aldershot Barracks in retaliation for Bloody Sunday), when the fear of the war widening to the mainland was becoming very real indeed, when internment was in operation, when the split between the Official and Provisional IRA was still a live issue, and when the IRA fighters were still ill-trained and ill-equipped.
Into this volatile situation comes an Irish ex-squaddie from the British Army, an SAS-trained soldier who offers his services to the IRA, but finds that they’re not properly receptive to his ideas. So he strikes out alone, pursued by the IRA, the security services and the police.
It’s a neat scenario (though I reckon the ending’s a bit of a cop-out) and allows for plenty of exploration of tactics and strategy in the political/military struggle for a united Ireland. Here’s our rogue commando reflecting on why violence is necessary:
More than that, however, we get to see all sides in the conflict, which allows for some exploration of the psyche of, for example, a senior Protestant police officer fearful of being sold down the river:
What could so easily have been a piece of crass exploitation is in fact a very decent, thoughtful book, determined to examine a wide range of issues arising from the civil war, and it's still pertinent and interesting. And there are some nice ironic touches about the mundane reality of both terrorism and counter-terrorism: ‘When he first joined the Service code names were allotted by an old lady in Records, but she had finally run out of words.’ (p.137)
And finally, I’d just like to say that I do like the cover design – very neatly done, and I wish these books would give a credit for the artist.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5
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