Category Archives: The Arts

Over The Wire: A Play by Seamas Keenan

Over The Wire
Written by Seamas Keenan
Directed by Kieran Griffiths

 

Over The Wire was first performed in 2013 in the Derry Playhouse.  Then it was directed by Kenny Glenaan the Scots director responsible for Spooks and more recently Charlie-the RTE series on Charles Haughey.  This time round the reins are taken up by Kieran Griffiths and he doesn’t disappoint.  From the off the pace is unrelenting…90 minutes nonstop with no interval.  The atmospherics are a standout—lighting and background sounds with what seems like an ever swirling mist—helps to transport us back to late October/Early November 1974.  You can feel the cold..the hunger and the isolation as the 5 Republican prisoners do what it takes to survive in the wake of the burning of Long Kesh camp.  The set design is very simple but hugely effective.  A mini cage complete with gate and topped with barbed wire recreates-on a smaller scale-the old compounds of that era.  It too is highly effectual in creating the shadowy effect and showing an almost post apocalyptic vista.
The five actors virtually remain on stage for the duration of the play with one notable exception.  At all times we are privy to their most private discussions.  There is no hiding place and even their makeshift shelter built from the debris fails to conceal them.  Throughout the years the humour and the camaraderie amongst political prisoners has been well documentary and it is given great scope here.  The legendary sing songs, organised to lift flagging morale-The Broad Black Brimmer here alongside unforgettable pop classics like Running Bear.  The gallows humour, the corny jokes, the pranks and the random classics-“ Name me the one woman in the whole world you would ride if you had the Chance”…sure we all played that one.  But I wonder how many came up with Lulu as their first choice.  It was 1974 after all.
5 actors-all Derry men by the sound of it-and it seems..even then—that there was 5 different shades of Republicanism.  Take Dee—the OC-he wasn’t even in the Movement before he was lifted and now he’s dishing out orders at the behest of “that shower of shite in cage 6”..who make all the rules.  Then there’s the effervescent Dutch—Jack the Lad type, fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man, takes everything at face value.  But is impressionable and vulnerable.  And Colin..who’s girlfriend has just had a baby even though he has been in prison for two years.  But he loves her and longs to be with her again.  Then there’s Lucas.  Bit of a socialist apparently..trusts no one..has more than one axe to grind and seems like a far more natural OC than Dee.  As the play progresses Lucas’s mental state deteriorates at an alarming rate.  Where the drama succeeds is in relaying the emotions and the real fears, the despair and the loneliness, the vulnerability of each person.  Each individual has his personal dreads, his terrors, which at times-and particularly when we were young you do your best to disguise.  All of this shown up in the glare of the searchlights and the strength of the writer and director is exemplified in the minutiae of long term life within a cage and under extremely terrifying circumstances.
Without wanting to disclose too much of the main plot it is enough to say that that ever present and long standing fear within republicanism inevitably raises its head.   An informer in the ranks.  Who..if anyone..in the cage is operating for the Brits…why are the 3 younger men always in a huddle?..Are they trying to undermine Dee and Lucas?..Are they plotting something?  Even if Lucas’s suspicions are founded would this be the catalyst for his demonic behaviour?  One review described Over The Wire as “short, sharp, shock” treatment.  I wouldn’t disagree entirely.  There are some great one liners here..some incisive dialogue..a liberal smattering of agricultural language..a little nudity and plenty of violence.  Overall I offer high praise to the production.  The set is basically a small reproduction of a Lonk Kesh compound but utterly effective.  High plaudits also to the technical staff and the production levels.  But what impressed me most was the script.  I haven’t a clue whether Seamas is an ex prisoner or not but he nailed the intensity of some conversations and equally as important the banality of the rest of it.  Go see.

 

Beano

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Paddy Joe and Me: Harry

Paddy Joe and Me.

Part 1.

Life can be a bowl of cherries. Whoever said this should have  a good kick in the hooray henrys .  This story is definitely one of two halves.  It starts in the early troubles. You’ve heard the usual story of the young paramilitary,  boy gets involved,  defends his country,  blah, blah, blah.  I won’t bore you with all crap that but sufficient to say that as a team of four, we were pretty lethal.   Me. I lived on the street to escape an alcoholic father who loved using his fists on any of us. I spent more time out of school than in. The beaky officer just loved me. His toughest case. My ‘father’ didn’t give a shit and my mum just cried.  The last words I spoke to my so called father was when I turned on him after he started hitting me. I got stuck in with everything.  I had honed my fighting on the street and caught him a lovely right hook.  I put the boot in a few times. As he lay there cowering like a true bully I spat out to him that he would never lay another finger on me gain. I walked out.  Thank heavens I had a bucket load of aunts and uncles.

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’71: A Review by Beano Niblock

Director: Yann Demange

Writer: Gregory Burke

 

Not many “Troubles Films” stand out in one’s mind.  At least, not for the right reasons.  Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda..Hunger..and perhaps Alan Clarke’s Contact.  In The Name of The Father, of course.  But you would be hard pushed to find too many more.  A Scots screenwriter and a first time French director—for a feature film at least—may not be the pairing to inspire great confidence in another.  But you would be wrong.  What they have given us is an exciting, taut and very intelligent thriller.  A behind enemy lines movie that will leave you thinking long after the end credits have rolled.   You could also throw the conspiracy label in there for good measure giving it another layer-a facet that gives the film an added attraction.
Gregory Burke’s dialogue is tight..he has encapsulated many of the Inner Belfast nuances—perhaps overdoes them in some parts.  It must be remembered that Burke also wrote the Black Watch play from a few years back and it has to be said he has a great handle on the military nuances as well.  It’s easy to be picky about home based drama’s and very often we fall into the trap of singling minor misdemeanours out—sometimes just for the sake of it.  There are a couple of iffy moments in’71-particularly early on-but certainly not enough to cloud your judgement of the rest of this brilliant film.  Jack O’Connor rightly receives the plaudits in the main role of a young soldier-Gary Hook, on his first tour of duty in Belfast, who gets left behind by his unit in the wake of a hair raising house search which goes tragically wrong.  The supporting cast are a mix of local and UK based actors.  Of these Richard Dormer stands out as Eamon, a former soldier himself who now lives with his daughter in Divis Flats.  Sean Harris plays an undercover MRF Captain with particular menace and an all encompassing disdain for everyone around him.  Friend and foe alike. Corey McKinley is a local teenager who makes an impact as a young Loyalist who attempts to help Hook in his short flight through the maze of West Belfast side streets and entry’s.
’71 was shot in Blackburn and Sheffield recreating an almost perfect reconstruction of the working class ghettoes of the early seventies.  The film is particularly strong on period detail and also succeeds in recreating a genuine claustrophobic feel especially in the Divis Flats sequences.  Demange manages quite adeptly not to take sides…criticism if any on this front, may be that he gives everyone an aura of underhandedness—of low morals—of dubious motivations and of nonexistent ethics.  Sums the situation up quite well then I hear you say.  There is a darkness about the film that recalls those long gone black days of the early seventies..almost apocalyptic in its showing.  The starkness of those little closed-in backstreets became a reminder of the narrow confines in which we all lived.  Both literally and metaphorically.  From a cinematic point of view no complaints can be levelled.  Indeed this film ticks most boxes.  It’s difficult to find any genuine downside.  On a personal level my one minor grievance would be that all of the well worn stereotypes and clichés from the “Troubles” are congested into a little more than ninety minutes but this would be a paltry criticism. ’71 is a must see film and well worthy of all the praise being heaped upon it.

Beano

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CRIMEA SQUARE: A SHANKILL COMMUNITY PLAY

CRIMEA SQUARE

The concept for this community play has its origins dating back over a year to the formation of a small writers group that met once a week in the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road.  From those who had never previously written–under the expert tutelage of Jo Egan–grew the seeds of creativity that eventually matured as a two hour production with a cast of thirty people.  It is a testament to all those involved that those of us who have been lucky enough to have seen it are lavishing it with praise.  The hours of dedication–of sacrifice-and endeavour have paid off big style and much credit is due to all participants.
The scope of the production is huge.  Crimea Square is a “fictional” street in the heart of the Shankill Road.  Through the eyes of three seperate families we trace our roots in history and learn of the social aspwcts of every day life–often set against the turbulent upheaval of not only local discord, but often global conflict.  Telling the sometimes mundane history of the families juxtaposed with the bigger events is expertly achieved and always more than interesting.  Apart from the three set stage there are two huge screens that serve as information boards/advertising hoardings/storyboards.  Used in conjunction with the action it provides a fascinating insight into parocial and worldwide events over the course of 100 years in the Shankill community.
All major occurrences during this time are referred to.  Beginning with the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in opposition to the proposed Home Rule Bill in 1912-up until the present regeneration process–we follow the fortunes–and otherwise–of the families through both Wars–the Hungry Thirties–The Coronation of 1953–The Swinging Sixties, which of course culminated in the events that changed all their lives–”The Troubles”.  The majority of the cast are community actors–at best–and total novices who pull it off in remarkable style.  The professionals are accomplished–Marty Maguire, Marie Jones, Jo Donnelly and Matthew McIlhenny all add a proficient edge.
Jo Egan deserves a huge amount of credit in bringing Crimea Square to the stage.  It has been a long and at times painstaking struggle to get this far.  At a time when there are criticisms of the PUL commnunity abstaining from being involved in the Arts –and in particular drama–it is wonderful to see a community buying into it on such a scale.  The importnat thing now is that it gives these individuals –and groups–the impetus to go further–to pursue writing creatively–to embark upon drama classes–and to prove that this project is not in isolation.
Crimea Square continues its run in the Spectrum centre on Thursday 24th October and runs until 2nd November.

Performance dates:

17-20, 24-27, 31 October and 1, 2 November

Tickets:

£10, £8 concessions, group reductions available.

Box Office:

   Call 07873 425873 or visit The Spectrum Centre

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The Crum: Patrick Greg

The Crum: Patrick Greg.

 

It was with interest that I started to read this book given that a) I have spent 4 separate spells in the Crum, courtesy of the Troubles and b) it is written by an ordinary spud who worked there.  I have to say that I hated the Crum. The noise, the filth, tension, food, hated, etc. So that’s my background when reading this tale.  The first thing that strikes me is the human element, the reality,  honesty and openness that the author brings to this book. I liked his style. And while he and I were on different sides (literally at times) I respect his honesty and motivation to tell this tale.  I do have criticisms of the book but overall this is a good read.

I enjoyed his character sections talking of the celebrity prisoners like Paisley and Mc Guinness. Also there is realism by talking to the likes of Gusty Spence, the Martin Meehans, and Davy Ervines.

I already knew a lot about the executions in the Crum but his section on hangings is an excellent summary  of those events.  I assume that serving as a screw is a bit like being locked up there. You don’t know what it’s really like unless you done it. I like the author’s warts and all presentation. He doesn’t gloss or moralise. I accept his fascination with the building although as I said I hated the place. There are the funny moments which gives a more realistic view of life in there. While serving at Magilligan he tries to be undercover which he goes for a drink outside. The locals take about 5 seconds to suss him out.  I really like his honesty about his colleagues (or ex colleagues). Prisoners are not exactly blind to what they see going on with staff. We knew the drinkers, the sleazy, the nasty, the weird and the decent ones.  For anyone who has never been a prisoner this should be an amazing insight into their world.

On the negative side I was really disappointed about the naming of two of my friends who I had served a long time with. I think he could have written the book and got his story across without naming them. In this website we have the opportunity to name past staff. So far that has not happened. Nor would I want it.  The author knew the victim who they had killed. So he got a bit emotionally involved by dwelling on this one event among thousands. And yes I appreciate what he says about the effect it had on him personally.  It is one thing to name Gutsy and Gerry Kelly who are household names but these two men got back into society and done well. He makes the point about prisoners trying to condition screws. Maybe in the Crum but in the compounds we wanted things quiet and there was no need to condition anybody. However there was often conflict and that was very up front.

I completely challenge his assessment of loyalist prisoners although I assume from his book that he never served in the compounds section. He said the loyalists where not as disciplined as their republican counterparts. He should have spoken to some of his compound colleagues.  One day during a protest the prison sent in their riot squad. They stood in ranks of 3 demanding to get into our compound. I know because I was standing on our side of the wire. Our man in charge said come on in. The prison staff stood down. We were highly trained, fit and motivated. We drilled, took orders, cleaned out rooms (cubes) every week, cleaned the toilets,  painted, gained Degrees, kept fit, sent out high class craft work,  everything. We were as disciplined as it could get. I can’t talk about the H Blocks as I never was there as an ordinary prisoner. Special category went there in 1988 but as Special cat prisoners.

But overall a good book which helps add a bit more realism to that aspect of the Troubles.

Primo

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Man In The Moon: A Review by Billy Joe

Man In The Moon:A Review by Billy Joe

 

Suicide isn’t an easy subject to tackle at any time and one that playwrights might tend to shy away from.  Pearse Elliott obviously felt strongly enough about the impact suicide has had on society here—particularly in his native West Belfast –to pen Man In The Moon.  In dealing with the issues Elliott has written a sharp—at times manic-comedy that while making us roar with laughter can also stop us dead in our tracks when confronted with the reality of the matter.
The teaming of Elliott and star of this one man show—the wonderful Ciaran Nolan—is nothing new.  Previously they collaborated for television with Pulling Moves and on stage with The Christening—and here they have teamed up with Tony Devlin and Brassneck to produce a very deserving piece of theatre.  Nolan is currently getting plenty of exposure on stage and quite rightly so—he is a rising star with a penchant for comedy.  Elliott needs no introduction and is the master of West Belfast vernacular and idiom.  Bravely he treats a serious subject with dark humour and works to great effect.  Throughout the two hour play we are treated to a series of set pieces and vignettes relating to those friends of Sean Dolan’s—Nolan—who have shared his life—and died—many by their own hand.
Half Moon Lake is an oasis of sorts set improbably in Lenadoon and the playground of Sean Doran and his childhood friends—and two brothers.  We first meet Sean coming back to the lake now in adulthood to reminisce and recall those halcyon days shortly after a break up with his girlfriend—who takes their baby girl with her—and in the wake of losing his job which was trying to find a sponsor for one eyed and one armed Ugandan war child!!  Over the next couple of hours Sean tries to make sense of his life to date—to find the reasons why so many of his former friends and relatives have succumbed to “the monster”.
At times the play is hilarious—at others very moving, loaded with pathos, but is always thoughtful.  During any Pearse Elliott play you will be guaranteed laughs—or as Sean Doran would put it—All Day Long—and here he doesn’t disappoint.  Whether it is the appearance of Sean at the “wrong wake”—his feeble attempt at internet dating or the escapade around the sale of 200 pallets laughs aren’t difficult to find.  And on a personal note, the title is a great excuse to have REM’s Man On The Moon as part of a great soundtrack.   I believe Elliott has struck gold in using comedy as the vehicle to carry the serious subject matter and Nolan was an inspired choice as Sean Doran.  He expertly plays the nonchalant, jack-the-lad type but also has the ability to show himself as a caring and thoughtful survivor.  Ultimately, in the glow of the Half Moon Lake, this is what the play is really about—survival.
Man in the Moon finishes its run in the Grand Opera House this Saturday before going on a run to different theatres throughout Northern Ireland during the rest of October.  Catch it if you can.

https://brassneck.eventbrite.co.uk/

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The Belfast Story–A Review by Primo.

The Belfast Story.

 

The main problem with watching and reviewing a film like the Belfast Story is me. As an ex combatant,  ex prisoner and Belfast born I was intrigued to watch this. I had no idea of what the film was about as my better half wanted to go and see it. I quickly realised that this was entertainment and made no pretence at being historical or factual. There was however an interesting moral underlying the whole film. More of that later.

At first I thought it was confused, disjointed and muddled. It does take time for the plot to come together and the pieces fall into place. As a loyalist ex prisoner it was with some shock that I realised that the First Minster was a Shinner. Shades of Gerry, except he’s gone south. It is interesting as a Belfaster to spot the streets and scenes used in the film. The story picks up with the slaughter of old and retried IRA combatants. As the film progresses I think of Dirty Harry meeting Star Chamber (with a bit of Seven thrown in). Maybe even shades of Bronson sorting out the bad boys. Ex justice people evening up old scores with a bit of violent retaliation. The killings are too slick and well organised to be loyalist so it has to be the army or the police. Note to film makers- portrayal of scenes without any witnesses or passers-by are very far from reality.  I did not think that the new political make up of N. Ireland was clear until too late in the film. The police are too flat and unrealistic in this film. The main man Detective played by Colin Meaney  is a good enough character but why bring in old school RUC to investigate IRA men getting bumped off? As I said above the film is entertainment and a bit of ‘what if..’  The film is not centred primarily on  combatants but rather victims. Victims who stand up in an extreme way which Is not unlike the female victim portrayed in Lynch’s Menin gate. Victims, ex combatants, the legacy. It’s a unresolved minefield and a difficult subject to tackle so some credit to Mr Todd for trying.

I felt the underlying message was around morality and the never ending question of right and wrong. Were the executed rebels in 1916 right or wrong in their initial actions? If political events and people voting dictate what is right then they surely had the moral authority to oust what they seen as an invading force – the British.  But politics, like morality, is never simple.  This story is different in that, it is not the old British vs Irish thing or nationalist vs unionist. The twist comes late on and changes the whole dynamic of the story.  (It comes at an appropriate time when ‘Slab’ is about to get some block therapy.) The people eliminating the old IRA activists are ordinary Catholics who have suffered under the PIRA organisation while the Shinners took the moral high ground as they fought the British. So an unusual victim slant, and one as far as I know, has not been covered before, in this way. I wonder what the American audience will make of this?

The film revolves, for me, around one of the last lines of dialogue in the film when one of the killers is explaining his rationale to the detective in a letter. He feels he would rather go and kill the killers, the terrorists,  rather than let his son think that it’s OK to kill and maim–and then walk around as if nothing bad happened.  However,  we are back to the basic ‘eye for an eye’ argument. And if the IRA violence was wrong and nasty, why are the new killers doing it?  Is straight revenge ever justified? Is that not a bad example for ones children? If something is wrong then it is wrong. And there’s the rub. Morality is not absolute. Applying in all cases, at all times and situations. It doesn’t. Morality is fluid in the real world.  In N. Ireland.  In all conflicts. There is no better example today than that of Syria. Killing people by nerve gas including children is reprehensible. But America and the UK would not do one thing about it because Russia stands behind Syria. More like realism than idealism.  The real shocker for unionists comes right at the end. There is a United Ireland. Children play together and we all live happy ever after.  I love happy endings.

 

Primo.

 

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Review of “Meeting at Menin Gate”: Primo

The Road to Menin Gate.

 

I went to see this play, and as I have seen many of Martin Lynch’s plays, had a rough idea of what would happen. Victim’s daughter meets her father’s killer.  Angst, anger, resolution.  I was slightly out there and I didn’t see what was coming, which when it did was excruciating at times to watch (or endure).  It was a play of two halves.  It was dichotomous, which reflects nicely, I suppose, the situation in our ‘wee country’.

The play was well acted, but poorly attended.  I would recommend seeing it – unless torture is not your thing.  The first half of the play is pretty standard and concentrates on developing the backgrounds of the two main characters.  At the break you are left wondering how the policeman’s daughter is going to react.  She does react and not half. She obviously has problems and issues from the loss of her father some 30 years prior and I suppose Lynch gives vent to how some people feel but can’t express those feelings in ‘proper’ society.

I see the play on a number of levels with different themes.  First of all victims.  An unsolvable issue for our society with our attitudes and history.  True forgiveness is so great because it is so rare. Here a victim can give vent to their pain and hurt on a target.  But this is victimhood verging or toppling into psychosis and becoming as bad as the perpetrator?  There is also a release. A violent catharsis? I think Lynch is extremely brave to cast the victim as dancing, singing and nearly in rapture at the realisation she has captured her father’s killer.  And inflicted a lot of directed pain and suffering. Two wrongs making a right?  Maybe in our wee country.  The social narrative is that victims are nice, long suffering and sombre.  The problem with N.I is that there are 3 social narratives going on as regards victims hence the confusion and intractability.

But I could view the two characters as two of the main ‘chunks’ of society today.  The woman as law abiding, middle upper class ‘decent’ core unionists.  The man  as, well,  violent republicanism, Sinn Fein, et al.  The play shows up one image of how things would be if those unionists could give vent to their hurt if only they could get the Shinners hamstrung the way poor Terry ends up.  And would the unionist victim’s gloat and rage over their captive?  Some would.  Of course that is not going to happen.  Terry does his best to explain what he went through and the very human feelings of guilt with ending two men’s lives. (Be they brits, peelers or whatever other label you wish to use).  I was left with a huge question.  Terry eventually– under torture– apologies and admits murder. But did he really kill/murder/execute her father?  I don’t know.  At some point she has lost the realisation that she isn’t after the truth. She is after plain old common revenge.  All in all this was a great play looking at some really complex issues.  I am left wondering  if one of the plays messages is  that, if we took all the killers and forced confessions out of them by torture that everything would be fine.  Is this the way to resolve the Troubles legacy issue?  I don’t think so.

Primo

 

 

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Book Review by G.Igitur

Book Review.
The Bold Tartan Men of Ulster: James Gray.

                       

This book holds a special place regarding all the books I have ever read and that’s  quite a few. It is one of the few that I could not finish. What an awful book and my punch  line is; don’t  buy it. I usually find something to commend a book however badly written. I don’t forget that I grew up in a house with an outside toilet, I failed my 11+ and got my education is the big university in the tin hut university just outside Lisburn.  

Basically this pretends to be about the tartan gangs of the early 70s. I assume the author Gray was one, or was he? I’m not sure why he wrote this ‘fiction’ but I have a few ideas, not all good. I am split between the idea that this is a book attacking the tartan gangs or it is a totally misguided effort at portraying an important aspect of the authors young life? If the latter, he has spent too many years in California.

One of the first odd points concerns the publisher. Who are they? Amazon doesn’t even say. Did he publish it himself,  because if he did, it shows?  Secondly as a onetime tartan member,  the tartan gangs did not come into being to fight the RUC. In those early days the RUC were being hammered by the Provos and the tartans (we ) seen it as part of the duty to oppose the violent Republicans in any way we could. The book starts of poorly by even the very title. The bold Tartan men? With the best will in the world (and we wanted to be grown up and men) we were boys, young adults,  adolescents, etc. but not grown men.

The grammar is atrocious even by my standards. The storyline meanders like a Belfast drunk on a Saturday night who has forgotten his way home.  The indexing and Chapter lay out is unique to say the least. I was really disappointed at the book because I thought it would add a bit to the reality and history of that period. It does nothing of the sort. If it was wild fantasy and fiction that read well I could live with it. Instead it reminds me of someone’s desperation and desire to get into print at any cost.  A lot of time is spent on the vernacular and slang of the place and period. So what audience was he playing to? To assist Mr Gray and hopefully protect local people from parting with their money this book is keek. And no,  I won’t give an a explanation of that term because the people who matter,  will know exactly what I mean.

(P.S. If anyone wants a free copy please contact the website and I will forward my copy!)

G.Igitur

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Dark Dawn: A Book Review

Dark Dawn: by Matt Maguire

I seen this book while waiting in an airport lobby, seen the blurb mention Belfast, and so just bought it without any prior knowledge. As a novel and fiction it is a good read. Exciting, good characters, a move away from the old stories and bringing in the reality of life in Belfast in this era.  For a debut novel it is pretty good. However there are things I don’t understand. The main murder victim of the book is found in the new docks waterfront area. Why is there a picture of a lower Shankill road estate on the front cover? Having said that I enjoy the accuracy of the book as opposed to the book ‘Cathedral’, an IRA story based in New York which talked about an IRA safe house in the Shankill area of Belfast (needed a bit more research.)

The book is based around D.S. O Neill of the new PSNI. A character under pressure from the start.  A hero.  Quite an insight into a modern day detective in N. Ireland.  A body is found on a building site and it is his job to solve the case but with pressure coming from the top. There are a number of story lines in the book including the 2 young hoodies from west Belfast which I admit I enjoyed. Many aspects of the characters are very true to life. Another character that stands out is Joe Lynch. Ex-republican prisoner with unresolved issues.  Old school and not happy with new school. Has decency but with a violent streak when he needs it.  The baddie of the tale is ‘Spender’ who McGuire paints as a real character that you would love to smack if you met him in real life. Are property developers a bit like this?

I always try and guess out an ending when reading a book and sometimes it is obvious where a story will end. That did not happen here. I was surprised by the turn of events at the end. And I’m not giving away the twist.  What I want to comment on is the reflection that the book gives, or will give someone, someday, on the reality of today.

I have read hundreds of books on the troubles both past and present including fact and fiction.  This is interesting for the introduction of new elements into our society. The rise of the gangster, the role and plight of the political ex-prisoner,  workers from eastern Europe, the hooding culture along with punishments. (I thought Mc Guire could go a bit deeper into the brutality of such attacks.)

All events sit inside a context. For years Belfast was riding high on peace,  expansion,’ loadsa’ money and the good times.  Then came the crash of the recent years.  A sobering up of where we want to be and where we actually are. The book captures a small part of the financial backdrop to life and the developing N.Ireland.

There is a cameo appearance for loyalists from the Shankill. Still a violent threat, which the police use, to intimidate a young catholic man. A bit stereotypical and clichéd.

One of the storylines that I would like to see developed was Joe (the ex- prisoner) seeing a shrink. Was this a metaphor for the republican movement being psychoanalysed?  I would love to see the loyalist paramilitary family being assessed.  Can you imagine the questions. Was your father violent? Were you not loved as a child? Have you feelings of rejection?

Overall a good read and I would look out for his next book.

G.Igitur

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