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!)