The last thing the people of Northern Ireland need is for some fictional jockey to come riding over the hill with gung-ho recounts of past episodes that still touch deeply into the hearts and minds of individuals.
Since the launch of my full-length thriller barely two weeks ago I have been asked repeatedly about how I came up with the story, where did I draw inspiration from, and, crucially, how accurate are the events portrayed?
When you’ve lived in troubled times and you’re a writer, it’s probably inevitable those troubled times will feature heavily in your first novel. For me the journey started more than thirty years ago, at a time when fear stalked our streets and one atrocity seemed to pile up on another, even before the ink dried on our newspapers.
In my case, as a young reporter caught up in the conflict in the seventies and eighties, I had an urge to tell a story that went behind the headlines, a story of hard-hitting fiction that sailed uncomfortably close to the truth.
And so it was that Someone Has To Pay was born. It was more than two decades in the making and became subjected to endless rewrites and updates to keep pace with the frantic events unfolding around it. Fiction it might well be, but it had to be set against the stark realities and historical milestones that would lead eventually to peace in a troubled land.
It’s a story as cruel and uncompromising as the events which drove it. Those were the times we lived in. There was no shortage of factual material from which to draw inspiration; indeed there were almost too many real occurrences that could have been used to over-glamorise or over-sensationalise what lies between the covers of my book.
I witnessed some harrowing things, some too raw and graphic ever to recall. Evil walked the land, and it was often hard to keep a rein on emotions. As a reporter I tried to be dispassionate and impartial but rarely with much success. Determined to shine a light into the shadows I found myself questioning not only the events themselves but also the motives of those behind the planning and commissioning of such events.
In the best traditions of investigative journalism I would like to be able to say that I succeeded in getting at the truth. I didn’t come even close!
What I did discover, however, is that nothing is ever what it seems. All sides to the conflict were equally to blame for allowing events to escalate and for stubbornly resisting any attempts to stop them.
It shouldn’t have surprised me to learn that, but it did. I was determined to use what I knew to produce a hard-hitting story that would dispel the myths still existing about those days.
I knew I had to step warily. All conflicts have their victims, with hardly a family in Northern Ireland untouched by those troubles. The result is that too many are still living today with the pain and memories of the past.
The last thing they need is for some fictional jockey to come riding over the hill with gung-ho recounts of past episodes that still touch deeply into the hearts and minds of individuals.
I made a conscious decision to avoid these at all costs. My story simply didn’t need them. Instead I stuck with what I knew, and what I believed could have happened, as international pressure to end the conflict gathered an inexorable momentum.
I made sure too that the story was told from a balanced viewpoint, choosing no political or religious ascendancy for any side. That’s how it was, and that’s how it should be.
My bottom line for writing Someone Has To Pay was to produce an exciting and entertaining action thriller. Certainly I wanted its backcloth to be one that I knew and experienced, but it’s just that – a platform for telling what I believe is a cracking good yarn.
It will be for readers to judge whether or not I succeeded.
NOTE: Someone Has To Pay has now been released by Master Koda Select Publishing. It can be bought from the following links: