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The Captain And The Tempest

“Either we live in peace, or we have no life worth living,”

said the Captain

as he returned, wearied by a tempest of stinging verse.

I remember the tattered sky that morning,

faces littered with snows of sepia frowns,

smiles trodden into ruin.

Sun-polished, the horizon quickened light

across the red blade of its rim,

while soles stamped on the parched

necks of grass below a tremble of flags.

Stalking closer, men flung their glares at the Captain;

and did he see in that moment the crystalline floor

that our world would become? There,

reflected in the glistening dialect

of his forehead, as red songs detonated

into ash.

Laying down his head, the Captain

bled dreams where silver orbs of dew

bowed the stems of meadows untrod,

closed his mind to the closed minds

who turned their backs

and shrugged along spiteful paths

dissolving into tempests.

Captain Terrence O’Neill: Wikipedia

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

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