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The Sun is Open

By Gail McConnell

Published by Penned in the Margins

In 1984 the author’s father was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army outside his home. The author, who was three years old at the time, was witness to her father’s brutal slaying.

The author kept a ‘Dad Box’: cuttings and fragments which she spills out onto the floor and reforms into a collage, or series of cut-ups, saturating the pages with flowing patterns of text disturbed by a dialogue of erasures. Extracts from her father’s diary are interlaced with the author’s thoughts, as if to resuscitate and sketch a semblance of her father from his notes. Throughout the book there is a sense of cyclicity; of ‘soft returns’, the revolution of sunlight into nightmares, recoiling into day.

Through her words a greater knowing of her father is slowly pieced together, and not in sequence, but intermittently, like patches of light gradually knitting together as the sun strengthens. However, at the core remains a murder, quietly rippling through each page and ringed by forensic exactitude.

In part the author does not shy away from a collision of perceptions: that of the author juxtaposed with that of those sympathetic to the killers. Semantics flower and wilt throughout as imagery can form into bullets, or wounded crowns, even the striking of hammers on a piano’s key could easily flow into that of a hammer striking a round.

The Sun is Open is a stunning petition for understanding; of a child, witness to her father’s violent death and her search some ‘sense’ of explanation and, maybe, a cessation of grief, and of guilt, through pathways of religion and the absences that fall between the shifting shapes of sunlight and the shade of memory and loss which lie just beyond the reach of the sun.

Available here

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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