Back Then

In writing a Coming of Age series, set in Belfast during The Troubles, I reflected a great deal on my own early teenage years to help create a plot with an array of emotional content, which raised some more questions in my mind regarding that war known as The Troubles. We were just kids when the racist-sectarian-Pogrom occurred that was the kick-starter to that war. A war that affected many of us in the things experienced, and the influences of nationalism, friends and comrades lost, other relationships, and in what was experienced if not witnessed.

That I saw different outlooks of myself in the reflections that swamped me, now realise thatvarious people would have had different ideas of me, and while certainly teenage life is complicated, back then it was even more so with the complications of a war.

That the R.U.C was a sectarian police force is without doubt, in fact they led the original Pogrom. however, I cannot say that all members let alone a large proportion of the British army, were racist, because that would be a lie, albeit quite a few of them did go out of their way to stop any catholic lad passing their way, just because they could.

I can remember the day whenmy firiends and I signed on the dole in corporation street, and while making our way there, we usually be stopped by a British army foot patrol in Divis Flats, where we lived. They’d go through the usual bullshit antics, and let us go, but those ‘P-Checks’ would have been heard across many other patrols, and some of them would be UDR patrols in the city centre, eager to stop the Fenian boys from signing on the dole. I’m talk ex-police reservists known as the ‘B-Specials, and very sectarian, and sometimes they nallered us, preventing us from reaching the dole to sign on, and thereby receiving no money that was for your mother to help run the home. It was a constant game of cat and mouse, and the effers enjoyed it.

Those type of things enhanced our dislike for them and saw any future interpersonal exchanges become full on at times, and we never shirked away from verbal confrontations with them because they didn’t frighten us one bit. That emotions did run high in some moments with those the UDR, unlike them, there British soldiers who were decent and honourable.

As teenagers we all make mistakes, yet in Belfast, and certainly west Belfast, things like state harassment not only formed anti-state mindsets, but created an intense dislike if not hate for British imperialism that was forever being forced down your throat by local apartheid politicians, their support, and their owned media. Things we could have done without, but then they’d been doing that since the partition of the island of Ireland, and were so used to it; didn’t want to let that power go, but isn’t that always the way with dictatorships.

In writing The Unpatriot Game, I saw my own years compile one atop another as experience after experience formed into something of a biographical substance revealing the truth of me. I saw how I helped light pathways for other people by serving their whims from the shadows, with me as nothing more than a silhouette in those shadows. I believe there is some substance in stating that we live parts of our lives as different versions of ourselves that relate to different people in our past.

Either way, if you’re reading this you’re a survivor and a witness to a time that contains many of your own memories, and your own – untold stories. It may be that the Unpatriot Game series can help you reflect on your own coming-of-age story, who knows, but any feedback from the reader would be greatly appreciated.

The Series has been described to me as ‘dark and edgy fiction that is as real as it gets, and that the people back home will become emotionally engrossed with.’

I don’t know about that, but it is a thriller that comes with the criminal content so often used in fictional thrillers; portrayed by republican gangsters.

Choices change our lives, irrespective of who made them; some make us or break us, and The Unpatriot Game deals with such matters, like fragility and the helplessness attached to it, seen with Maggie Doyle and Ciara Feeney.

This is a series that the Scottish author, Des Dillon, says, will challenge you to question the past, and oddly in writing the books, found myself challenged with the many questions it raised in me.

JS Larkin.

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