Like any writer, I am keen for people to read my work, and everything that I undertake is always after deep thought, albeit sometimes those ponderings last months. Yet, knowing the writing journey I was to undertake would have many Tardisian moments, igniting many emotional triggers. I believed it would be worth it knowing the bad places I would have to revisit in that trip to the past.
The Unpatriot Game, whilst a fictional Series, is also a history of the times I grew up in, told through a unique Coming of Age Story, that places the main war in the background.
Book One, of the Unpatriot Game Series – Reason To Believe, is both tense and suspenseful, with the main part of the story set on the gritty side of west Belfast, in an impoverished area known for violence and political extremism, that involves gangsters disguised as Irish revolutionaries.
The story begins in 1998, with the murder of Tim Regan’s boyhood friend, and Tim, the main character, driving to Belfast for his funeral recalling the events of the early 1970s, and sees the story unravel as it shifts back and forward in time through him.
This is a unique, Coming of Age tapestry, and draws upon my own knowledge and experiences of republicanism, and the superstitions and folklore taught to me in my childhood, because a good Irish tragedy should not be without those ancient things. It’s a story of threads connected to a web of crime, violence, and murder, carried out by ruthless republicans, and the power afforded them by the Special branch means they can do whatever they want.
The first victim is a teenage girl at Divis flats, and when two boys stumble upon three IRA men in the same Divis flats, attempting to burn a body in the furnace; are so frightened by what they witness – run, leaving behind clues to who they are. Dan Shannon, aka the fatman, orders the Maginn brothers to find them, and in the cat and mouse chase that ensues the boys attempt to avoid the grim reality of certain death.
The Unpatriot Game Series, not only wrestles with the effects of the Troubles, but the violent trauma inflicted upon children, teenagers, families, and their community. This is a story exploring more than just the innocence of wishing upon a star, but the difficulties of growing up in a battlezone where mercenaries masquerade as republicans in a war within a war. Make no mistake about it, these books are anti-violence, and anti-republican, and that I have used violence to portray much of what occurred in those times through republicanism, is necessary to the story, and I make no apologies for those things.
While my experiences and knowledge of that past were drawn upon to write the series, albeit, they were not without reliving many traumatic events that I myself witnessed.
The following quote from a one-time literary agent, who read the first chapter, caught the tense atmosphere I believe of the series.
‘I read the first chapter of Secret Things and I really enjoyed the gritty, almost noir-fiction, feel of the opening text. I’m from Belfast myself, and I grew up during the Troubles, so I can fully appreciate the reasons behind Tim’s fear and his caution.’
The review below is by a Scottish author, andPlayrwright in depth;
‘Larkin’s first book in a series exploring what it was like being a teenager in trouble-torn nineteen-seventies Belfast, emotionally challenged me, and while it contains romance, that it is not a romanticised version of recent Irish history, makes the story powerful.
The hero is not one you expect, and Tim Regan struggles daily to keep his youth separate from the violence going on around him, and the fact that Larkin manages to take Tim on a seemingly ordinary journey through the highs and lows of an early seventies Teenage Rampage. Through the disco’s, the unrequited love, the fumbling sex, the banter, and the squabbles of youth, and pulls it off, shows some breath-taking skill.
We see the brutality and evil of republicans, their entanglement with Special Branch, and MI5, and the manipulation of ‘The Cause’ to their own-ends.
Ruthless men that the teenage protagonist finds himself up against while attempting to remain a teenager in a war taking place, IRA groups not only infiltrated by the special branch, but arguably run by them, and who turn on their own community using their power as a cover to take advantage of vulnerable people, by robbing, torturing, and murdering with impunity.
And The Cause? Well, that’s a distant concern for those that Tim Regan is up against, and any last vestiges of romance for the IRA will be challenged when you read this series.
Larkin also provides a soundtrack by naming each chapter after a song from that tight period. I’d forgotten just how good the early seventies music was, and a quick click on YouTube will draw you down deep into his world. The Song Titles for the Chapters, taking me right back to the 1970s, and everything about that time, the culture, (replicated in Coatbridge), except the horrors; and as for the young girl who has the sight, the superstition below the religion, the family yarns. I could have been in my grannies.
There are spiritual attributes that transcend all human evils and the best of this is love, and love as we know can always shoot a light through the darkness creating a certain kind of hope that keeps us going, and a miracle that the hope of youth and love, survive.
Tim’s love for Maggie Doyle, is the golden thread that holds these novels together, and makes this series of novels so different from many others set during Those Troubled Times. Here is a series of books that are far from glorified, and told with an honest, unflinching authenticity, that made me think, and challenged me.
This book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by a writer who has survived an ordeal, and gone on to become an excellent shanachie, which is the highest praise of all in Celtic culture.
Des Dillon. Scottish Author/Playwright.’
This is a series that will make anyone who grew up in the Troubles, particularly during the 1970s as a teenager, really think.
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