The Book Series Explained

The Unpatriot Game story is revealed through the main character, Tim Regan, as he drives to his hometown, Belfast, for the funeral of his boyhood friend, shifting back and forth in time, and while it begins in 1998, the first four books are mainly set in the years 1971, 72, and 73.

The series not only wrestles with the effects of violent trauma upon children, and teenagers, but focuses on friendships, relationships, loneliness, and the complexities of family life during those Troubles, exploring more than just the innocence of wishing upon a star, and kids making plans for the future, but also teenage love, and their difficulties whilst growing up.

Set in an impoverished, gritty side of west Belfast, known for violence and political extremism, it involves gangsters disguised as Irish revolutionaries. The series mainly centres around The Crew, four teenagers, who having become involved with paramilitaries, discover that both IRA groups have links to the Special Branch and other agencies. People at the very top, and when they begin to question things; draw danger to themselves and their families.

In between, we have two ten-year-old boys who stumble upon three Provisional IRA men attempting to burn a body in a furnace of Divis Flats, and frightened by what they see, run, leaving behind clues to who they are. Dan Shannon, aka the fatman, orders his people to find and kill them, and in the game of Cat and Mouse that ensues, the boys attempt to avoid capture and death.

Some readers may find the part of the series containing the story of the boys, upsetting, but the series, whilst Fiction, had to highlight the violent ways of republicanism that existed as far back as the 1970s, and I feel the ‘boys story’ fulfills this.

I would describe the series as a Historical, Criminal, Coming-Of-Age-Thriller, that contains psychological suspense, and hints of Irish folklore, and superstition throughout.

While my experiences and knowledge of that past were drawn upon to write the series. The superstitious influences derive from my Mother’s childhood tales, and my previous delving into our myths, legends, and folklore, and results in the emergence of The Seeress in the concluding book of the Unpatriot Game, culminating in a final showdown between good and evil. There will also be a conclusion to the love story.

While the series is intended to show the horrors of violence on a community and the trauma inflicted upon families, teens, and children. I have unfortunately, had to use violence to portray that.

The following is part of a quote from someone who was once a literary agent, and who read a small part of the first Book;

‘I enjoyed the gritty, almost noir-fiction, feel of Silhouettes, I’m from Belfast myself, and grew up there during the Troubles, so I can fully appreciate the reasons behind the lead character, Tim Regan’s fear, and his caution.’

And this is from Scottish Author, and Playwright, Des Dillon, who read the first Two Books of the series.

‘Larkin’s first books 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.

Now maybe those insights won’t seem like much to a lot of people, but both those people took the time to read what they did, before reaching any judgement, and while the ex-agent is from a Catholic background in Belfast, and Des, from a Scottish Catholic background, I am open to anyone wanting to do a review on the books, and would particularly welcome Northern protestants, ex-loyalists, and ex-British soldiers who served in the North, particularly Belfast. If there are any ex-police members who served during the troubles in west Belfast, interested in the series, please feel free to contact me. Leaving me to ask those republicans who have become disallusioned with mainstream republicanism, and still lean towards adherence to the proclamation, if they care to read the first four books of the series, towards a review.

I can be contacted at

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