by Ambrose Clancy ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 30, 1980
Yes, another novel of Irish terrorists in action and on the run--but an unusually full-textured and deep-driving one that wisely emphasizes the role of those on, or just off, the sidelines: reluctant accomplices, innocent bystanders, regretfully ruthless hunters. The scene at first is Dublin, where two anti-British bands--the IRA Provos and the Trotskyite Irish Socialist Army--have finally ended a bloody grudge war and are about to form an alliance. . . when I.S.A. leader Joe Walsh is captured by Irish authorities (thanks to an informer who'll later commit suicide). So Joe must be sprung; and the convoy moving him from Dublin's Mountjoy jail is therefore attacked by an I.S.A. squad led by Walsh's top lieutenant Deirdre O'Sullivan plus two gun-running terrorists-at-large: Gudrun Bohm of Baader-Meinhoff and American Terry O'Connor, a disillusioned 1960s type now ""a radical without issues or country . . . ."" Walsh is liberated, many are killed (including an eight-year-old boy), and the fugitives must now stay on the run while trying to re-cement that alliance with the IRA. But with whom will they hide? With the effete son of a now-dead grand-dame patroness of the Rebellion (he's fed up with carrying on the family tradition). And also, above all, with U.S. journalist Martin Burke--an old buddy of Terry's--who is renting a house in Moher on the stark west coast. Moody, dour Burke has mixed feelings about this accomplicedom; but when an Irish chum of Burke's proves too unstable to be trusted, he's murdered--and Burke helps to bury him: ""They've blooded me. They've made me one of their own."" Then, when Irish Special Branch agent Costello (a literary type with a conscience) traces the hideout through Martin's estranged young-photographer wife (who's in Dublin), the action moves across the border to the North--where Martin learns that the planned rendezvous between IRA and I.S.A. leaders will in fact become a massacre of the Socialists. Will he risk his life to warn his buddy Terry and the others? Yes, he will--and the too-heavy foreshadowing of that decision is one of the problems with Clancy's first novel. Other problems: the sketchiness of Burke's motivations; the sprawling attempt to focus hard on too many characters (the young terrorists remain near-stereotypes); and some show-offy excesses (arbitrary shifts between present and past tense, free-associative blarney) that mar an otherwise rich, tough, more-than-serviceable style. Still, this is shrewd and serious Irish Troubles fiction indeed--with enough vibrant dialogue, vivid atmosphere (both town and country), and moral dilemmas to rise well above the run-of-the-IRA-mill.
Pub Date: July 30, 1980
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1980
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