The Troubles in Northern Ireland were sooner or later bound to bring us fiction from the viewpoint of a British soldier involved m the ""peacekeeping"" (""occupying"" is how the militant Catholics see it) forces there. Charles Thoroughgood is a young English lieutenant, graduate of both Sandhurst and Oxford, newly posted to Belfast. His commanding officer is a stickling brick; the company doctor is a womanizer; the army's like the army anywhere. But days can be awfully tense: after a patrol that Thoroughgood is leading gets involved in an alleyway situation that needlessly turns into a confrontation, he is stashed away as a public relations officer to deal with civilian complaints and the press. And eventually he'll enter into a story-for-pay deal with one unscrupulous reporter: ""It was perhaps one of Charles' faults as a PRO that he had not fully grasped the way that news is made rather than happens."" Cynicism, then, is one of the ever-present shadows in this Belfast nightmare. The other one, of course, is the violence: the patrolling ""Pigs"" (armored personnel carriers); a Falls Road battle; bombing of cars and of battalion headquarters; deaths of friends and innocents; the killing of a young boy. But though this first novel is modestly compelling in its particulars--the authenticity of the terminology, the atmosphere, even the fatigue--it never develops as fully drawn fiction. And the ultimate effect is that of a long letter back home from a soldier: worthy for its on-the-spot, unusual vantage point, but lacking in dramatic force or shape.