The Patriot Game
During the Second World War, fearful of a German occupation of the Republic of Ireland, Winston Churchill offered the Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera the realisation of his dream of reuniting Ireland by returning the six counties of Northern Ireland if the Republic joined the war on the side of the Allies. He was immediately rebuffed by de Valera who had no love of Churchill or of the British Army after his searing memories of the Easter Rising which heralded Ireland’s independence.
As the war in continental Europe continued to its bloody close in 1945, many senior Nazis plotted their escape. Although some estimates suggest that 10,000 eventually made their way to South America, others noted de Valera’s attitude to the Axis Powers and when it became known that he was the only head of state to present his condolences personally to the German representative in Ireland, Dr. Eduard Hempel on the death of Hitler, many senior members of the Nazi Party and other high ranking officers decided that Ireland held more prospect of safety as word travelled across Europe that de Valera would not close the door on those accused of war crimes.
At the highest levels of the Nazi Party, a plan was called for…not just to exfiltrate senior officers to the safety of the Irish Republic, but to provide them with the resources necessary to continue the survival and rebirth of the Third Reich in the uncertain years that lay ahead.
The Patriot Game is a fast moving historical fiction that brings these facts alive.
Sinéad O’Grady, a young and inexperienced Volunteer serving in the IRA during Ireland’s Emergency period throughout World War Two is tasked with finding an informer and with assisting a German diplomat in organising an arms drop in rural Kerry. But with a traitor in the ranks, British Intelligence and de Valera’s Gardai on her heels, falling in love has got to be a distraction. As an assassination campaign begins, mistrust deepens and Sinéad’s life and that of those she loves hang by a thread.
Ron Culley, an author whose books are read internationally, hails from Glasgow in the west of Scotland where he lives with his family.
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Wicked Thatcher…This John Pilger article demands to be read!
Dance on Thatcher’s grave, but remember there has been a coup in Britain
25 April 2013
In the wake of Thatcher’s departure, I remember her victims. Patrick Warby’s daughter, Marie, was one of them. Marie, aged five, suffered from a bowel deformity and needed a special diet. Without it, the pain was excruciating. Her father was a Durham miner and had used all his savings. It was winter 1985, the Great Strike was almost a year old and the family was destitute. Although her eligibility was not disputed, Marie was denied help by the Department of Social Security. Later, I obtained records of the case that showed Marie had been turned down because her father was “affected by a Trade dispute”.
The corruption and inhumanity under Thatcher knew no borders. When she came to power in 1979, Thatcher demanded a total ban on exports of milk to Vietnam. The American invasion had left a third of Vietnamese children malnourished. I witnessed many distressing sights, including infants going blind from a lack of vitamins. “I cannot tolerate this,” said an anguished doctor in a Saigon paediatric hospital, as we looked at a dying boy. Oxfam and Save the Children had made clear to the British government the gravity of the emergency. An embargo led by the US had forced up the local price of a kilo of milk up to ten times that of a kilo of meat. Many children could have been restored with milk. Thatcher’s ban held.
In neighbouring Cambodia, Thatcher left a trail of blood, secretly. In 1980, she demanded that the defunct Pol Pot regime - the killers of 1.7 million people - retain its “right” to represent their victims at the UN. Her policy was vengeance on Cambodia’s liberator, Vietnam. The British representative was instructed to vote with Pol Pot at the World Health Organisation, thereby preventing it from providing help to where it was needed more than anywhere on earth.
To conceal this outrage, the US, Britain and China, Pol Pot’s main backer, invented a “resistance coalition” dominated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces and supplied by the CIA at bases along the Thai border. There was a hitch. In the wake of the Irangate arms-for-hostages debacle, the US Congress had banned clandestine foreign adventures. “In one of those deals the two of them liked to make,” a senior Whitehall official told the Sunday Telegraph, “President Reagan put it to Thatcher that the SAS should take over the Cambodia show. She readily agreed.”
In 1983, Thatcher sent the SAS to train the “coalition” in its own distinctive brand of terrorism. Seven-man SAS teams arrived from Hong Kong, and British soldiers set about training “resistance fighters” in laying minefields in a country devastated by genocide and the world’s highest rate of death and injury as a result of landmines.
I reported this at the time, and more than 16,000 people wrote to Thatcher in protest. “I confirm,” she replied to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, “that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with the Khmer Rouge or those allied to them.” The lie was breathtaking. In 1991, the government of John Major admitted to parliament that the SAS had indeed trained the “coalition”. “We liked the British,” a Khmer Rouge fighter later told me. “They were very good at teaching us to set booby traps. Unsuspecting people, like children in paddy fields, were the main victims.”
When the journalists and producers of ITV’s landmark documentary, Death on the Rock, exposed how the SAS had run Thatcher’s other death squads in Ireland and Gibraltar, they were hounded by Rupert Murdoch’s “journalists”, then cowering behind the razor wire at Wapping. Although exonerated, Thames TV lost its ITV franchise.
In 1982, the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, was steaming outside the Falklands exclusion zone. The ship offered no threat, yet Thatcher gave orders for it to be sunk. Her victims were 323 sailors, including conscripted teenagers. The crime had a certain logic. Among Thatcher’s closest allies were mass murderers - Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, responsible for “many more than one million deaths” (Amnesty International). Although the British state had long armed the world’s leading tyrannies, it was Thatcher who brought a crusading zeal to the deals, talking up the finer points of fighter aircraft engines, hard-bargaining with bribe-demanding Saudi princes. I filmed her at an arms fair, stroking a gleaming missile. “I’ll have one of those!” she said.
In his arms-to-Iraq enquiry, Lord Richard Scott heard evidence that an entire tier of the Thatcher government, from senior civil servants to ministers, had lied and broken the law in selling weapons to Saddam Hussein. These were her “boys”. Thumb through old copies of the Baghdad Observer, and there are pictures of her boys, mostly cabinet ministers, on the front page sitting with Saddam on his famous white couch. There is Douglas Hurd and there is a grinning David Mellor, also of the Foreign Office, around the time his host was ordering the gassing of 5,000 Kurds. Following this atrocity, the Thatcher government doubled trade credits to Saddam.
Perhaps it is too easy to dance on her grave. Her funeral was a propaganda stunt, fit for a dictator: an absurd show of militarism, as if a coup had taken place. And it has. “Her real triumph”, said another of her boys, Geoffrey Howe, a Thatcher minister, “was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.”
In 1997, Thatcher was the first former prime minister to visit Tony Blair after he entered Downing Street. There is a photo of them, joined in rictus: the budding war criminal with his mentor. When Ed Milliband, in his unctuous “tribute”, caricatured Thatcher as a “brave” feminist hero whose achievements he personally “honoured”, you knew the old killer had not died at all.
An edited version of this article originally appeared in the New Statesman
Second Excerpt - ‘A Confusion Of Mandarins’…
A second excerpt from spy novel, ‘A Confusion of Mandarins’…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States of America”.
A grim looking Bill Clinton stepped up onto a portico and placed his hands on a lectern on which some notes had earlier been placed.
“Thank you, General Hess. Let me begin by thanking everyone who is a part of the Grand Forks Air Force Base for what you do for our national security and especially for what you have done to support the people of the Grand Forks communities in these last few days following the floods caused by the Red River. I’m very proud of you. Thank you.”
As he spoke, the crosshairs of the telescopic lens of a powerful Barrett M82 Sniper Rifle fell across his chest.
“As I think all of you know, I have just come from touring the devastation of the floods as well as a very moving community meeting, presided over by Mayor Owens, attended by Mayor Stauss and other mayors, the entire congressional delegation from North Dakota and from South Dakota, Senator Grams and Senator Wellstone from Minnesota, Congressman Collin Peterson from Minnesota, and the Governors from North Dakota and Minnesota….”
The crosshairs moved up slowly to rest on his forehead.
“We know that this rebuilding is going to be a long-term prospect, and we also know that there are some very immediate and pressing human needs that many people have. Before I left this morning…….”
“Baaaang!…..” a whispered voice mimicked the shooting of a rifle.
A commentator’s voice on the ageing television set was saying something about how more would be heard from the President after the break following which an advertisement appeared in which a talking head was smiling and reassuring viewers of the merits of a new hair colourant for males.
The crosshairs centred on the bridge of the hirsute actor’s nose…”Baaaang…you’re dead!” whispered a drunken Jack Bryson before he gently placed the rifle at his side taking care to protect the telescopic sights located above the trigger. He lifted a whisky glass to his lips.
“Baaaang,” he murmured to no one in particular as he swallowed the contents of the glass of Macallan 18 year old malt whisky. Impoverished he might have been, but compromising on his whisky wasn’t in prospect.
“Another round please. No pun intended,” he slurred to no one, pleased at his wit and smiling at his companion whisky glass.
Footsteps on the tenement stairs outside preceded a key being turned in the lock in Bryson’s front door admitting a drenched Angus Kyle who entered the rather shabby living room in which sat the armchair rifleman. He looked at the rifle beside the armchair.
“Jesus, Jack! I thought we agreed that you’d keep that hidden beneath the floorboards. I might have brought home a woman friend or someone!” Kyle removed his wet overcoat and threw it over a chair by the window.
“Aye, fat chance Gus,” smiled Bryson. “I was just playing soldiers. No harm done.”
“Gimme a drop of that whisky. My quiet pint in the Thistle Bar was interrupted,” said Kyle.
Bryson placed his glass on a nearby table on which stood his half empty bottle of Macallan and six dead bottles of beer. He looked up slowly.
“What happened? Were you being pestered by all your women friends?”
“Nah. I was being tapped for the money that that loan shark Hanlon figures he’s owed but the two eejits he sent beat up the wrong guy. An auld fellah. They nailed his fuckin’ balls to a chair. I sent them packin’ but I dare say that Hanlon won’t let it rest. I suppose I’ll need to see him face to face and invite him to stand back. He’s had his money back with interest.”
“They nailed his ba’s tae a what? Christ, is that what passes for gangsterism in Glasgow these days?” He paused to pour two glasses of whisky three fingers deep and handed one over to the now seated Kyle. “Anyway, who cares about Hanlon?” Bryson asked rhetorically. “Say the word and the two of us’ll wander over to his HQ and sort him out. His type would take us about four minutes of our sinful lives to deal with.”
“Ach, we’re due to leave Glasgow soon enough. He can keep.”
Kyle sipped at his glass and nodded at the rifle. “Can we not put that back under the floor? Just in case someone gets lost and wanders in looking for the cocktail bar.”
“Aye, sure,” said Bryson resignedly as he lifted the powerful, twenty-eight pound armament as if it were a small plastic toy and walked into the bedroom where floorboards had been removed to provide for a place of concealment. It would be found immediately by any professional search but would remain out of harm’s way should anyone be sufficiently unwise or unlucky to breach the front door of the flat Bryson and Kyle were using as a temporary home base.
“No phone call yet from the Colonel?”
Kyle shook his head. “Nothing yet but I wish he’d get in touch. We could be doing with the money and much as I enjoy little more than sitting here in this dump watching you drink both of us to death, I can’t wait to have Brand’s small commission explained to us. The one he gave us in Palestine was fun…although for the life of me, I can’t see what use he has for our talents here in Glasgow.”
“Drinkin’ ourselves to death has it’s attractions, said Bryson morosely. “I mean, who’d miss us except your daughter Rachael and you’ve already given her all of your hard earned money so she’s now well set up.”
“Aye. But better she benefited than your bookies did,” responded Kyle, repeating a rebuke he’d made on many occasions to his friend. “The day you pass, the bookmaking fraternity will line the streets in solemn sadness at your inability to share your ill-gotten gains with them any more.”
And so the evening passed, mostly in quiet contemplation. Initially the TV would present a moment which inspired an inebriated comment but gradually their eyes closed and tiredness brought on by a gross surfeit of alcohol saw each of them fall asleep in the chairs in which they’d sat for six days now whilst awaiting further contact from a man they knew only as Colonel Brand………..
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Opening excerpt, The Kaibab Resolution’ - a novel about gun control in America
THE KAIBAB RESOLUTION
Las Vegas had suggested itself as a gradual golden glow in the night sky when the plane was still some ten minutes flying time from McCarran Airport. Liam Brannigan shifted uncomfortably in his seat and folded the in-flight magazine he’d already read disinterestedly on the outward leg of what had proved to be a relatively productive visit to Washington. His lazy gaze fell on a shapely stewardess making final landing arrangements before being drawn back to the diamond bright cluster of light emanating upwards from the city in which he had lived for the past two years.
Doctor Liam Brannigan was an economist. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin then Glasgow University, Scotland where he completed his Ph.D, he found early employment in Washington as a very junior research assistant on Capitol Hill. There, his popularity with a couple of the harder working Senators resulted in a Green Card, promotion and introductions to a raft of individuals who made many of the decisions of consequence in the States. He also obtained some very quiet financial information that brought him assets such as apartments in Washington and Las Vegas and a bank account of four million dollars. And all this before he’d really got started.
Getting started involved moving to Las Vegas where he continued his friendship with the now ex-Democratic Senator Joseph Lattanzi as an Aide in order to advise on the development of the building of Lattanzi’s new hotel - then unnamed. Brannigan knew as much about hotel developments as Lattanzi knew about economics but was aware of his mentor’s perception of him as a can-do, streetwise guy whom he liked and trusted.
The DC 10 banked over Lake Mead, its nose lining up with the runway lights. Within the compartment, Brannigan could still see the beginnings of passenger activity as people began tidying up around them as a prelude to disembarking.
“Home at last,” said his neighbouring co passenger who’d attempted some earlier social exchanges but who’d given up and turned his fire on an aisle seat occupant who hadn’t mastered Brannigan’s ability to grimace a concluding response to unwelcome transactions “Yeah,” said Brannigan as the wheels hit the tarmac with a screech and the roaring engine noise ended any further prospect of conversation.
McCarran International Airport was as busy as ever. Only ever an occasional gambler and then pretty much only on horses or sports games, Brannigan was inured to the main attraction of Vegas but understood precisely why so many flocked to its tables and basked in its sunshine. After all, that was stuff he was meant to know about, even if Joe seldom involved him in these matters any more.
Having departed for Washington earlier that morning for a discrete meeting with a White House Aide, Brannigan had only hand luggage and moved as swiftly as the throngs would permit along the walkway to the rest rooms in the main terminal building. Entering, Brannigan headed for an unoccupied washhand basin and laid his briefcase between his feet. A doused cigarette butt floated in a pool of nicotine stained water into which the previous user appeared to have coughed up his phlegm-ridden lungs. Brannigan cursed under his breath and reached for his hand luggage.
Stepping over to an area more recently attended to by the washroom assistant, Brannigan rubbed the weariness from his eyes as a precursor to splashing some tepid water on his ace. Behind him he could see the reflection of two priests standing at adjacent urinals attempting both micturation and conversation. They dried their hands in the warm air blower before continuing their apparently affable discussion on their way to the door of the mensroom. Brannigan finished his ablutions and turned towards the exit just in time to see the Hispanic attendant’s eyes light upon a briefcase obviously left by one of the two departed clerics.
“Is priest’s,” said the elderly attendant, stooping and proffering it to Brannigan. “Yeah,” said Brannigan, none too pleased at his enforced involvement. “Hand it to Lost Property.” The cleaner shrugged his shoulders and continued to offer up the briefcase. “Is priest’s,” he repeated. “Brannigan groaned. “Okay, give it here,” and stuffed a couple of dollar bills into the breast pocket of the uniformed attendant with a look that shouted “thanks for nothing.”
He stepped outside and glimpsed a back view of the priests heading towards the front entrance. Attempting a half hearted wave at the back of their heads and realising his folly as he did so, Brannigan stepped briskly after them, apologising as his haste caused others to step aside, and arrived outside where the humid blast of hot desert air reminded him he’d returned to Vegas.
The priests had by this time joined a party of other dogcollered colleagues who stood around their suitcases, apparently awaiting transport. Figuring they had reached a destination which would detain them for a period, Brannigan slowed his pace and smiled despite himself at the notion of Vegas becoming a shrine for the holy. As a child growing up in Dublin he’d been thoroughly indoctrinated into the ways of the Catholic Church and was aware of the significance of places like Lourdes in France. But Vegas? God alone knows why a group of a dozen or so priests find it necessary to visit this city, he thought.
The queue for cabs was long enough but was diminishing rapidly as three skycaps choreographed the speedy arrival and departure of city residents, businessmen and tourists. The priests had found themselves a corner where customised arrangements had obviously been made to collect them and were chatting amiably when a cab pulled up some yards from the group. Acknowledging its arrival disinterestedly, Brannigan’s mouth began silently to shape the words “what the ….” as a man sitting in the rear of the vehicle pointed an automatic weapon from the window of the cab and unleashed its contents in a thunderous crash of noise and smoke, sending a hail of bullets into the waiting priests. After the initial burst, which left no man standing, the machine pistol erupted once more, pouring more rounds into the bloody, twisted mess of people who lay in an orgy of death on the sidewalk.
“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.” Brother Patrick Sheridan smiled his affection for his young congregation as the slightly discordant strains of the ailing church organ signified an end to another Sunday Mass. It was a beautiful, spring Dublin evening and the friendliness of those exiting from the tiny chapel on Exchange St on the banks of the Liffey combined to persuade Patrick that all was well with the world. His responsibility that evening had been to celebrate Mass for around thirty teenagers, many of whom had taken up studies at Trinity and most of whom he’d got to know quite well due, in no small measure, to the proximity of his church to the Temple Bar area of the city where inner area development had bestowed a grand collection of bars and drinking houses.
To be continued….If you enjoyed the opening pages, why not purchase the book at;
Excerpt : A Confusion of Mandarins. Spy Novel.
A Confusion of Mandarins
Sir Alistair Barrington’s prostate gland was busily trying to kill him although he was unaware of this. In consequence of his condition, regular visits to the private lavatory in his office irked him as they were always frustratingly brief but yet had the advantage of returning him expeditiously to his busy desk.
Sir Alistair had been a very senior civil servant; a Mandarin, as members of the fourth estate earlier referred to him. The office provided for the job with which he was now entrusted was located deep within marble-faceted premises on London’s Embankment. Faded but deep-piled carpets on the sixth floor gave his room a certain still silence, the only intrusion being the monotonous and languid ticking of an antique William Clement long-case striking clock which sounded the time on each hour.
Most of his time on that sunny London morning had been taken up by reading various communications. Three short phone calls and one visit to his office by Miss Hetherington, whose timid knock on his door reminded him that it was ten o’clock and time for a cup of tea, proved to be the only time he’d spoken since his arrival at his desk at six-thirty that morning. As she placed the Josiah Spode bone china teacup before him on his desk, the clock struck as it always did upon the arrival of his morning cup of tea.
“Thank you, Miss Hetherington,” said Barrington without raising his gaze from the file he was reading. “That will be all at present.” He began to note some neat, handwritten comments in the margins of the front sheet of a file and said, “Oh, before you leave. I received a phone call to say that Brigadier Garrick has asked to meet with me at eleven o’clock this morning.”
“Yes, Sir Alistair. He’s actually on his way over right now. I didn’t want to disrupt your schedule, but from his phone call, I suspect he’ll be here any minute.”
Sir Alistair looked up at his secretary, trying to understand why an important member of Her Majesty’s Intelligence Services would be so anxious to arrive early in the hope of seeing him before the appointed hour.
“Must be important. Please show him in when he arrives. Can you bring another cup?”
Sir Alistair Bartholomew Barrington had been a very senior civil servant within the United Kingdom’s security services and had had a long and distinguished career. Educated at Cambridge University where he read politics and economics, he was a young recruit to the service in the late nineteen-sixties and was recruited only after a most thorough sifting process as a consequence of a number of embarrassing setbacks within MI5 when a number of senior officers were found to be Soviet agents. Matters within the security services had deteriorated so much prior to Barrington’s employ that in June 1963, the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan tasked the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, with examining the operation of the security service.
Demonstrating a particular talent for his job in counter-espionage, Barrington found himself promoted frequently within the service but soon saw his primary area of expertise in Warsaw Pact countries overtaken by new challenges which emanated from Northern Ireland. Still he progressed and found himself sent to Israel, Baghdad and to Zagreb as the interests of the United Kingdom ebbed and flowed.
In the mid-nineteen nineties, the Privy Council of her majesty’s government decided to establish a new, secret organisation that would operate at some distance from senior political control and to one side of the civil service and armed forces in order that a measure of discretion and flexibility denied the formal services could serve the narrow interests of the country. Someone was needed to head it and the powers that be turned to Barrington as someone who had proved his mettle but who was also steeped in the traditions of British security. Barrington had been a field officer but what set him apart from many of his peers and what gained him his relentless promotions through the ranks was his capacity for listening, his understanding of the human condition and its frailties. His interrogation techniques; softly spoken, gentlemanly and cerebral had consistently produced remarkable results. As he approached what would have been an opportunity for early retirement from the service, he stepped down from his role in the security services with some small internal fanfare just sufficiently subtle to signal his departure and capture the quiet attention of the wider intelligence community. Then, after a six week holiday during which he cruised his beloved Caribbean, he was given a sinecure role in a faux international trade organisation as a cover for his new duties. He was also given a not insubstantial budget and asked to use operatives who were talented but who could not be connected to MI5 or MI6.
Barrington quite understood the significance of his new role given the new ethical freedom he would possess. He was about to become the ‘go-to’ person for awkward security problems within the UK that required solutions denied the formal forces of law and order. Over the years, he anonymously and successfully took care of a substantial amount of dirty washing for the security services from behind a plate on the door of his suite of offices which declared him as Worldwide Trade’s ‘Director of International Trade and Business Relations’. Only a handful of very senior people knew of the existence and remit of ‘The Unit’.
Miss Hetherington’s trademark timid tap on the door alerted Barrington to the arrival of his visitor. The door opened and his secretary entered accompanied by the besuited, ramrod-straight figure of Brigadier Charles Garrick. The two men shook hands warmly and sat in a couple of brown, distressed leather armchairs in an area of Barrington’s office that had been set aside for more informal meetings.
“You’ll join me in a cup of tea,” said Barrington.
“Thanks for seeing me. Tea would be lovely. No milk,” he replied, redirecting his comments to Miss Hetherington.
“Well now Brigadier, I haven’t seen you since you wanted some business taken care of in Tripoli. Must be three years ago now.”
“Yes, Sir Alistair. Thanks for that. It went very well.”
“So I gather. And now you have further problems?”
Miss Hetherington poured a cup of tea for the Brigadier who thanked her and waited until she’d left the room as silently as she’d arrived.
“As ever, Sir Alistair, this comes from the top; the very top. Our friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have leaned on the Director General of MI5 to have us speak with you privately. It has been made clear to me that our conversation must not be made known to anyone and that no notes of our chat may be taken. My request for a meeting was made verbally this morning to avoid leaving any audit trail that links our two selves.”
“Of course. I understand,” acknowledged Sir Alistair.
“Your ability to deal with matters informally has been determined as crucial in a matter of some sensitivity. The FCO needs deniability.”
“Exactly why we were set up,” said Barrington.
Garrick leaned forward in his seat, elbows on thighs and prepared to tell his story.
“I’m sure you have scores of operations underway at any one time but we have urgent need of a covert mission. Sources within Russia have indicated to us that they have one or more rogue agents. Our Russian desk has confirmed that the Ruskies are at sixes and sevens over Chechnya. As you know, they’ve just signed a pretty humiliating peace deal with the Chechens. They’ve just spent two years and God knows how much money providing overwhelming manpower, much better weapons and complete air superiority to deal with a small piece of geography within their own country but they’ve not been able to bring about effective control due to lots of damaging Chechen guerrilla raids. It’s been a real shock to their system and when the Chechen guerrillas took hostages in Budyonnovsk hospital in 1995, it sent one or two of the old stagers off the page.”
“So some have gone native?”
“Yes. And just as they’re furious about the direction of travel taken by President Yeltsin, they’re equally opposed to those they see as their traditional enemies…we in the west! Chechnya is a nation at the moment ruled by warlords. Kidnapping, hostage-taking, robberies and murder are committed routinely and the Russians are fast losing patience…but not fast enough for the fundamentalists within their ranks. We think the Russians are preparing for round two but at the moment there are a lot of angry, disconsolate Russian agents involved in that theatre.”
He sipped from his cup of tea and continued.
“Up to a point, Chechnya is none of our business. But our information is that there are those who want to carry the fight to our shores…to bring back the good old days. We understand that they’ve lost one or two agents who have disappeared into the ether and we believe them to be undercover, on the loose and targeting their motherland as well as its new European allies so as to encourage familiar enmities.”
“And why might you wish this matter dealt with below the radar?”
“These rogue agents are serious people…resourceful people. They’ve re-routed some of the considerable monies that were to be deployed within Chechnya and have purchasing ability that would permit very serious attacks on our interests. We don’t want diplomatic incidents. The Soviets would be embarrassed if Russians were linked to mainland atrocities here and we do not want to test their abilities to commit those atrocities on our shores or against our interests abroad. So, somewhat surprisingly, they’re very keen to work in partnership with HMG on this one.”
Sir Alistair pondered the information he’d just been given.
“So we face the prospect of trained but disaffected agents operating on our soil…”
Garrick interrupted. “Not necessarily, Sir Alistair. We understand they want to move against our interests. That might be overseas and might also involve an attack on our allies.”
“Quite,” responded Barrington, accepting the logic of Garrick’s analysis. “Then you don’t give me much to work on.”
Garrick reached into a briefcase he’d brought with him, removed a buff folder and handed it to Sir Alistair.
“This might help. The Russians have been more than helpful. They list among their concerns, agents they have in Iceland, Berlin, Algiers, Spain and Paris. They’re obviously keen to avoid any spill-over and have assured us of every cooperation. As you’d imagine, they’ve their own agents working on this but want us kept up to speed. They’ve provided us with the names of missing, presumed defecting Russian personnel along with some fellow-travelers who are listed along with such personal information we have to hand within but remember that with the money they’ve got they could easily hire mercenaries to supplement their effort.”
“Hmmm. They’re actually asking us to scrutinize some of their field agents and report to them on our success in eliminating them and you want this dealt with so we have deniability?”
“Yes. It would be embarrassing for both us and the Russians if they were fingered as having agents who could crow about striking against British interests. They’d have to be macho, we’d have to be indignant. There would have to be expulsions… counter-expulsions. It could set us back years. Not to mention the political, economic and human costs if there was some sort of major incident.”
“So if it ends up in court or in the press you’d want the ability to point the finger elsewhere?”
“Indeed so. But we’d also be relieved if they were neutralised without a lot of fuss and didn’t get anywhere near either the courts or the media.”
“Then we’ll work on that basis. As ever, this conversation didn’t take place. We’ll move on the matter directly.”
After Brigadier Garrick left, Barrington asked Miss Hetherington for another cup of tea. He always did his best thinking sipping a cup of tea. Dressed immaculately in his navy pin-stripe suit, crisp white shirt, club tie and highly polished black shoes, he stood, looking out onto the River Thames, cup in hand, mulling over the import of what Garrick had told him.
He decided a phone call was needed but first his bladder protested that evacuation was necessary. Barrington paid another visit to his private bathroom to relieve himself and, as ever, was depressed at the few milliliters he expressed. Scrupulous as ever, he washed his hands thoroughly and returned to his desk where, on his secure line, he placed a call to a man called Brand, ostensibly a flower-shop owner in Oxford but who was, in fact, a most effective comrade-in-arms. A man who had killed many times for his country.
Outside the Thistle Bar in Glasgow’s docklands, dogs barked distantly in the murk. A fine, still Scottish mist of rain soaked anyone walking the dark, forbidding streets.
Inside the bar, Andy McCutcheon slowly lifted his glass and contemplated its amber contents before raising it to his lips and emptying it. Placing the now empty glass on the bar-top with his right hand, his left ponderously deepened his jacket pocket and carefully removed the substantial amounts of small change he’d assembled over the evening. A boozer’s pocket. Clumsily placing the coins on the bar, he spread them flat in order to calculate his ability to buy one more drink. Satisfied, he slowly slid his empty whisky glass towards the elderly lady who stood behind the bar, shaking her head at his appetite…..
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Your Questions Answered As Promised
Q&A Session with Ron Culley, author of ‘I Belong To Glasgow’, ‘Glasgow Belongs To Me’, The Kaibab Resolution’ and ‘A Confusion Of Mandarins’.
Over two days in April 2012, Ron hosted a Q&A Twitter session where questions came via tweets and direct contacts but answers were posted in a blog. Here’s the results.
Who is your favourite author?
Alistair Maclean, James Patterson, Gordon Ferris and myself.
Why did you write about gun control in your first novel?
It’s a subject that’s always intrigued me. The original title of the book was ‘The New Guards’ which derives from the Constitution of the United States that provides for the right of the people ‘to bear arms’ in order that they might oust the ‘Guards’ (Congress) if they act against the constitution and ‘install New Guards’. It seems to me that the idea has become substantially corrupted when it allows people to buy weaponry that would not be out of place in a war zone. I wanted to write a novel that explored the issue.
My publisher wanted me to change the title so I did…. but I still prefer the original title.
Is it not unusual to write four books which constitute two novels, a joke book and an autobiography?
Perhaps, but these book ideas speak to me. I wrote them because they asked to be written, if that’s not too obscure. I don’t write to order, to follow trends or to comply with the requests of my publisher. I just follow my instincts and am not too troubled if they don’t each appeal to the same readership. I write basically, to enjoy myself and to entertain myself. If I found it beginning to resemble work I’d take up knitting or gardening.
I don’t have a question. I just wanted to say how much I love your novels.
I’m enormously indebted to many people who get in touch to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my work. It’s a real boost to a writer to get feedback and I’m grateful to you for taking the time to contact me.
I agree that description of you as ‘the rightful heir to Alastair Maclean’. Both of your novels remind me markedly of ‘old fashioned’ novelists.
I was enormously flattered by the comparison as I’ve always admired the writing of authors like Alistair Maclean, Ian Flemming, Graham Greene and John Le Carré.
Ron, Your books are pretty macho but in romantic parts, you write very sensitively, like a woman. I don’t mean that in a bad way but as a compliment.
Don’t know if my wife would agree that I have a very developed feminine side but I work hard at trying to write empathically about the relationship between men and women.
The part of ‘Mandarins’ that took place in Iceland was great. It felt like I could smell the geysers.
I spent a week based in Reykjavik researching those chapters. I found Iceland a fascinating, very beautiful (and very cold) place. It was winter and I discovered a new respect for those hardy souls who cope with that environment all year long.
OMG I did not realise you were an author. Just found your tweets hilarious. Also v Liberal.
I try to make my tweets interesting. I was taught that on Twitter you ‘earn’ your audience so I just blether on (sorry that’s a Scots word meaning ‘talk aimlessly’) about anything that takes my fancy then throw in something about my books.
When’s your new book being published?The one about Ireland on your web site.
I’m some 80,000 words into it and hope to finish it this summer. Published in the autumn?
Your collection of tales about living in Glasgow, Scotland was hilarious, just hilarious.
Pleased you liked it. It’s a collection of jokes and stories I’ve collected over the years and used when I’m called on to make an after dinner speech. I enjoy laughing and humour. In my ‘Who’s Who’ entry I list ‘irreverence and ‘convivial temulence’ as my hobbies. (you might need to check out ‘temulence’ in the dictionary.)
Second question, Ron. What’s your writing routine?
I write most days. I have an office at home which I use mostly for editing and honing the words I’ve written. I enjoy writing in pubs with a pint of Guinness in front of me. I have around a dozen different locations I use where I’m left alone to write. If I need to research anything I use the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It’s one of the largest research libraries in Europe and one of the most beautiful. Once a year I try to visit a location I’m writing about and use it both for research and to write.
I’m with you on gun control. Your book should be read by every redneck!
I replied earlier on why I wrote The Kaibab Resolution. To an outsider it just seems crazy to have anyone, far less the unbalanced, to have access to guns. Having such a high death rate seems a perverse price to pay for the right to own a weapon.
Why are you taking questions via twitter?
I was being asked loads of questions (many repeat questions) and answering them directly one on one. I figured that responding via a blog might permit me to refer people to these answers. Also, I noticed another author doing it so I thought I’d give it a try myself. Seems to have worked!
Also, how long does it take you to write a book?
My first book took ten years. I was gainfully employed at the time and wrote in the evenings and on holidays. Now I calculate that I’m turning out one book a year.
I’m hoping to write a novel soon myself. How do you plan your day when you write?
Thanks for enquiring. Have a look at an earlier answer. Think it deals with your question.
I’m a huge Man United fan. I was impressed that Sir Alex Ferguson wrote your foreword to your bio. You are both Glasgow boys.
Both from Glasgow but he’s Govan and I’m Pollok - a newer estate also in the nearby south-west of Glasgow. We both played for a football club called Harmony Row and both of us retain a connection with the club to this day. He offered to write my foreword when I asked him to clear some text I wrote concerning my dealings with him.
Just wanted to say your novel about gun control in my country is beyond marvellous. I really enjoyed it.
Your comments are much appreciated. See if you can’t persuade members of the NRA to read it. Armed America is a troubling reality.
One more Ron.
Do you prefer E-readers or physical books.
You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, Linda. We no longer have dial telephones, vinyl long-playing records or spark-plugs in motor cars and books will not be able to repel this new mode of reading. I can see both sides of the argument. I enjoy old-fashioned books but must admit that the ease of ordering, the ability to check a word definition, the fact that you can earmark a page without folding the corner over all suggest to me that books will reduce to perhaps 2-5% of future reading. Once schools buy in to this change, it’s all over for paper pages! I’ll still hold on to my wonderful library, however.
Ten Things You May Not Know About Me!
1. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United F.C since I despaired of the sectarian culture of my home town clubs, Rangers and Celtic in the nineteen-sixties.
2. That said, I ended up working for thirteen years inside Ibrox Stadium, home of Glasgow Rangers F.C. although my support for Manchester United remained undimmed.
3. If a gun was placed at my temple and I was forced to choose a city other than Glasgow in which to reside, I’d choose Dublin then San Francisco then Reykjavik.
4. I am a northern European and prefer my weather sunny but cool. I always find hot weather uncomfortable.
5. I have catholic tastes in music. Everything from the Beatles, the Eagles through country and western to traditional folk music, classical, back to slow Irish and Scottish airs, jigs and reels.
6. I started writing following an article I read emphasising the importance of first sentences in novels. I wrote ten and selected, “Las Vegas suggested itself as a gradual golden glow in the night sky when the plane was still ten minutes flying time from McCarran Airport” which, ten years later, became a novel called ‘The Kaibab Resolution’ about gun control in America.
7. I undertake a lot of after-dinner speaking engagements, mostly humorous routines about living in Glasgow, Scotland.
8. My preferred writing regime is to work for a few hours at a time in quiet pubs in and around Glasgow. I have about a dozen locations where I am left alone to write. A pint of Guinness often sits alongside the iPad on the table in front of me. Editing and research is done in my office at home or in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, one of Europe’s largest public - and certainly most beautiful - libraries.
9. I was selected as a Labour candidate for the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 but wasn’t elected.
10. I love my country, Scotland but no longer wear the kilt. When I did, I was always a traditionalist and spurned nether-garments…a ‘true Scotsman’.