I met the radiant Arlene Hunt (right) for a cwaffee during the week, to have a chat about this project here, during which Arlene came up with an idea for a terrific chapter. During the course of the chat, we talked about ‘Kennedy’ moments in Irish crime, such as the murder of investigative reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996, and the murder of Lord Mountbatten in 1979.
Another of those moments that had seismic consequences for Ireland, the Omagh bombing, gets the Ruth Dudley-Edwards treatment in AFTERMATH, due this April from Harvill Secker. To wit:
The Omagh bomb was the worst massacre in Northern Ireland’s modern history - yet from it came a most extraordinary tale of human resilience, as families of murdered people channelled their grief into action. As the bombers congratulated themselves on escaping justice, the families determined on a civil case against them and their organisation. No one had ever done this before: many are likely to do it in the future. It was a very domestic atrocity. In Omagh, on Saturday, 15 August, 1998, a 500lb bomb placed by the Real IRA, murdered twenty-nine shoppers - five men, fourteen women and nine children, of whom two were Spanish and one English: the dead included Protestants, Catholics and a Mormon. Although the police believed they knew the identities of the killers, there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. Taking as their motto ‘For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing’, families of ten of the dead decided to go after these men through the civil courts, where the burden of proof is lower. These were ordinary people who knew little of the world - they included a factory worker, a mechanic and a cleaner; they had no money, no lawyers, and there was no legal precedent for such an action. This is the story of how - with the help of a small group of London sympathisers that included a viscount and two ex-terrorists - these Omagh families surmounted all the obstacles to launch a civil case against RIRA and five named individuals, developed with reference to recent European legislation by one of the world’s leading human rights lawyers. Along the way the families became formidable campaigners who won the backing of Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush as well as of Bob Geldof and Bono. How these relatives turned themselves into the scourge of RIRA is not just an astonishing story in itself. It is also a universal story of David challenging Goliath, as well as an inspiration to ordinary people anywhere devastated by terrorism. RIRA today: ETA tomorrow: the Mafia, perhaps, the day after.If there’s any justice, it’ll be a smash best-seller.
Meanwhile, the boys from Norn Iron are coming on strong. Here’s Stuart Neville on ‘How I got Published’, while Sam Millar (right) has just declared himself open for business over at his shiny new interweb lair, MillarCrime. Drop on over and tell him a joke.
Elsewhere, a Gallic-shaped birdie tells me that Tana French is working away on her third novel, which currently rejoices in the working title FAITHFUL PLACE, and which will continue the trend of IN THE WOODS and THE LIKENESS in that it features a character from the latter novel as its main protagonist. “Frank Mackey, Cassie Maddox’s old boss from THE LIKENESS, is the narrator this time,” says Tana. “He’s spent his whole adult life thinking that his first love Rosie dumped him and ran off to England, and he hasn’t spoken to his family since that night. Then Rosie’s suitcase shows up, hidden in the wall of a house on their old road ...”
If we’re all very good, Tana will have it ready for us by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I’m not being at all good over at John McFetridge’s place, although I am becoming cooler by the day, and through no great effort of my own. Fetch’s metafiction Baltimore Bouchercon crime spree continues apace … while Peter Rozovsky, in a Tana French-like twist, has leaped from a minor character in McFetridge’s story to become the author of a parallel tale of murder and mayhem in ‘The Baltimore Drive-By’. I can’t keep up …
Finally, can it be true that J.D. Salinger (right) has turned 90?