McNamee is clearly a huge DeLillo fan, and this is his Libra An outstanding and cliche free treatment of the Nairac enigma, for which McNamee deserves much wider credit and recognition he is one of this island s current greats. Taking His Cue From The True Life Story Of Special Forces Operative Captain Robert Nairac, Eoin McNamee Has In The Ultras Weaved A Compelling Fictional Narrative Through The Backwaters Of History Set In The Ireland Of The S, It Brings To Life The Dangerous Shadowy Margins Of Society In Which Nairac Immersed Himself Before His Disappearance The Dangerous World Of Heretic Plotters, Outcasts, Para Militarists And Intelligence Agencies Alike This was a very complicated little book in that it was a mixture of fact and fiction A reviewer on ARRSE says, it has been suggested that it was published as a novel for libel reasons it might contain unverifiable fact than we realise The author has obviously done a lot of research and has surely spoken to people who knew Nairac I have to take his word for it, given that he probably knows from whence he speaks.My knowledge of the Nairac murder comes principally from John Parker s Death of a Hero , which is referenced several times in this novel, and snippets from other books such as Brits by Peter Taylor and Bandit Country by Toby Harnden I m not an expert on the conflict, so trying to parse out the truth and between the lines nuances in this story are difficult, if not impossible for me Having said that, it s hard to review this novel without being tempted to say, this was true, this was probably true, this couldn t have been true which I am relatively successful in doing , or reflecting on the biases of the author in which I will fail doing I m going to try and give my thoughts on this story as it notionally is a fictional novel about espionage and war.The story takes place on two concurrent tracks, the present and during the early 1970 s when The Troubles were experiencing an intense spike in violence The character who seems to move the story along is a disgraced rogue policeman, who in the present is trying to give his life some meaning by collecting every scrap of information on Robert Nairac, a British Army intelligence officer who was brutally murdered, and whose body was never recovered In the novel, rumors and questions envelop Nairac s character who was he really Who was he working for What exactly was he doing out there in South Armagh The author doesn t stray far from what is publicly known about Nairac Those aspects of Nairac are for the most part kept vague But let s go back to Nairac as a fictional character.He is the stereotype of an affluent British officer Athletic Not terribly bright Brave Outdoorsy A theatric dilettante Obsessed Possibly a repressed homosexual The author seems to posit that the latter aspect drives his character on a self destructive path to take brazen risks in the field But the fictional Nairac is not at the center of the intelligence game Enter Clyde Knox, a MI6 officer directing a complex psychological warfare operation of which all the main characters are simply pawns Nairac just happens to be useful for Knox As is RUC sergeant Blair Agnew, whose purpose in Knox s game is frankly, pretty unclear The PSYOP aspect is something that I think shows the authors biases Knox s PSYOP is complex and bizarre, with the intent of heightening the fear and anxiety of everyone in Northern Ireland including the Provos, the Catholics, the Protestants, and even the British Army Honestly, other than smoothing the way for Army, RUC, UDR and Loyalist paramilitary cooperation in targeting PIRA, what purpose would the actions designed to heighten anxiety among the public serve To drive popular support away from PIRA I think the opaque and mysterious world of PSYOP is a device Eoin McNamee uses to explain away the irrational horrors that occurred during The Troubles I mean, y know, surely someone in British intelligence had to be pulling the strings Nothing can be an accident, right In the end, I enjoyed the book as a piece of fiction Definitely something interesting for minds knowledgeable than mine to place in the canon of Troubles literature To those unacquainted with the real story, it might seem like a rambling Delillo esque mess And God do I hate anyone other than Delillo, writing like Delillo But because of how I m acquainted with the story, I found it compelling A dark little murder mystery spy game set in a horrific milieu. I seem to remember this being a slightly fictionalised version of Bandit Country by Toby Harden This is a fascinating version of an especially nasty moment in the British Government s dirty war It gets an extra star for the in joke about someone called Joyce McKinney running a brothel the real JM was into kidnapping her favourite mormon , but it doesn t get top marks because McNamee has a habit of reflecting in a pseudo poetic way on every event Hence the novel keeps getting slowed down by stuff like They were hungry men The type of men who were so hungry that even their eyes spoke of a desperate lack of food Desperate men Lonely men Men who would fashion a nourishing broth of seagull heads on a desolate shore but who would never live to eat it Men who slept with pillows beneath their heads and cold, dirty sheets round their hungry bodies and barbed wire lies around their withered hearts He does tend to overdo this a bit a little goes a long way , but it s still a fine novel. A good book dealing with very recent Irish history The behavior of the British intelligence services, as personified by Robert Nairac is explored, revealing a modus operandum that would pleasure Hannibal Lector Of course Nairac ended up in an IRA sausage mincer on active service, thereby posing the question would the real Hannible Lector of the Irish troubles please stand up Politics aside, a gripping and exciting read Elements of psycho horror a bonus.
McNamee was awarded a Macaulay Fellowship for Irish Literature in 1990, after his 1989 novella The Last of Deeds Raven Arts Press, Dublin , was shortlisted for the 1989 Irish Times Aer Lingus Award for Irish Literature The author currently lives in Ireland with his wife and two children, Owen and Kathleen.He also writes as
- 272 pages
- The Ultras
- Eoin McNamee
- 01 December 2017 Eoin McNamee