THIS BOOK IS #1 IN THE BOYD 'stand alone' series, where each book has a separate stand alone tale involving the Cumbrian detective, Boyd, and his Special Crime Unit.
The timeless Fragile Peace...
A thriller of violent prejudices and divided loyalties. About the province where no-one talks, this story tells it like it is. This Ulster novel reaches to the very roots of sectarian life and death. Written by a member of the security forces, it penetrates behind the media-screen to reveal a human landscape that is unknown, yet startlingly believable. It is a world where sworn enemies may exchange confidences over a game of snooker; where a kneecapping operation turns into a deadly vendetta fuelled by sexual jealousy and where the fate of the United Kingdom could rest in the hands of one punch drunk bruiser with a dangerous addiction. Everything is here, from the glamour of hi-tech intelligence work to the despairing pub-talk of men locked in the past. Trace the origins of these relentless tit-for-tat killings, often starting in childhood and see how the lives of vastly different people may by mysteriously linked forever against the fatally beautiful backdrop of Northern Ireland
The Fragile Peace is an important book if you have any interest at all in the war between the Catholics, Protestants and the British Government in Northern Ireland. The setting of the story is from 1969 to 1995. As the reader, you are not given a tutorial of the war, you are dragged into the middle of it. You are the IRA man, the RUC patrol, the informer, the British Intelligence agent, the anti-terrorist detective and the victim. It is quite evident that the author, Paul Anthony, lived this story in his former life as a member of a Scotland Yard anti-terrorist team. It is a work of fiction, but the book is so vivid and realistic there can be no other explanation. The way the book is written males the reader fell like a part of the story. I highly recommend the book. I highly recommend the book. I read the original edition and I understand it has been rewritten for kindle because Paul Anthony has learned much about writing since he first wrote The Fragile Peace in 1996. The story is powerful. You will not be disappointed.
Mike McNeff, Author of the GOTU series
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling at its Best 21 Feb 2013
By Dan - Published on Amazon.com
"The Fragile Peace" is an excellent read. I remember the times recalled by the author very well and anyone reading the book will come to realise the traumas borne in the "troubles" which are still in living memory and therefore, not all that long ago. The characters are believable and are brought to life by some very descriptive writing. An excellent novel with a thrilling climax. Storytelling at its best.
"The Fragile Peace" by Paul Anthony (@paulanthonyspen) is an excellent read, and one I highly recommend. It tells a story of the "Troubles," the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland between those who wanted the six-county Province to be joined with the Republic to the south, and those who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Thousands died in this conflict, by bombings and bullets, and thousands more had their lives shattered by the violence. Religion was the key: the "Republicans" were Catholic; the "Loyalists" were Protestant. But if religion was the dividing line, both sides played by much the same rules: tit-for-tat violence, intimidation, murder. The Provisional Irish Republican Army, the "Provos," and other splinter groups of the PIRA and IRA faced off against the British Army, the police of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and Protestant paramilitary groups like the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). Before that tentative peace can be found, the Provos take their fight to England in an attempt to turn public opinion sour on the Province. Executions, gunfights and Bombs exploding in London mean the Provos now also have to worry about the Intelligence Service and Special Crime Units on the mainland. Don't worry if you don't know the background going in: "The Fragile Peace" isn't a history lesson or alphabet soup of group names. There is a very human face put on the "Troubles" in the form of Liam Connelly, a Provo soldier, and Detective Inspector Billy Boyd, two men who find themselves on opposite ends of the battle but connected by their love of someone else. Beginning in 1970, the early parts of the book, probably to the halfway point, set the stage for the exciting conclusion in 1995 after a tenuous ceasefire -- a temporary halt to the violence that factions on both sides distrust -- was put in place. I won't spoil the finale with too many details, but it is gripping and I stayed up into the early hours this very morning to finish it.
Those early glimpses of the development of Liam and Billy are seen in vignette, at critical crossroads on their way to finally meeting. Some may find this jumping around in time a bit confusing, but for me it felt just right; the key players are introduced and the missing pieces of information are provided in a very natural way. The motivations of players on both sides of the conflict are muddied; while the "soldiers" of Active Service Units believe they are serving a great cause many Provo leaders earn big money running drug and protection rackets. In a similar way, some RUC and British police fight based on strongly held beliefs of right and wrong while others let ambition and ego color their actions.
The authenticity and sure-handedness of the tale are no surprise given Mr. Anthony's resume: "Working as a detective, he served in the CID, the Regional Crime Squad in Manchester, the Special Branch, and other national agencies in the UK." (from his Amazon.com author page).
Scott Whitmore, Author of 'Carpathia'
If a good suspense/thriller is the type of read you like then you can’t go wrong with Paul Anthony’s “The Fragile Peace”. As I am Irish it was one of his many books that caught my eye. I like a gripping plot, large as life characters and a fast paced read. I got all of this with “The Fragile Peace.”
Good solid thriller - Insightful and balanced viewpoints, telling both sides of the story without prejudice to either party. The plot line was gripping and followed a game of cat and mouse, blackmailing and double crossing. The tension built up, keeping a fast pace as the book reached its climax and the stakes were of epic proportions. It was interesting to see how both sides thought and worked. References to real life events kept the feel of the story very realistic, the prior experiences of the author and his knowledge clearly apparent throughout.
And a review without words from a friend in Cape Verde...
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E X T R A C T
It is #1 in the Boyd Quadrilogy.
The story begins by introducing two children. One in Ireland and one in England. This is their life story.... And the opening pages of The Fragile Peace....
The dark grey Land Rover crept slowly through the Galliagh estate back towards Madams Bank Road, the River Foyle and the Strand Road police station. On the south side of the Foyle lived the Protestants and on the north side, lived the Catholics. The two seldom met. The sprawling city was divided as much by the river as by religion, politics, culture and the upbringing of its citizens. To the Protestants it was Londonderry and to the Catholics it was Derry.
Here, religion, beliefs and aspirations were determined by examining which side of the street you walked on. Occasionally, you could find a few streets in which the Catholics and the Protestants lived together. You could tell which was which. The Protestants painted their kerbstones red, white and blue, for the monarchy; the Catholics favoured the colours of the tricolour, green, white and orange. They rarely spoke to each other and sought comfort in their own respective communities: North and south, Catholic and Protestant. They were poles apart.
The occupants of the Land Rover wore the dark green uniform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They were both in their mid-twenties, married with young children, and Protestants. The driver was Gordon, named after his father, and his passenger was Brian. They were doing an ordinary job in an extraordinary city.
Swinging lazily into the Shantallow estate, the vehicle trundled slowly through the quiet streets of the Republican camp. It was dark, early evening and the air was damp. It was just starting to get a little breezy as the tide turned on the coast, bringing with it a fresh bout of weather.
Hidden, frightened faces behind partially drawn curtains moved back from the windows, lest they be seen by the policemen. Who wanted to solicit a wave or an acknowledgement from the police in this land? After all, it was a Protestant police force, wasn’t it? Run by the 'Brits' in London?
The Land Rover drew to a halt and Brian peered cautiously through the bullet-proof windscreen. The armoured bodywork of the vehicle creaked and sighed as its weight was thrown forward when the brakes were applied. The army personnel carrier following the Land Rover also stopped and a patrol swiftly clambered from the rear passenger compartment onto the nearby footpath.
Rifles and submachine guns were brandished at the faceless buildings and the hostile streets. Apprehensive eyes searched the rooftops and high rise windows looking for the unusual, the out-of-the-ordinary, the suspicious.
The troops were young men, drawn mainly from the Home Counties and the south of England. To the Irish they spoke with a strange English accent. To some, the army was a friend. To others, it was the enemy. In some quarters it was preferable not to take sides at all and have as little to do with the army as possible. They had been there since August, 1969. The troops were nervous.
‘What's going on? Why have we stopped?’ shouted the army sergeant moving his fingers to release the safety catch on his assault rifle as he raised it across his chest in readiness.
Sitting on the crown of the road in the middle of Shantallow were a group of children. Aged about twelve, they wore short trousers, long-sleeved grey pullovers and scuffed, worn-out shoes. They were children at play, positioned across the road, as pearls on a rope.
The Land Rover was prevented from continuing its journey.
One of the children sang a gentle haunting song, ‘God made the land and God made the sea. To be sure, I hope He shines down on me.’
Removing his cap, Gordon leaned out of the Land Rover and shouted, ‘Clear off! Get off the road, will yer?’
Mumbling something softly to his partner about Catholic kids, Gordon reached into the rear compartment for his weapon. He favoured a habit of never leaving the vehicle without his gun. As he was about to get out of the Land Rover he heard the faint sound of an old Irish melody drifting towards him again.
‘God made the land and God made the sea. To be sure, I hope He shines down on me.’
The young child singing bathed in light from a nearby street lamp and remained seated cross-legged on the road, apparently oblivious to the policeman. The other children slowly moved from the roadway to the footpath.
The Land Rover idled about forty yards from them, its headlights illuminating the scene.
The engine continued to tick over. Gordon gently pressed the accelerator with the gear stick in neutral whilst his hands rested firmly on the steering wheel.
From the window of a high rise building overlooking the street, a middle-aged man in a long black coat put down his binoculars and pressed the transmit button of his walkie-talkie radio. The man spoke quietly, ‘Now!’
It was all over in a matter of seconds.
On the wasteland, approximately fifty yards from the Land Rover, two young volunteers hoisted a home-made mortar tube out of a battered old blue suitcase and aimed it slightly above the roof of the Land Rover.
The taller of the two laid his walkie-talkie radio to one side and rested the mortar tube on his shoulder, whilst the other youth loaded it. He pulled the trigger.
There was a loud explosion and in less than a second a shell pierced the air and collided with the front offside of the Land Rover. The vehicle erupted into a ball of fire as the impact of the lethal home-made device lifted it off the ground and spun it round so that it turned at a right angle to its original axis.
The two young occupants of the Land Rover were heard screaming in the face of death when they were thrown about like peas in a drum.
A cloud of black smoke climbed the sky, billowing upwards in a horrible spiral.
The man in the long black coat stepped away from the window and pocketed his radio. As he walked quietly out of the room that had been seized only hours before for the ‘hit’ a motor bike rode off at high speed.
Simultaneously, a door opened nearby and an anxious mother gathered up her twelve-year-old son and took him indoors.
The voice of the twelve-year-old asked, ‘Did Ah do alright, Ma? Did Ah do what you wanted, Ma? Did ya like ma song, Ma?’
His mother listened for the sound of approaching footsteps and men running. She heard nothing. She held the child closely, saying, ‘Hush, Liam Connelly, will yer now? It's late. Now, go yerself ta bed before yer da' gets home.'
She guided the child up the stairs, whispering, ‘Off to sleep with you now. To be sure, your uncle Padraigh will be upon us tomorrow, so he will, and he’ll be wanting to hear about yer schooling. Off wid yer now while I make yer father’s dinner. Don't you go waking yer sister up at this time of night or yer father’ll have something to be saying.’
The smile of satisfaction on his mother’s face was enough for Liam. He knew he’d done well. If Ma was pleased, all would be well in the world.
A telephone rang in a remote cottage situated between Dundalk and Dublin in the Republic of Eire. The Irish voice answering it belonged to Seamus Kelty, ‘Yes?’
From the comfort of his home on the Creggan estate, in Londonderry, a man wearing a long black coat spoke, ‘You have a party of two booked in for the fishing on the river at the weekend now. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to be making it, that’s for sure. Could you be cancelling the two rods?’
Seamus Kelty smiled and eased himself back into his chair, savouring the moment of triumph. He replied, ‘Thank you.’
Kelty often received such calls; he replaced the telephone on the cradle end considered how well things had gone that night.
Damien Devenney also cut the connection. He slid his black overcoat from his shoulders, stoked the fire and sat back in the leather armchair, allowing himself the distinct pleasure of small glass of Jameson Irish whiskey before turning in for the night. Damien only drank Jameson when a good job had been successfully completed or when he toasted the dead. It was a smooth drink. His throat tingled, ever so slightly, as it flowed down his gullet. It was the only slight discomfort he endured that night. He relished the drink.
Liam climbed the stairs to his bed, passing the tricolour and the framed print of the 1914 Proclamation that declared the Easter Uprising and took pride of place in the family hallway. He crept passed his sister Shelagh's room, noting she was sound asleep.
Mother Connelly turned to the lounge curtains and drew them even tighter across the front window, not wanting to look towards the burning Land Rover.
A good job done for the cause tonight, she thought. Our Liam! Only twelve, but he will do alright one day.
Settling down for the night, she pulled the bolt across the front door. Her husband, Declan, would be a while before coming home from his work at the Fruit of the Loom factory.
The door closed on the carnage outside in the street as the air gradually filled with the sound of screaming men, hastily given orders and distant sirens rushing to the scene through the Brandywell and Pennyburn.
Within the hour a crowd of teenagers gathered, inspired by older, unseen men. They threw stones at the police; the fire brigade and the ambulance service, as they tended to the burning Land Rover and the latest casualties to be written in the history of ‘The Troubles’.
Baton rounds were fired to disperse the crowd.
Another young woman had been widowed at an early age. Another young boy would grow up in a harsh land with only a crumpled photograph and a hazy memory of a father he never really knew.
In the coming weeks the Royal Ulster Constabulary ceremonially buried one dead colleague, the policeman Gordon, and medically discharged another due to the extensive injuries sustained in the attack.
Another name was added to the Book of Remembrance displayed in the foyer of the RUC police headquarters at Knock, in Belfast.
After a time, a burnt-out stolen Honda motor cycle was found dumped in a field near the road to Letterkenny, over the border. The army carried out a series of early morning raids, searching for arms, explosives and the latest homemade mortar device. Big black army issue boots kicked in soft wooden doors, causing more work for local council repair men. The prime suspects were rounded up, held in the police cells and interrogated at great length. The police followed up with extensive enquiries in the area and learnt nothing of importance.
Nobody saw anything. Nobody knew anything. No one wanted to help anyway. It was a land of frightened people.
The RUC put their trusty informants - ‘touts’ - to work and in due course were close to discovering who pulled the trigger. But by then it was far too late, since the evidence was long gone and the young offenders more than likely elsewhere.
It was only a short drive to the border and the sanctuary of the Republic until the heat and furore died down and things returned to normal.
Until the next time.
The jewel in the Irish Sea called Ireland had been mercilessly desecrated yet again by another mindless murder, another act of inhuman insanity, and another act of alleged political self-determination.
This is Shantallow, Londonderry, November, 1970: The birthplace of ‘The Troubles’, the home of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
It was one of those nights when the damp autumn air carried your breath in a misty cloud that disappeared into the atmosphere as soon as you’d said your piece. The sky was black save for a few stars that were fighting to get through the darkened clouds that you knew were there, although you couldn’t quite see them.
The adults dug their hands deeper into their pockets and shuffled their feet to keep the cold out. Neck scarves were pulled in closer in a fervent battle to keep warm. Mothers inspected their offspring’s Wellington boots, wondering how to prevent the children from running into the house and depositing mud all over the carpets.
The ladies stepped gingerly over the small pools of water that lay here and there in the local farmer’s field whilst men folk walked with an air of resigned authority, carrying their tea flasks and sandwiches underneath their arms. The damp and the mud both had to be endured in the name of family life. It was a family night: The night when magic is made by striking a match and introducing it to the blue touch paper.
They approached the bonfire excitedly looking eagerly into the sky to see yet another rocket, from a rival bonfire far away, explode harmlessly into the heavens.
Clutching the box of fireworks tightly to his side, Billy knew Dad would let them off as soon as the farmer, Mr Lindsay, got the bonfire going and Mum would pretend to be frightened by the noise and the sparks as usual. In the distance, hidden in the dark and mysterious shadow of the fellside, the church clock tower struck seven and farmer Lindsay, with proud ceremony, stepped forward.
‘Stand back everybody. Here we go!’
Tilting his flat cap onto the side of his head, Lindsay took a match from his waistcoat pocket and walked towards the bonfire. He took a long taper and lit the huge bonfire that dominated the centre of the field.
Slowly the flames climbed towards the top of the bonfire where Guy Fawkes sat resplendent in cast-off jacket and trousers stuffed with old straw. Lindsay walked round the bonfire, inserting the taper at carefully selected points to make sure that the fire took a firm hold.
This was his field and he had lit the bonfire every year since the end of the Second World War. As a village elder it was a big responsibility to make sure the bonfire was a success. Farmer Lindsay set his cap yet again and motioned with his arms to the assembled villagers that they best hadn’t come too close just yet. It was his moment.
The evening rolled on. The night birds sought sanctuary in far-off trees as the cold breeze whispered the embers through the air and the smoke swirled round and round as it spiralled upwards to the stars. Gasps and cries of delight echoed across the field as the rich smell of fireworks began to fill people’s nostrils and more and more pyrotechnical wizardry launched into the autumn heavens. The bonfire crackled and roared as it reached a climax. Flames reached out to devour old wood and dead leaves that Lindsay and the village elders were piling on.
Playing with a sparkler, Billy made circles in the air like the conductor of an orchestra. A crackerjack detonated, by kind permission of Lindsay, who was ever-present, organising and jollying the assembly.
Billy jumped as the crackerjack danced a dance of fire. The firework box lay at his feet.
Father leaned forward and collected the box saying, ‘Come on, Billy Boyd, our turn now.’
Mrs Boyd smiled quietly as she pondered on how quickly Billy had grown and watched him walk beside his father to the area of the field where the men folk were letting off the fireworks.
The field was swelling now with most of the villagers gathered at the annual pilgrimage. A large trestle table had been erected by Lindsay and a variety of Roman candles and coloured cascades were displayed to the gathering.
A fiery Catherine wheel spun endlessly round from a pole embedded in the soft earth. The sparks lit up the arena as the fire warmed the congregation. A rocket aimed for the moon, only to explode in a fountain of coloured sparks that showered the scene as it plummeted into a neighbouring field.
Mrs Boyd directed Billy to the sky, not wanting him to miss the unfolding spectacle.
A police minivan trundled slowly along the lane which bordered one side of the field. Its driver carefully motioned the steering wheel from left to right as he negotiated the potholes in the rough track.
Billy could see the van approaching and made out the shape of the blue light mounted on the roof of the minivan. He knew one day he too would be a policeman.
The driver parked at the gateway to the field and got out of the van. He waved in acknowledgement at Lindsay and walked towards the bonfire with a big smile on his face. ‘You’ve a good turnout again, Lindsay. It’s to be hoped them beasts of yours are all safely in the barn?’ he said, easing himself out of his overcoat.
Lindsay replied, ‘That they are, Johnny me lad. How goes it with you this night? Making yer rounds on bonfire night is no place for an old codger like you. Will the police not give you a night off?’
The village bobby laughed, removed a box of fireworks from inside his tunic pocket, and handed them to Lindsay. ‘You’ll be needing these soon when you run out, Lindsay. Best make sure the kids have a good time tonight.’
‘Thank you kindly, Johnny me lad. There’s tea over there if you’ve time to keep the cold out.’
Lindsay motioned towards a small card table on which a collection of tea flasks and coffee cups were receiving the avid attention of the villagers.
Nodding to Lindsay, the policeman joined the throng. He placed his helmet on the table, helped himself to a mug of tea, and was immediately buttonholed by the vicar who decided it was a good moment to discuss the recent outbreak of petty vandalism at the church hall.
On the other side of the bonfire, Billy set up his fireworks on the trestle. ‘We’ve been doing about Guy Fawkes at school this week. Dad!’
‘Oh! And what do you remember about Guy Fawkes?’ enquired his father, as Billy’s mother bent forward to listen to the answer.
Billy thought for a while before responding with, ‘Well, he planted a big bomb under the Houses of Parliament hundreds of years ago but the coppers caught him. We have bonfires now every November the fifth to celebrate.’ Billy lined up his Roman candles, like soldiers waiting to go forward to do their duty.
His father laughed, ‘Well, that’s not quite the whole story, but it’s near enough for this time of night, I expect.’ Raising his head to the skies, he saw smoke hanging in the air since the breeze had dropped. It reminded him of his younger days when he had been a sergeant in the Second World War in France. He recalled how the RAF bombed the way ahead for his infantry platoon when they marched on Germany. Now he wore the regimental badge on the breast pocket of his blazer to remind him of those who died.
He sought out his wife’s eyes. Ann Boyd was a nurse who had fallen in love with the dashing young sergeant. She had no regrets about the marriage and neither had he.
William Boyd looked into his child’s eyes and wondered what future his son would have.
A rocket dropped towards the River Eden.
In the distance Saddleback could be seen rising above the land. The Eden sprang to earth just above Kirkby Stephen and meandered lazily through the county before it dissected Carlisle and spilled into the Solway Firth. Across the Solway and beyond the Isle of Man lay Ireland, not more than a couple of hour’s journey from the Cumbrian coast.
The table was engulfed by fire.
The Roman candle sitting right in front of Billy ignited without warning as a rogue rocket from a distant bonfire plunged downwards, landing on Lindsay’s trestle and causing instantaneous havoc. It landed in Billy’s box and was still warm enough to ignite the contents.
A cacophony of sound and a flash of light followed as fireworks exploded at will. Sparks flew across the table and people shielded their faces with hasty arms. Those nearest turned and ran away from the developing scene.
Lindsay, and the policeman, together tried to push the trestle over onto the soft earth in an attempt to defuse the situation. A rocket launched itself from the table on a horizontal flight path, miraculously cutting through the crowds without claiming a victim.
The vicar dropped his cup of tea in the excitement and took control. ‘Calm now! Calm!’ he cried, raising his arms as if to prevent the turn of events.
Billy screamed, holding his hands to his face where the firework singed his eyebrows.
‘Water. Quickly!’ shouted his father.
Mr Boyd’s arms enveloped his son, lifting him up cautiously as Mrs Boyd and the vicar rushed in, carefully dabbing his eyebrows.
The vicar became over-excited and dropped the water container.
Mrs Boyd held her son closely and cuddled him into her bosom. She comforted him as she inspected his angelic face to make sure there was no permanent damage. ‘No harm done, Billy, just an accident, not to worry. You’ll be alright. It’s just singed your eyebrows. They’ll grow back,’ said his mother tenderly.
Within minutes, normality returned. The fuss and the excitement that epitomised Guy Fawkes Night subsided. It was over for another year.
It was November the fifth, 1970, and young Billy Boyd, aged twelve, had experienced his first contact with an explosive substance.
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