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Terrorism

SMOKE CHASE . . . Between the covers

Jack Callan’s debut novel Smoke Chase introduces John Chase, a six foot, sixteen stone army veteran of colonial wars, now working with the embryonic Special Branch, a police department set up to combat the violent threat of Fenian revolutionaries in late 19th century London. It is the winter of 1885 and, as always, Chase is operating very much undercover, dressed as a working man.

smoke001After a long night shift, Chase is having his breakfast in a cafe when he is alerted to a bomb going off in the vicinity of nearby Tobacco Dock. When he arrives on the scene he finds a dead man – or, at least, what remains of him – but in what is clearly a set-up he is pounced on by a number of police officers, and hustled off in manacles to 26 Old Jewry, the HQ of The City of London Police.

Despite providing his warrant card, Chase – and a union official called Burns are taken to a rotting prison hulk moored in the Thames. Chase soon worked out that he and Burns are being targeted because they have come too close to a huge web of corruption involving a gang of bent import-export fraudsters aided and abetted by senior police officers.

Chase overpowers his guards and escapes to the shore where he begins to plot the downfall of Mordecai and Elisha Smithson, the gangsters who are in charge of the smuggling ring. We have pretty much everything served up from this point on including, in no particular order, rape, torture, Russian thugs, suicide, enough stabbings and shootings to fill a morgue, families being kidnapped and depraved assassins. Participants fall like flies, even unto the last paragraph of the last page

John Chase is rather like a modern-day Bulldog Drummond, and the novel, despite the gore, harks back to a more innocent time when characters like Dick Barton overcame even the most beastly assailant – “with one bound he was free!”

Jack Callan has certainly done his homework, however. The topographical background – London’s dockland when it was it was a rough and tumble working environment, the Lea Valley and the sordid nooks and crannies of East London – is enthusiastically painted,and we even have fleeting acquaintance with the music hall singer Bessie Bellwood and the women’s rights campaigners Annie Besant and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

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To borrow a cliché beloved of football commentators, Jack Callan leaves nothing in the changing room. Smoke Chase has enough blood and thunder to satisfy the most demanding addict. Callan’s debut novel is published by Matador and is out now.

For more novels set in Victorian England,
just click on the image of Her Majesty.

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ONE WAY OUT . . . Between the covers

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If fictional coppers need to be idiosyncratic to attract readers, then DI “Harry” Hardeep Singh Virdee ticks all the required boxes and also a good few new ones of his own devising. The Bradford policeman is a Sikh, but has enraged his father and his wider community by doing the unthinkable in marrying a Muslim woman. His brother Ronnie also happens to be a ruthless career criminal.

OWO coverThe latest novel from AA Dhand is a gripping thriller which goes well beyond the constraints of the conventional police procedural. One Way Out begins with a huge bomb going off in the centre of Bradford. Although there has been sufficient warning to minimise civilian casualties, the perpetrators – an extreme right wing group known as The Patriots – have a further trick up their sleeve. It is a Friday, and with all 105 mosques in the Yorkshire city being full of worshippers, the terrorists announce that they have planted a bomb in one of the mosques, and it will be detonated unless the police track down and hand over the members of a notorious Islamic militant group called Almukhtaroon. The Patriots have pre-empted the obvious evacuation of the mosques by stating that if one single worshipper attempts to leave, the bomb will be detonated.

Virdee’s wife Saima is trapped inside the Mehraj mosque where the massive bomb is eventually located, but that is just one of his problems. He is sought out by the Home Secretary Tariq Islam, with whom he has, shall we say, history, and given the task of rounding up  the four leading members of Almukhtaroon while the government maintains the façade of refusing to negotiate with terror groups.

What we then have is an entertaining and thoroughly readable mix of all the best thriller tropes – race against time, threatened love one, maverick cop, violence-a-plenty, double-dealing politicians and embittered fanatics – Dhand relishes every minute of it, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Screen Shot 2019-06-19 at 20.18.59Dhand is a Bradford man, born and bred, and he paints a vivid – if occasionally depressing – picture of the results of racial and religious bigotry. While he is justifiably harsh on right-wing extremism, he doesn’t spare the blushes of the Asian community, whether they are warring Muslim factions or Sikhs with more angry pride in their hearts than compassion. I’m not sure I totally bought into the relationship between Virdee and Tariq Islam, but no matter what the plot, suspension of disbelief is what we fiction readers are good at, otherwise we would spend our days reading history books or browsing the Argos catalogue.

One Way Out is a genuine page-turner. Futuristic? Maybe, but who would have said, a decade ago, that we would have a Muslim Home Secretary? Another nod to reality is the charismatic leader of Almukhtaroon, the self-styled Abu Nazir. He is not only a genuine Geordie, but he is also a ginger-haired convert to Islam. I seem to recall that one of the notorious followers of the hate preacher Anjem Choudry fits that description, at least in his ethnicity and hair colour. Virdee is a compassionate and credible hero, but with just enough of a mean streak to allow him to go head-to-head with he genuinely bad guys. One Way Out is published by Bantam Press and will be available from 27th June

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THE MATHEMATICAL BRIDGE . . . Between the covers

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“Detective Inspector Eden Brooke trudged into Market Hill, the city’s great square, as snowflakes fell, thick and slow, each one a mathematical gem, seesawing down through the dead of night. Every sound was muffled, a clock striking the hour out of time, the rhythmic bark of a riverside dog, the distant rumble of a munitions train to the east, heading for the coastal ports. The blackout was complete, but the snow held its own light, an interior luminescence, revealing the low clouds above. Brooke stopped in his tracks, his last crisp footstep echoless, and wondered if he could hear the snow falling; an icy whisper in time with the sparkling of the crystals as they settled on the cobbles, composing themselves into a seamless white sheet.”

TMB“Begin as you mean to go on” says the old adage, and Jim Kelly sets himself a hard task with the brilliant and evocative first paragraph of The Mathematical Bridge. The beautiful use of language aside, Kelly’s first 126 words convey a wealth of information. A country at war. Midwinter. A city preparing for an attack from the air. A policeman out and about when honest men are abed.

Eden Brooke first appeared in The Great Darkness (2018) and you can read my review by clicking the blue link. A copper in the university city of Cambridge, he is a war veteran, not of the Western Front, but of the desert campaign, one of ‘Allenby’s Lads.’ We join him in that first winter of the Second World War, when German bombers have yet to inflict their terror on the houses and streets below them. Tragedy strikes when a boy, evacuated from his London home to the relative safety of a Roman Catholic community in Cambridge, is feared drowned in the fast-freezing River Cam. His body is eventually recovered, but not before Brooke has unearthed a plot to bring death and destruction to the streets of Cambridge.

The conspirators are not Germans but people from much nearer home who firmly believe that their enemy’s enemy is their friend. With two Irish republican conspirators sitting in a Birmingham jail, sentenced to death for a 1939 bomb atrocity in Coventry, Brooke realises that the next potential target for the IRA is Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother to the King. Henry is due to make a morale-boosting visit to Cambridge to boost the war effort, and Brooke is desperate to find the link between the dead boy in the river and the Irish community who worship at St Alban’s church.

Eden Brooke is an engaging character. Blighted by vision problems and chronic insomnia – both the result of his wartime treatment at the hands of brutal Turkish captors – he goes about his work with a steely intensity, much to the despair of his wife and daughter. Kelly’s portrait of provincial England in the first months of WW2 is mesmerising, more so given the added piquancy of our knowledge of what will happen, contrasted with the uncertainty of the characters in the novel.

Give Jim Kelly a landscape, a town, a city, an isolated village, and he will mobilise and send it off to war. Fans of his Philip Dryden novels will know the dramatic chiaroscuro he paints that shows how the comfortable middle-class cathedral city of Ely sits surrounded by dark and broken hard-scrabble villages out in the Fen. His Norfolk copper, Peter Shaw, knows only too well the contrast between the rough estates of King’s Lynn and the Chelsea-On-Sea second homes further up the Norfolk coastline. Eden Brooke’s Cambridge is a vivid and vital character in The Mathematical Bridge. Kelly makes it, despite the murders, an island of relative calm and rationality, for beyond it, out there in the flat darkness, lies The Fen.

doublesmallmathematicalbridgeThis is writing of the highest quality. Not just with the lame caveat ‘for a crime novel’ but writing with a touch of poetry and elegance gracing every line. Even when the crime is solved, the perpetrators are behind bars, and the delightfully complex contradictions of the plot have been explained, Kelly (right) still has the emotional energy to give us a last scene which manages to be poignant but, at the same time, life-affirming.

The Mathematical Bridge is published by Allison & Busby and is out on 21st February. For more about Jim Kelly and his writing click this link.

 

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THE MOSUL LEGACY . . . Between the covers

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The Mosul Legacy
by Christopher Lowery
puts us firmly into the mid-teens of the 21st century. We have four narrative anchors. Ibrahim is a devout but deluded Muslim living in Koln, Germany. He is an Iraqi exile, his father has been killed while serving with ISIL, and he is determined to ‘do his bit’ to establish The Caliphate. Karl is a battle-hardened and indisputably brave ISIL soldier. He has seen his forces capture the ancient city of Mosul against tremendous odds, but now, courtesy of Western firepower, his men are about to be overwhelmed. Faqir-al-Douri is a restaurant owner in Mosul. He and his family are, unfortunately for them, Christians. He has traded food, accomodation and money with the ISIL conquerors. Their part of the bargain? They let him live. Max Kellerman is a German police officer with particular responsibility for preventing or – in the worst case, finding those responsible for – acts of terror.

Mosul009Lowery sets out his narrative stall with those four threads which will eventually weave together to powerful effect. Ibrahim, his puppet strings pulled from afar courtesy of the internet, plans a terrorist bomb attack which goes spectacularly wrong and he goes on the run. A revered and respected fighter, Karl, has to watch in frustration while his ISIL soldiers are outgunned and overwhelmed by coalition forces, and his position is undermined by over-promoted jobsworths in his own organisation. Faqir has finally had enough of living in the shell-torn morgue that Mosul has become, and gathers together his hard-earned savings and is determined to find a better life for his family. Battling German privacy laws which prevent him from publishing photos of his suspect, Kellerman presses on and is determined to bring his man to justice.

Understandably, the geographical action involving Faqir and Ibrahim darts about like a firefly, while the doomed Karl and the determined Kellerman, fight on their own ground, be it of their own choosing or not. Of course, the various strands of the book are fated to converge, but just how, when and where is not for me to reveal.

Christopher_Lowery-745x1024This is a big, sprawling novel – nearly 450 pages – but it is grimly readable. I say ‘grimly’ because it goes behind bland newspaper headlines and ten-second TV news video clips, to reveal the whole Iraq – Syria situation as the ruinous, depressing and insoluble shambles it has become. It would be impossible to write a novel like this with it being political, but I don’t think Lowery (right)  allows himself to become partisan. For sure, he pulls no punches in his scathing depiction of the social intolerance of many Muslim communities, and the genocidal fanaticism of ISIL which is as close to mental illness as makes no difference. He is, however, just as clear sighted in his scepticism about the real reasons why America and its allies – most pointedly Britain – became involved in Iraq in the first place.

Sometimes the ironies in the novel are cruel in the extreme, most pointedly as we watch the deluded zealot Ibrahim waltz through Europe unimpeded, thanks to the Schengen Agreement and his German passport, while Faqir and his family have to creep across borders at the dead of night, pay off unscrupulous traffickers at every turn, and suffer harrowing mental and physical torment caused, principally, by people such as Ibrahim and Karl.

Novels dealing with large scale political and military cruelty don’t have a duty to explain why men commit the evil deeds they do. Despite the brilliant writing of Philip Kerr in his Bernie Gunther novels I am no clearer now as to why Heydrich and Goebbels acted as they did. Lowery has written a deeply disturbing account of Islam’s revenge on ‘infidel’ Europe, but my understanding of the motives of his characters remains a blur. I can see that Karl does what he does because he believes ‘x’. Why does he believe ‘x’? Next question, please.

Sometimes, novels entertain in a transitory and peripheral sense. We enjoy the language, shiver at the thrills and bite our nails at the suspense, and then say to ourselves, “Well that was fun – thank goodness it’s only fiction.” This is a book which lies heavy on the soul, to be honest, because it takes no liberties with reality. We gaze into an abyss which has been created by our own governments, and has engulfed real people. Don’t read The Mosul Legacy as a holiday diversion or an imagined escape from whatever world enfolds you. This is now. This what we have created. The Mosul Legacy is published by Urbane Publications and will be available on 27th September.

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THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Leigh & Lowery

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A HOLIDAY TO DIE FOR by Marion Leigh

Marion LeighBorn and educated in the United Kingdom, Marion Leigh (left) has lived in France, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, the USA and, latterly, Spain. She has also spent time in Australia and the Far East, India, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Her debut novel, The Politician’s Daughter, was the first in a series of adventure thrillers featuring feisty globetrotting Petra Minx of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Dead Man’s Legacy followed, but now Petra is in South Africa, accompanying her buddy, Carlo, to his cousin’s wedding. She becomes involved in the hunt for the attacker of two teenage girls in Cape Town and finds among her foes, in no particular order, a wicked step-brother, a phony priest, and a reluctant bride. This is out now, from Troubador Publishing. To find out more about Marion, you can visit her website.

THE MOSUL LEGACY by Christopher Lowery

The author is best known for his trilogy of best-selling thrillers set against the turbulent background of the African diamond industry.

Lowery Trilogy

Christopher_Lowery-745x1024Here, though, Lowery (right) turns his attention to an equally violent centre of rage and recrimination – post-Sadam Iraq. This hard hitting and meticulously researched thriller focuses on two contrasting pairs of Iraqis. The first pair are bitter and vengeful jihadists who travel west determined to wreak havoc with bomb and bullet on a world they blame for the destruction of their homeland and an assault on their religion. The other two. a married couple – Hema and Faqir Al-Douri – flee the Mosul death trap with only one intention –  to find peace and safety in Western Europe. The Mosul Legacy is published by Urbane Publications and will be out on 27th September.

GIRL ON FIRE . . . Between the covers

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The story begins in a kind of deathly silence. A silence not brought about by the absence of noise, but by the inability of anyone to hear the screams of the dying, the crash of falling masonry, and the desperate and distant howl of emergency sirens. The people can’t hear, either because their ears have been rendered temporarily useless by a massive explosion or, more simply, because they are already dead. London copper DC Max Wolfe has been on a shopping trip to buy a new backpack for his daughter, and his bad luck has placed him smack dab in the middle of a shopping London mall as an emergency services helicopter is brought down by a drone, presumably operated by terrorists.

AGOFWolfe survives, and shoulders his way into the hit team which raids a nondescript terraced house in Borodino Street in East London. Their target? To capture two Pakistani brothers who have adapted simple commercially available drones into weapons of terror. Needless to say, the raid does not go according to plan. The lead police officer is shot dead at the outset, by one of the brothers disguised in a niqab. He is eventually shot dead, as is the remaining brother. But there are questions raised about the death of the latter. Was he shot as he was trying to surrender, or was he simply assassinated by a vengeful police marksman? And where are the two ex-Croatian hand grenades which informers say had been sold to the Khan brothers?

The Borodino Street incident becomes something of a cause célèbre. Characters all-too-familiar to us from contemporary real life step into the limelight. We have a charismatic English orator, whose message is that ‘enough is enough’, and now action rather than words is the only way forward. We have a high profile human rights barrister who clearly senses that the Borodino Street killings will be yet another notch on his adversarial gun.

Playing along in the background, like a melancholy country soundtrack, is the heartache of Max Wolfe’s personal life. He is long separated from his wife, but brings up his daughter Scout, and tries to be the best dad he can. When his former wife and her new husband decide that Scout will be better off with them, Wolfe is faced with the most terrible of dilemmas. Does he simply let Scout go into the affluence and normality of a new family, or does he fight the request, in the full knowledge that whatever the court decides, Scout will have to go through a nightmare?

Parsons011The novel frequently holds you by the hand – no, make that puts you in an arm lock – and takes you to places you would rather not go. Parsons (right) is not someone with a well stocked cupboard full of tea lights, bunches of flowers and anodyne pleas for togetherness. He is not going to link arms with anyone and place these tributes at scenes of murder and carnage. Least of all will he, via Max Wolfe, be tweeting Je Suis Borodino Street any time soon. Some might say that for a humble DC, Max Wolfe certainly seems to get about a bit, but this is an irrelevant criticism, because what he thinks and sees are essential to the story. Wolfe is a a man of deep compassion and perception. Not only is his narrative reliable – it is painfully accurate and candid. Readers have, of course, the option of averting their gaze or thinking about gentle deaths in Cotswold villages, solved by avuncular local bobbies. Those who choose not to turn away from this brutal autopsy of Britain – and specifically London – in 2018 will not, I suggest, feel rejuvenated, life-enhanced or particularly optimistic by the end of this novel. Rather, they will follow the emotional journey of the celebrated wedding guest:

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone; and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn.

If there were any doubts before, then this powerful novel will confirm that Tony Parsons sits in his rightful position among the top echelon of contemporary British writers. Girl On Fire is published by Century and will be available on 8th March.

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TWO NIGHTS … Between the covers

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For-author-Kathy-Reichs-its-all-about-bones-PRA9K1L-x-largeThe muster room of hard-nosed female cops and investigators is not exactly a crowded place on Planet CriFi. Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, Fiona Griffiths, Kate Brannigan, Cordelia Gray, Kay Scarpetta and Jane Marple have already taken their seats, but Temperance Brennan has, temporarily, given up hers for another child of her creator, Kathy Reichs (left). Sunday ‘Sunnie’ Night is a damaged, bitter, edgy and downright misanthropic American cop who has been suspended by her bosses for being trigger happy. She sits brooding, remote – and dangerous – on a barely accessible island off the South Carolina coast.

A former buddy, Beau Beaumonde, comes to visit and he has a job offer. A terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Chicago has left victims dead and maimed, but one girl, Stella Bright, was not among the dead, and appears to have been kidnapped. The impossibly wealthy Opaline Drucker, Stella’s grandmother, has decided to spend serious money on an investigation to find the school attackers and discover the whereabouts – or the remains – of Stella.

Sunnie decides to accept the job and heads north to The Windy City in an effort to pick up the trail of the bad guys. To say that Sunnie is ‘street smart’ is an understatement. She hardly trusts her own shadow, and checks into several different hotels, using a different alias each time. She has created several social media profiles stating that she is searching for Stella, but her bait is accepted not online, but in the corridor of a hotel. She answers the threat with extreme violence, but is determined that she will remain the hunter while those who took Stella will easily not shrug off their status as her prey.

Two Nights CoverHalf way through the novel we realise the significance of the title. Sunnie Night is not waging this war alone: her twin brother Augustus ‘Gus’ Night is also on the case and, to use the cliche, he ‘has her back’. Together they are certainly a deadly combination. By this point, though, Reichs has bowled us an unreadable googly – or, for American readers, thrown us a curveball – and it isn’t until the closing pages that we realise that we have been making incorrect assumptions. Which is, of course, exactly what the author planned! Those last few pages make for a terrific finale, as the twins desperately try to prevent an atrocity being carried out at one of America’s most celebrated sporting occasions.

Sunnie and Gus, with a mixture of intelligence and gunfire, close in on the terrorist cell, and it is interesting that Reichs moves away from the obvious contemporary template for a group whose ideology drives their murderous activities. Instead, for better or for worse, we are presented us with the absolute opposite. Sunnie herself is not the kind of character that we readily warm to. In fact, she has trouble warming to herself. She says:

Sure, I’m damaged. I live alone with no permanent phone or Internet account. I have a scar I refuse to fix. I dislike being touched and have a temper that’s my own worst enemy. I use icy showers and grueling workouts to escape stress and trick my brain into making me feel strong.”

Kathy Reichs certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under anyone’s feet in this 110 mph novel. The dialogue – usually between the eponymous Two Nights – is whip-smart and sassy. It is certainly stylised and seems tailor made for a film or TV screenplay, but that is no bad thing in itself. There are guns and bodies galore and the action criss-crosses America with the Night twins homing in on the villains. Maybe it’s not the book for fans of leisurely narrative exposition and detailed reflection by the characters – the pace of the book doesn’t allow anyone much time for introspection – but it’s a cracking and ingeniously plotted thriller. The Kindle version of Two Nights will be available on 29th June from Cornerstone Digital, as will the hardback edition, but from William Heinemann. Follow this link to read more.

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COMPETITION … Win a copy of Crisis by Frank Gardner

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Most people who follow the news on the BBC will have seen its Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, or heard his compelling voice on radio. Many will know that he was a disabled by appalling gunshot wounds he received while covering a story in Saudi Arabia in 2004.

crisis-backAlready widely admired for two memoirs about his life and travels, Gardner has now written a bestselling novel, Crisis, which tells the story of an ex Special Boat Service commando in a life-or-death race to prevent a Colombian drug lord inflicting a catastrophic attack on London.

Published by Bantam, a crisp new paperback of Crisis can be yours if you enter our prize draw. Simple email Fully Booked at the address below, putting Crisis in the subject box. The competition closes at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday March 12th, 2017. On this occasion we are happy to post the prize anywhere in the world!

fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

Your name will go into the hat, and a winner will be drawn in the usual way. The competition closes at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday 12th March. Entries are welcome from our followers in America, Australia or Europe!

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CARNAGE ON PARADE … The atrocities of 20th July 1982

Hyde Park HeaderThere is, perhaps, a legitimate debate to be had over what to call killings which are carried out in the name of a political cause. No-one in their right mind would label the millions of soldiers who died in the two world wars of the 20th century as murder victims. The wearing of a uniform, and the acceptance of the King’s shilling has always legitimised the act of pulling the trigger, firing the shell, or dropping the bomb.

But what about guerilla activities? What about resistance movements? When does a killing become a murder? Is one man’s freedom fighter another man’s terrorist? I am far from unique in being unable to resolve those conundrums. The men who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich on a Prague boulevard in June 1942 have been hailed as heroes. What about the Irishmen who killed eleven British soldiers in a few hours on the streets of London in July 1982? They wore no uniform and carried no flag, but in their hearts their targets were legitimate.

My view? Emotionally, I am drawn to the view that soldiers engaged in ceremonial duties in a nation’s capital are not fair game. Therefore, I am treating the events of 20th July 1982 as murder. Cold blooded murder, pure and simple.

London, 20th June, 1982. The weather was warm, but unsettled, with a promise of showers. A troop of The Household Cavalry, the ceremonial guardians of the English monarch, were calmly riding along South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, on their way to the ceremony known as The Changing Of The Guard. Unknown to them, a blue Morris Marina car, parked alongside their route, was packed with gelignite and nails. At 10.40 a.m. the device was triggered, presumably by a nearby operative. The result was carnage.

Carnage

The road was littered with flesh,  of the three guardsmen who were killed instantly (that telling euphemism which denotes catastrophic injuries) – and that of horses. The three soldiers who died at the scene were Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Trooper Simon Tipper and Lance Corporal Vernon Young. Corporal Raymond Bright was rushed to hospital, but died on 23rd July. The men are pictured below, left to right.

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The SunJust a couple of hours later, as emergency services struggled to deal with the mayhem in South Carriage Drive, the terrorists struck again. It seems barely credible that in another part of the city, life was going on as normal. Remember, though, that these were the days before mobile ‘phones and social media, the days when news was only transmitted in print, by word of mouth and on radio and television. The regimental band of The Royal Green Jackets was entertaining a small crowd clustered round the bandstand in Regent’s Park. They were playing distinctly un-martial music from the musical ‘Oliver!’ when, at 12.55 pm, a massive bomb went off beneath the bandstand. The blast was so powerful that one of the bodies was thrown onto an iron fence thirty yards away, and seven bandsmen were killed outright. They were: Warrant Officer Graham Barker, Serjeant Robert “Doc” Livingstone, Corporal Johnny McKnight, Bandsman John Heritage, Bandsman George Mesure, Bandsman Keith “Cozy” Powell, and Bandsman Larry Smith.

Keith Powell’s mother, Mrs Patricia Powell was later to say:

“On the day (20th July 1982) at 1pm – I was rinsing a cup at the sink in my classroom – I suddenly felt very ill and mentioned it to a colleague – saying I’d no idea why I felt so ill. On the way home I went to the music store to purchase the score of Oliver – No idea why I wanted it suddenly nor did I have any idea this was what the band was playing. Got it – went to the bus station and saw on the placards news about the bombs in London – I knew instantly that he was dead. This was confirmed later that evening.”

Keith Powell’s comrades gave him his nickname because of the celebrated rock drummer Colin Powell, who played with bands such as Black Sabbath, the Jeff Beck Group and Whitesnake. No-one was ever convicted of the Regent’s Park atrocity, but responsibility was claimed by the IRA. In 1987, Gilbert “Danny” McNamee, an electronics engineer from Northern Ireland, was jailed for 25 years after being found guilty of building the radio-controlled bomb used in the Hyde Park attack.

He was released from prison in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and later that year the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on the grounds that it was unsafe. Another suspect, John Anthony Downey, was to be tried for his part of the Hyde Park bombing as recently as 2014, but his trial collapsed when it was revealed that he was one of those Republican activists who had been sent a ‘comfort letter’ by the British government, promising them immunity from prosecution. Following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought something resembling peace to Northern Ireland, there was an ongoing issue over what to do about IRA suspects who were still “on-the-run”. As part of the peace deal, IRA terrorists serving prison terms were granted early release but that could not apply to those on the run. A deal was reached between the Tony Blair government and Sinn Fein to carry out an exercise whereby checks would be carried out and for those who were no longer wanted by police, they would be sent a letter informing them of that fact.

XU*7493716Downey (right) may or may not have been implicated in the Hyde Park murders. Only he knows for certain. At least he had the decency to cancel a party planned in his honour when he was released. He said:

“The party had been planned as a simple get-together of family, friends and neighbours who supported me after my arrest. Some elements of the media are portraying the event planned for tonight as triumphalist and insulting to bereaved families. That was never what it was about.”

There was a macabre and tragic postscript to the Hyde Park murders. One of the horses, named Sefton, survived the attack despite terrible injuries. The horse became something of a media celebrity, which is not surprising given the British public’s sentimental obsession with animals. Sefton’s days of celebrity were, at least, harmless. Not so the fate of his rider on that day, Michael Pedersen. He survived the attack physically, but suffered irreparable hidden mental damage. In 2012, after two failed marriages, he drove himself and his two children, Ben and Freya, to a remote lane near Newton Stacey in Hampshire, stabbed them to death, and then took his own life.

Memorials

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