The inside story…


Crumlin Road Prison by Stephen Shaw. He's a super observant watercolourist in Belfast. Click on the pic for his online galleries. The old prison was said to be the most secure in the British Isles. It hosted many escapes and executions. A tunnel led from the jail to the courthouse opposite, which features in Blackwatertown.

Here comes the inside story of my book. It’s the brief synopsis I’m sending to agents. (Some agents prefer a different approach – longer blow by blow, chapter by chapter efforts.)

The next post will cover my recent calamities and a particularly juicy piece of gossip. But for now, have a peek inside.

Synopsis of Blackwatertown:

Blackwatertown by Paul Waters is a thriller set on the Irish border in the 1950s. The intertwining of fact and fiction is based partly on a murky episode of Ireland’s past, and partly on things discovered about my family’s own secret history.

It is the story of a reluctant and conflicted policeman called John “Jolly” Macken, who is drawn into a conspiracy, accidentally starts a war (the 1950s IRA border campaign) and inadvertently becomes a hero.

It is also the story of how complacency in a time of peace can quickly be shattered, if the underlying tensions in society are not addressed.

Jolly Macken begins with a personal crisis because of his leading role in a police action he knows is legally correct, but feels is morally wrong.

As a police officer, an RUC man, he is isolated from his fellow Irish Catholics because he serves the Crown. As a Catholic (in name anyway), he is by definition distrusted by his Protestant fellow officers and the State.

There are three main strands:

1. Macken is punished after a farcical episode of violence at the beginning, by being exiled to Blackwatertown village, a sleepy Co. Armagh backwater. He is sent there to replace the previous token Catholic officer in the district who died mysteriously. Was it an accident or murder? Were the killers fellow police officers? Will Macken be next?

2. Macken meets an unusually bewitching local girl whose bravado masks a certain innocence. However, is her innocence feigned? Will their romance endure? Is she an IRA spy or is she hiding a much darker secret?

3. Macken is caught up in a police conspiracy and cover-up that has unexpected consequences. Their fakery is so convincing that the conspirators are lauded as heroes and accidentally start a war. Macken becomes part of a web of political and personal intrigue, watching his back as genuine and imaginary sides go to war for real.

An ambiguous fourth strand weaves in and out of the action. It retains its mystery until near the end, when its true purpose and horrible identity is revealed.

As the tension and stakes mount higher, Macken is forced to choose sides when it comes to war and to his personal life. He embarks on a journey through a broken and twisted world to see if it is possible to salvage anything that is good, worthwhile and beautiful.

Blackwatertown conveys a sense of place in the tradition of Ulster writer Maurice Leitch, and is threaded through with flashes of humour reminiscent of Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian Inspector Montalbano mysteries.

The story transcends time and place, but also parallels the current dangerous political situation in Northern Ireland today, and shows how a seemingly secure peace can be squandered.

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18 Comments

Filed under art, My Writing

18 responses to “The inside story…

  1. Roo! THIS has me fired up to read it – really. I don’t have time to lie. I can’t wait to read it. This IS good.

    So glad this synopsis was recommended. And you have laid it out so well. Kudos, bravo and AMEN.

    A little part of me favorite Scots song – “Will ye Go Down Lassie” to celebrate. I saw them sing it just this way.. So that cares for two parts of me tripart family history: Scots-Irish (the Lindsays of Ayrshire/the McMahons of Clare). [That other part, the gang who brought you the black hole of Calcutta and the troubles – not always my favorite part – but at least it’s in the isles and the Sam in SamHenry is part of that name.]

    And best of all my very favorite by the Tenors here sung at Ellis Island where so many who came to the US landed. My Clare and Ayrshire relatives came through Boston:

    I’m a little fragile in the faith department but we’ll just throw this in for good measure – send the thing off with a prayer – love this

    /watch?v=gdRs9osxAkg

    Go book and be a story to remember like a good song.

  2. Well, now, wouldn’t ye know I’d mess up the faith part. That’s why I’m a member of the group “O ye of little faith.”

  3. Just get the feckin thing published quick so I can read it.

  4. TaylorGooderham

    Sounds very interesting. You still looking for a publisher?

  5. @samhenry – Thanks for the music.
    @ Póló – Jesus! I’m working on it. (Thanks. And, er, don’t read the next bit.)
    @ TaylorGooderham – Still looking. Not tried any directly yet. Going down the agent route.

  6. Sounds very cool. Let me and the internet know when it’s published!

  7. The agent route sounds excellent. Everyone needs a tour director.

  8. When you have a moment – is your blog the place you would want to let us know what theories are abroad about the roadside bomb?

    My instincts tell me it may be inspired by external elements that want to have Britain working two fronts. We read entirely too many international thrillers over here. And we have al Qaeda behind every bush.

  9. blackwatertown

    @Lucas Held – Thanks Lucas. I will.
    @ samhenry – Doubt it’s inspired by external elements, though I don’t rule out external suppliers.
    If you want to delve deeper you could check out this page sluggerotoole.com/2010/07/10/explosion-reported-in-south-armagh/
    and sluggerotoole.com is interesting in general
    Or for an insight into non-Sinn Fein Republican views on NI politics, you might try thepensivequill.am

  10. I’m half way through reading the book and it’s well impressive so far. Narrative is clear, descriptive and fascinating; numerous themes and strands are unravelling at a steady pace and I look forward to the rest soon. Having worked in Southern Ireland in the early seventies, I am intrigued that Paul has been so accurate in creating characters and atmosphere that so vividly remind me of real people and their ways at that time. His insight into the politics and portrayal of the issues that influenced behaviour is gripping- here’s hoping for the rest.

  11. Sounds excellent, Paul. I am well and truly “stoked”!

  12. “Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote” might be of some interest to you for analysis of writing similar to yours. Although Capote’s name is mainly associated with the film adaptation of his short novel, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the collection of nonfiction essays is fascinating in the way it provides insight into a noticeable change in tone following his efforts with what is widely considered as the first work of narrative nonfiction – “In Cold Blood.”

    The short stories contained in the book, like “The Muses are Heard,” are easily digestible examples of brilliance with every word, sentence, and paragraph in setting scenes that include developing characters.

    (Another good book about the function of plots and characters in stories and legends during the course of civilization is “The Writer’s Journey.” It was a library discovery made soon after reading Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf that has kept me thinking about the timeless nature of its premise.)

  13. Agatha82

    Paul, wish you the best of luck with this. I’ve yet to work on my synopsis so I’m very impressed with how good your one is.
    Alannah (aka agatha82)

    • 29

      I enjoyed the “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” by the tenors however I had thought that Ellis Island closed in the later 40s. Why? Well in 1998 I crossed the Atlantic to New York in the QE 2 and was at a table with a man who in the 40s as a young boy had crossed the Atlantic with his mother to join his father already working in the US, he/they did not have their chest x-rays with them and so could not land until this was cleared up. They were detained in a cell on Ellis Island and he remembered the small window very high up. It was quite emotional for him now arriving back in the dawn seeing the Statue of Liberty, the twin towers and all the other iconic skyscrapers on the greatest liner afloat at the time. I do not think that his mother would have risked her own life and her son’s to German u-boats prior to 1943.

      • blackwatertown

        Good story.
        And something to keep in mind when the immigration queues at JFK seem long and slow moving.

  14. 29

    I enjoyed the “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” by the tenors however I had thought that Ellis Island closed in the later 40s. Why? Well in 1998 I crossed the Atlantic to New York in the QE 2 and was at a table with a man who in the 40s as a young boy had crossed the Atlantic with his mother to join his father already working in the US, he/they did not have their chest x-rays with them and so could not land until this was cleared up. They were detained in a cell on Ellis Island and he remembered the small window very high up. It was quite emotional for him now arriving back in the dawn seeing the Statue of Liberty, the twin towers and all the other iconic skyscrapers on the greatest liner afloat at the time. I do not think that his mother would have risked her own life and her son’s to German u-boats prior to 1943.

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