Blackwatertown is a thriller set in the 1950s Irish borderlands. It’s based on some true shady episodes. But names have been changed to protect the guilty. (If you’re a publisher, please get in touch. Or even if you’re not.)
My name is Paul Waters. I’m originally from Belfast. I’ve done various things – taxi-driving, journalism, cooking, broadcasting, teaching, aid delivery, podcasting – in various places – England, Romania, Wales, the USA, Germany, Poland, South Africa and both ends of Ireland.
So now I’m writing. The story is called Blackwatertown.
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.