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A soldier’ s dilemma

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What is your latest book about?
“The Death and Life of an Irish Soldier” (historical novel; publisher: University Press of the South; release date: August/September 2007).
Rudyard Kipling would have us believe that British soldiers, including Irish soldiers, were hard-bitten, stoic, and unconcerned with politics. I question his view in the novel, especially since the British Army was recruited from among manpower groups that offered resisting nationalistic coherence and political opposition to Britain’s imperial presence. “The Death and Life of an Irish Soldier” is the story of Daniel O’Connor, an Irishman serving in Ireland in an English regiment. O’Connor is faced with the moral dilemma of serving in a powerful army that gives him immense social prestige, but which is also the instrument of ruthless colonial oppression in his native Ireland. Unwilling to sever his connection with the British Army, O’Connor chooses voluntary exile in a native regiment in British India as a way of attempting to escape from the social and political unrest in Ireland, a struggle that may well require him to shoot his Irish brethren. Arriving in India to join his regiment, O’Connor quickly sees that India, like Ireland, is a land grave with the same weight of British oppression. When Indian soldiers rebel in 1857, O’Connor is faced with a cruel choice should he decide to join the Indian rebels: death or permanent exile in a foreign world. The novel is the concluding work of a trilogy that explores the questions of politics, nationality, gender, race and culture in the British colonial army of the 19th century through the lives of three real British soldiers: a black African, an Indian Hindu, and an Irish Catholic.
The title suggest that the main character, Michael O’Connor, is socially dead until he sees the error of his way which is service in the British Army. He becomes socially alive only when he breaks with the British, which he does when he deserts to the side of native Indian troops in India when they rebel against their British Army masters. The fundamental question raised by the novel is – To whom should we give our loyalty?

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I like to write when things are quiet, like the early morning and late at night. But I’ll also write when the muse strikes.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
1. Believe in yourself. 2. Ignore rejections; many agents are gatekeepers; think creatively of getting around them.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
“The Blood Seed” by Andrew Ward; “The Harder They Come” by Michael Thelwell; “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” by Margaret George.

What book are you currently reading?
“The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities From Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museum.”

Is there a book you wish you had written?
“The Autobiography of Henry VIII” by Margaret George.

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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Leo Tolstoy

What book changed your life?
“African Genesis” by Robert Ardrey.

You’re Irish if …
(My paternal grandfather was Irish – Daniel Dooley Buckley) You can see the poetry in all aspects of life – the good and the bad!

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