If this book was not a complete work of fiction, The Killer by Jack Elgos, would be an excellent biography. It traces the life of Darren “Butch” McCann from common every day street thug to a freedom fighter (or arch terrorist depending on your point of view) for the Irish Republican Army . It shows the internal workings, the moral dilemmas (and frightening lack of moral dilemmas at times) that three decades of war, endless propaganda on both and the cycle of brutal repression by the British armed forces and their paramilitary proxies followed by even more brutal, senseless carnage coming from the IRA.
Mr. Elgos brilliantly plays with the heads of the readers. He makes the IRA characters sympathetic and you almost forget they are members of a blood thirsty terrorist organization and then just when you think “ Well the British really are at fault he reminds you of the ruthlessness and sheer lack of humanity involved in a terrorist organization.
Another very strong reason for reading this book is the realism of it. It could very well be a biography. The characters are realistic and you leave yourself wondering if this is really fiction. Yet it also is a reason for pause when deciding to buy it. I can say in no uncertain that no one should read book without a firm understanding of brutality involved. It is not for young adults, in fact I would say there are a good number of adults who should understand they are buying a very violent book and may want to shy away from buying it. That being said the violence is very important to the book, the violence is as much a character in the book as the actually people.
Reading this book will change the way you watch the television news when it comes to internal wars. They will no longer be statistics or talking points in a speech or a talk show. This book gives names, feelings, and tragic sense of the wasteful and destructive effects of any armed conflict. There are no heroes, just wasted lives, lives that should have been spent in far better pursuits. If you read this book and there is any sense of a ‘good’ or ‘just’ war left in you then you have completely misunderstood the point the author is trying to make.
By reading this book you will greatly appreciate the goodness in men like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. who chose non-violence to solve humanities ills. This book changed me from a hawk to someone who firmly believes that one can never “fight for peace”. Every politician should be forced to read this book before sacrificing the lives of young men in women in some idea of “freedom”.