Richard O’Rawe, who has an extraordinary personal story is returning to his creation Ructions O’Hare for a historic sequel
In Goering’s Gold, Ructions learns that — what real-life historians speculate actually occurred — Nazi Reichmarschall Hermann Goering had a huge stash of gold bullion hidden in Ireland during World War II.
But in searching for clues to its location, Ructions learns he is not the only one on the hunt, and he will have to outwit, outgun, and outrun modern-day Nazis and the IRA to not only locate the treasure, but get away with it.
Richard is a former IRA operative who was imprisoned in Long Kesh during the 1981 hunger strike by prisoners.
He was the IRA’s press officer for the prisoners. He would later go on to write a bestselling book about the experience, Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike.
Did you feel your background was too close when it came to writing or of benefit?
All writing is subjective in that our life experiences invariably impact our narratives. And that’s a good thing because it authenticates the story. Goering’s Gold, for example, is the sequel to Northern Heist and the same characters are once again in play, particularly the charismatic ‘Ructions’ O’Hare, the criminal mastermind who planned and carried out the massive robbery of the National Bank in Belfast in 2004. I have been fortunate — some might say unfortunate, to have known a few Ructions O’Hares in my life (there aren’t that many of them about), individuals who can plan very intricate robberies etc, and who can think on their feet, so it wasn’t such a big step to reproduce him in a book.
What did you enjoy most about writing Goering’s Gold?
I enjoy the freedom that fiction writing gives me. I can let my imagination wander and just jot down where it takes me. Goering’s Gold is a fairly intricate plot, a treasure hunt across Europe and Ireland, with Ructions being pursued by neo-Nazis, the IRA, Interpol, the Gardaí, and the PSNI, each of whom believe he has the key to Goering’s gold. Loved writing it! Loved the chase!
What prompted this particular plot – have you an interest in German history?
I’ve always had an interest in history, particularly modern European history, and especially WWII. It was while watching a programme on the Nuremberg trials that I started to really study Hermann Goering. Here was, by far, the most charismatic Nazi of the period, and yet no one knew how he received the cyanide tablet with which he was able to commit suicide. And the more I looked at Goering, the more I saw that he never went to a public event without his ceremonial baton. It was then the thought struck me that if I were to marry Goering’s unsolved death, with the ceremonial baton, his hedonistic personality, and the fact that he was a kleptomaniac, having plundered art galleries and gold reserves across Europe, I might just have the nucleus of a great story on my hands. So, I began to deeply research Goering’s life to dig out the story. The tricky part was finding a credible way of incorporating Ructions, Serge, Tiny, and the other characters from Northern Heist into the story. The baton was the key.
Did lockdown help or hinder your writing?
Lockdown most certainly helped my writing, purely because there were fewer distractions. I could go into my study and knock out 500-1,000 words in a day, depending on the trajectory of the storyline. The crucial element in making substantial progress on the script was staying out of the living room, keeping away from the television, the news, the world at large, the local gossip, keeping the head down. Working!
What did your debut help you understand about the writing process?
I had already written three non-fiction books, Blanketmen (2005), Afterlives (2010), and, In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story (2017), so I was fairly au fait with the writing process. I don’t want to sound condescending, but writers, even published writers, need to understand that rejection is rarely far away. All my books were rejected by publishers, one, in particular, many times. It’s gut-wrenching when your work is declined but it helps if you know that rejection is only a matter of opinion and different publishers have different opinions and book preferences. Also, I think it is worth saying that sometimes you don’t need the full story plotted out before writing. When writing Northern Heist, for example, the plot changed several times as the story developed … new ideas enter your mind, some characters start asserting themselves and demand a stronger presence in the storyline, and so it important not to be too rigid. It’s also important to enjoy the write, otherwise it becomes a chore, and writing should never be a chore.
Authors need to know their characters inside out, particularly if writing a series.
How similar is James to you – or is he?
Would that I was as clever as Ructions! I am a mere mortal, with all the inherent flaws that infect the human spirit, while Ructions is a charismatic anti-hero, a charming, yet dangerous man, a Titan who can plan ‘moves’ with meticulous precision and who can get the most out of those around him. He fears no one but respects everyone — especially those in authority who carry guns. And its perhaps the fact that he is a criminal that endears him most to the reader. Or perhaps it’s the possibility that the readers wish there was a little bit of Ructions in them? But there’s only one Ructions!
Goering’s Gold by Richard O’Rawe, Melville House, £12.99 is available from May 24