Belfast Telegraph

War hero MLA Beattie has high hopes for his new 'accidental' novel

By Claire McNeilly

Iain Duncan Smith and Edwina Currie have done it... and now Doug Beattie is the latest politician to publish a work of fiction.

The Ulster Unionist MLA has high hopes for 'Reaper', an elaborate tale of trust, betrayal and redemption in war-torn Afghanistan which has just hit the bookshelves.

Beattie, a war hero who was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in fighting the Taliban a decade ago, certainly wasn't short of source material for his first foray into fiction. And Reaper, the story of a disgraced British soldier given a chance to make amends for past mistakes, is the 50-year-old's third tome, which he describes as something of "an accident".

"It was born out of boredom in Nad-e Ali in Helmand," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"During my downtime I used my notebook and laptop to write in my sleeping bag, or sometimes I sat in the corner of the base. It is based on some real-life characters and incidents but it's also fictional."

The retired Army Captain, who was given the Queen's Commendation for Bravery for his actions in Iraq, became a well-known figure across the UK after he documented the reality for troops during the conflict in two best-selling books - An Ordinary Soldier and Task Force Helmand.

And he admitted that writing had become a hobby - as well as a way of processing his deeply troubling personal experiences - during those long, dark days of war.

"What's interesting is that I've got no educational qualifications whatsoever," he said.

"I left school at 16. I did not do my O-levels, I have no GCSEs, I have no A-levels, I didn't go to university and yet I've managed to write three books and one of them (An Ordinary Soldier) is already a best-seller. My second book (Task Force Helmand) is probably the book I like the most."

The Portadown father-of-two - who served in Iraq under Col Tim Collins - left his 34-year military career behind when he decided to stand for election as an MLA this year.

The day before his election victory in the Upper Bann constituency, he and his family suffered unimaginable heartache when his 15-month-old grandson, Cameron Tindale, died suddenly in his sleep.

Reaper, which is about two men in a race - one "to bomb and kill as many of his new enemies as he can", according to the blurb, and the other "to track him down and stop him" - has just been published by Firestep Press.

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