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Beer's a novel way to sell a thriller: Belfast author's paperback debut inspired by Troubles delivered with six ales


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Paul Waters, Blackwatertown

Paul Waters, Blackwatertown

Paul Waters Blackwatertown.

Paul Waters Blackwatertown.

Old photo of RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy escorting King George IV in Belfast in 1946

Old photo of RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy escorting King George IV in Belfast in 1946

Paul Waters, Blackwatertown

A Belfast author whose family came under terrorist attack from both republicans and loyalists still takes daily security precautions.

While from a Catholic background, Paul Waters had relatives in the then RUC - including his grandfather who was a police sergeant and great uncle Michael Murphy who was a district inspector - and the UDR.

The family owned a pub, the Black Mountain Bar in Hannahstown on the outskirts of west Belfast, which was bombed twice by the Provisional IRA and once by loyalists.

"The second IRA attack destroyed the building. My relatives had to step over a ticking bomb to escape, with a babe in arms," Mr Waters said.

Now he has put his experiences into his first book which, while fiction, is torn from his family history, and has already earned the praise of best-selling thriller writers Frederick Forsyth, Peter May and Brian McGilloway.

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Paul Waters Blackwatertown.

Paul Waters Blackwatertown.

Paul Waters Blackwatertown.

His debut Blackwatertown is set on the Co Armagh border in the 1950s. Its lead character is a maverick police sergeant who, having vowed to find his brothers' killers, is banished to a sleepy village. "Extremely intriguing with intricate twists and turns," is the verdict of Day of the Jackal author Forsyth.

But because of the Covid-19 virus, first-time print author Waters is having to resort to imaginative means to get the book sold, one involving beer as well as local shops.

"The 'book and beer' scheme will hopefully be happening by the time the book is published on July 23. My delivery man is sourcing a range of six or seven Irish craft beers and, using Zoom, I will talk about or read a bit from the book," he said.

"My local deli, which has never sold books before, has agreed to stock copies and my local brewery is considering it for their shop, along with some hardware shops. You have to think laterally."

The former BBC producer also found publishing during a pandemic difficult.

"It's not comparable to the life-and-death decisions facing some people but the editorial and printing processes have been severely disrupted by social distancing and remote working," Paul added.

While he has an ebook, The Obituarist, published online, Blackwatertown is his first paperback and weaves fiction with fact, including the famous 1950s Hen House boy.

"It's inspired by real events which were in the public domain and by stories from RUC men back then that were never revealed at the time.

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Old photo of RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy escorting King George IV in Belfast in 1946

Old photo of RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy escorting King George IV in Belfast in 1946

Old photo of RUC District Inspector Michael Murphy escorting King George IV in Belfast in 1946

"I'm from a Catholic background and my relatives were on both sides - though mainly in the police and UDR, which was unusual and awkward.

"Like many families we were targeted over the years - some bomb attacks, an assassination attempt and exile, sometimes from people we knew, though we got off very lightly compared to others.

"It created a strong feeling of caution in us. I still make sure the interior light on my car never comes on when the door opens.

"Like many people, I've always kept a wary eye on parked or slow-moving cars and been aware of exit routes."

Belfast Telegraph