The first draft of The Three-Towered Castle, written in 2009, formed a sequel to my first novel, an unpublished crime story set in London spanning the years 1949-1970. But that soon changed when I eventually ‘found’ my protagonist, a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary, better known as the B Specials.
Initially, the protagonist was a young Londoner whose closest friend was from the Creggan in Derry. The pair subsequently found themselves drawn into events taking place in Northern Ireland during the years 1970-1972.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching those events. I also had a number of accounts of life in Northern Ireland to draw upon.
A friend gave me an account of an event which took place in Derry, one so extraordinary that I decided to use it as a basis for a novel. And so I wove it into that first draft.
Yet an extraordinary account does not necessarily make a good novel. At that point in time I was in no literary shape to make proper use of it. Consequently the book was an unmitigated failure. I shelved it and moved on to another novel, which eventually became Ten-Ten.
Nevertheless I occasionally dusted off The Three-Towered Castle and attempted to improve it.
I consigned both the original protagonist and his friend to the recycle bin. Then I cast around for a new central character.
I found him playing a bit-part in an early draft. Moreover he was the very opposite of anyone I would consider to be a hero, or at least I thought so at the time. He was a member of the B Specials and as such a hate figure for Irish Catholics and republicans. But I liked the idea of the challenge, and so Bill Hamilton, a Loyalist Protestant and part-time policeman became the fulcrum of the story. Furthermore that story changed and it became a tale of his redemption among so much awfulness.
An editor has her say
At one stage, I changed the name of the book to B Man. I also employed a highly respected editor to run the rule over it. I think it is fair to say she regarded the book as unreadable. She listed all the things that were wrong with it — it was a long list — and with hindsight I think she was right. But she did not tell me how to fix it. So once again I buried the book and proceeded to write another novel.
In time, I like to think my writing improved, and I revisited the book on numerous occasions,. I completely reworking it more times than I care to recall.
The Three-Towered Castle takes its name from Derry’s coat of arms. The city’s motto is Vita, Veritas, Victoria. Thus I divided the book into three parts — Life, Truth and Victory. But those three concepts are the complete opposite of what occurs.
Agents of Rejection
I sent various drafts of the book to many agents without anyone showing the slightest interest, and so I finally took the plunge and published it myself in June 2016.
I dedicated the book to three Irishmen. They were good friends.
They survived The Troubles, but many did not.
My novel contains several wicked acts, including murder and systematic child abuse. It tells the story of a man scarred by war and bigotry. But at its heart it holds fast to goodness, and so I hope it does justice to those who gave me their friendship.