The Three-Towered Castle
The first draft of The Three-Towered Castle, written in 2009, formed a sequel to my first novel, an unpublished crime story set in London spanning the years 1949-1970.
Initially, the protagonist was a young Londoner whose closest friend was from the Creggan in Derry, and the pair subsequently found themselves drawn into events taking place in Northern Ireland during the years 1970-1972, i.e. leading up to and beyond Bloody Sunday.
Although 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. One of these, told to me by a friend, was so extraordinary that I was determined to use it as a basis for a novel. And so it was woven into that first draft.
However an extraordinary account does not necessarily make a good novel, and at that stage I was in no literary shape to make proper use of it. Consequently the book was an unmitigated failure and I shelved it, moving on to another novel, which eventually became Ten-Ten.
Nevertheless I occasionally dusted off The Three-Towered Castle and attempted to improve it. I soon consigned both the original protagonist and his friend to the recycle bin, and instead 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, because 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. Moreover that story changed and became a tale of his redemption among so much awfulness.
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, and 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 the book was buried while I got on with another novel.
In time, I like to think my writing improved, and I revisited the book on numerous occasions, 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, and so the book is divided into three parts— Life, Truth and Victory. But those three concepts are the complete opposite of what occurs.
I sent various drafts of the book to countless agents without anyone showing the slightest interest, and so I finally took the plunge and published it myself in June 2016.
The book is dedicated to three Irishmen whom I once knew well, good friends, two of them were caught up in terrible events. 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 on to goodness, and so I hope it does justice to those who gave me their friendship.