Too Much Too Soon

"Book of the week. Terrific novel that follows the friendship of Liam and Rory, who meet at school and immmerse themselves in the radical icons of the 70s" Time Out
"A cynical exile's take on how the 'Celtic Tiger' pulled itself into the late-20th century," The Face
"Two teenage glam rock fans are seduced by the potential of the IRA as a means of rebelling against the values of their wealthy conservative parents," The Times
"Refreshing, funny, anarchic. Captures the tune of an Ireland gone wrong." Colum McCann, author of This Side of Brightness
"A groovy 70s-set mix of thriller and satire that aims to shed some light on the men of violence. Ambrose writes brilliantly of skewed motivation and friendship, though the most impressive aspect of the book is its rendering of the secret world of the terrorist." Attitude

Glam rock revolutionaries in the Seventies - other teenagers got into bisexuality or Lou Reed or heroin. Rory and Liam got into the Provos. This is their story.

TOO MUCH TOO SOON

I'm lying alone on the double bed in a Belfast hotel room, checking out MTV, which is full of propaganda for the awards I attended two days ago. The Corrs and Boyzone and a blast from the past called the Rolling Stones and news that Gary Glitter has been given four months for keeping kiddie porn on his computer and Bob Marley being tortured by Lauren Hill. My hotel is in the only part of Belfast that hasn't been maimed by thirty years of war. The phone rings, so I pick it up. This is it. It's the real thing. Just do it.

'Mr Crowe? Your car is here for you.'

'Oh? They're early!' Half an hour early. 'Tell the driver I'll be down in ten minutes.' I'm dressed and standing in the lobby waiting when my driver, a good looking teenager with dreadlocked skate kid hair, strides laconically through the hotel's revolving door. An athletic looking boy in torn combat trousers, Rancid teeshirt, and Vans trainers.

'Sorry to be early.' He smiles casually. 'I had to drop my girlfriend off at the airport and this was on my route back.'

Which is complete bullshit.

Outside the hotel we walk in friendly silence to a pricey new Jeep Wrangler whose driver\another skate kid\gives me a high five. Punk haircut, moonwalker trainers, an ancient Iggy teeshirt that must have belonged to his older brother.

Dreadlocks tells me in a prosperous Southern accent that his name is Kevin and that he's from Kilkenny; he seems to know I'm from there too. Moonwalker is called Cathal, has a harsh Belfast gurrier accent, and doesn't have much to say. Both boys have dark intense eyes which speak of a great seriousness.

As soon as we pull away from the curb we travel at speed until we reach a motorway which takes us south and away from the city. Kevin reaches for the stereo and inserts a mix tape of Aaron Copeland, Miles Davis and Tortoise.

'Liam,' he says to me, 'we're delighted that you want to do this interview with us. Things are getting very dangerous for us. We've been visited in our homes by our former Provo comrades and told individually that if we don't lay down our arms we'll be shot. In the last six months two of our most important men have died in car crashes. Each and every one of us fears execution at the hands of British intelligence or the Provos.'

Our journey takes fifty minutes and eventually we're in the pitch black bandit country of South Armagh. There is no need to blindfold me because I'd never find my way back here. We pull into a laneway leading to a one storey farmhouse with a large concrete farmyard out front. Parked in the farmyard, I note, are seven cars and three motorbikes. Our jeep grinds to a halt at the front door, where me and Kevin alight. I can hear dogs barking in the distance but I can see no dogs. Cathal doesn't join us but drives away in the jeep; I assume there are lookouts lurking somewhere in the darkness of the fields and that Cathal is going to join them. But this is not really a high security operation.

'Please follow me now, Liam,' Kevin says very gently. He walks through an ajar front door. I follow into an old fashioned country kitchen. A cold chicken rests in a Pyrex dish on a work surface. Three loaves of white soda bread, some onions, a saucepan full of washed and quartered potatoes. On the wallpapered wall a modern framed print of The Shepherdess by Millet, a young girl saying her Angelus. Beyond the kitchen an open door leads into a sitting room where Johnny Cash is playing on a stereo. The subdued murmur of conversation can be heard along with the music as Kevin turns to me, smiles, and beckons me to follow him into this gathering of the Real IRA.

 

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"Joe Ambrose, thanks for driving the snakes out of Ireland." - William Burroughs
 

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