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Demons, Hamlets and Femmes Fatales

Representations of Irish Republicanism in Popular Fiction

Jayne Steel

The book provides a lively discussion of the ways in which popular fiction appropriates the figure of the Provisional IRA activist and the political conflict within the north of Ireland. It looks at how authors’ recreations, or transformations, of Irish republicanism might reveal self-referentional images that are, ultimately, a product of national identity and/or gender identity. An important focus of the book interrogates British fascination and fixation with the Provisional IRA and its ‘terrors’.
The many novels discussed in this study include Gerald Seymour Harry’s Game; Campbell Armstrong Jig; Bernard MacLaverty Cal; Mary Costello Titanic Town; Jennifer Johnston Shadows on our Skin; Deidre Madden One by One through the Darkness.

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Chapter 3 VAMPIRA

Extract

3.1: ‘The Sexy Steps of Terror’ 1 She heard the engine turn over, then walked down the street, stopped by the car, and bent over the driver’s door. ‘Going to give us a good time?’ The soldier laughed and wound down his window. ‘Perhaps’. She raised the Ruger and fired four times. 2 Though fiction, this has been the sort of cautionary tale regularly told by the British Army to recruits new to the north of Ireland: beware the deadly consequences of casual fraternization; there is no rest and relaxation in Belfast. British author Gordon Stevens’s novel shows how this threat sprawls to Berlin where the dangers of an imper- ceptible foe are also ever present. Such fatally brief encounters provide metaphors for England’s bloody historical romance with Ireland and the inescapable geographical intimacy of the field of conflict. The function of this sort of anecdote in popular fiction, in this case Stevens’s Provo (1993), is slightly different. Its purpose is not simply cautionary, it is supposed to entertain – give the reader a ‘good time’. It does this by exploiting the potentially dark ambiguity sur- rounding ‘Perhaps’. Perhaps in the world of fiction and fantasy, dying at the hands of a beautiful assassin is the very acme of a good time. Media images do of course flout this fantasy; a fantasy created for the male gaze. To cite one of many examples, appearing a few years after Stevens’s fiction, photographic images appearing in the art section of Observer Life...

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