Published: 28/02/2015
ISBN: 9781784621612
eISBN: 9781784628901
Format: Paperback/eBook

"Paul Burgess segues perfectly between the darkest days of the early 1970s into a jagged, fractured, contemporary Belfast"
Henry McDonald, The Guardian more

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About the Author

Dr Thomas Paul Burgess was born, November 1959 in Shankill Road, Belfast Northern Ireland. He is a published academic, novelist and song-writer / musician with his band Ruefrex. Much of his song wri... read more

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White Church, Black Mountain
by Thomas Paul Burgess

What links a traumatic childhood secret with the murder of a high-ranking police officer and two young men facing terrorist death threats?

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, the fragile Peace Process is still haunted by the crimes of the past. Truth and justice have become the currency through which victim and terrorist alike must purchase their closure regarding the conflict...

When Detective Inspector Dan Watson of the Historical Enquiries Team enters an interview room for a routine consultation, he is astonished by the recognition of an eerily familiar face – Eban Barnard, the younger brother of his late partner and mentor Detective Superintendent Alex, who was brutally assassinated by the Provisional IRA twenty years earlier. What Dan learns in that room defies credulity and threatens to open up a Pandora’s Box of secrets that will unhinge the lives of all those involved – and endanger the very peace process itself.

“I killed my own brother... and he deserved what he got.”

Based on actual events, and set against the backdrop of a society’s hunger for redemptive catharsis, White Church, Black Mountain is a tightly-constructed, fast-paced novel that follows the dysfunctional life of the misanthropic Eban as he traverses a generation of secrets and lies. Unlike many of the novels about ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, White Church, Black Mountain is at the forefront of an emerging ‘post-conflict’ canon, considering the legacy of the conflict as it impacts upon those who seek to build a future in its aftermath. Exploring a panoply of themes – including prejudice, corruption, retribution and abiding grace – it will by enjoyed by fans of political thrillers. It can be read in conjunction with Burgess’ latest academic work, The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants (Palgrave Macmillan).

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The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants.

ISBN 9781137453938
Publication Date February 2015
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF)
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

'Flags', 'Emblems' and 'The Past'; three seemingly insurmountable challenges which continue to hinder the peace process in Northern Ireland. For many, the responsibility for the impasse that scuppered the Haass talks and brought violent protests to the streets of Belfast appears to rest with the perceived intransigence of the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities to embrace change. That this community is itself riven with internal rancour and discord should come as no surprise. Issues of social class, denominational alignment, political aspiration and national identity have historically divided what outsiders have often mistakenly viewed as a collective cultural, religious and socio-political entity.

This study explores the statement by Henry McDonald that this is '…the least fashionable community in Western Europe'. A diverse group of contributors including prominent politicians, academics, journalists and artists investigate the reasons informing public perceptions attaching to the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities in Ulster.



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Slugger O'Toole

Featured Alumni, Oxford Education Society

5 out of 5 stars

White Church Black Mountain is a dark and gripping tale of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland and their legacy. Young Eban Barnard witnesses what he thinks is a killing in the Shankill area of Belfast and the fate of him and the other main characters in the book stems from that one horrific incident. Eban carries the guilt of that day with him through life, compounded by another chain of events he sets off as a result. In 2014 he decides to confess to the Historical Enquiries Team, set up to investigate unsolved murders during the troubles, and discovers that there are those who have no wish to have the truth known.

Alongside the main thread of the story is the tale of Eban's housemates; he shares with closet gay Pascal from France, Emily the long-suffering English teacher and Rosemary, a Catholic busybody and all-round harridan. One of the high points of the book is Pascal's "coming out" party, described as his "Babette's Feast” – for those of us old enough to remember Mike Leigh's classic play, "Abigail's Party" it is far more similar to that.
Burgess's characters are very well drawn and mostly flawed, through nature or made that way by life in the times and the place. Burgess shows us that while the Troubles may be over, their legacy for many most certainly isn't and those who held the reins of power then still do now; the titles change but the people don't. Burgess tells of such things as the Paramilitary's drug dealing, the collusion between the Army and the Protestant Paramilitary and the running sore of Kincora which the powers that be will “investigate” – no doubt when the guilty parties are all dead and beyond the reach of the law and public revulsion.

White Church Black Mountain pulls no punches; its characters come alive and it's a book you'll be thinking of for a long time after you've finished.

For a debut novel it's no less than awesome and I'd echo other reviewer's comments that it's "a classic”; I really hope it gets the audience it thoroughly deserves. It's confident, packs a punch and while it does at times seem to be a catalogue of misery, the final chapter leaves the reader with the hope of a happy ending.

I'd guess the book is largely allegorical but to explain why would reveal too much and I could well be wrong anyway.

Whatever else it is it's a superb read, a great book that deserves to sell well and be recognised for the amazing achievement it is. My book of 2015 so far.

by Dave Blendell

3 out of 5 stars

Great story of the Northern Ireland conflict. It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I enjoyed the complex characters and it captured my attention.

by Laura Davidson Ellett


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