In 1997, Martin McGartland ruffled a few feathers with Fifty Dead Men Walking
, a Bravo Two Zero style account of his life as a Special Branch undercover agent working inside the IRA. The book included various operations that McGartland managed to thwart, a few that he didn't, and culminated in his escape from an IRA punishment squad by throwing himself through a second-floor window, but its chief virtue was to expose the hierarchy of the IRA as being driven by petty-minded viciousness and criminality rather than political idealism.
McGartland was no doubt expecting that that was going to pretty much be that as far as books were concerned, and that he could go back to rebuilding a life under an assumed name in northern England. Instead, we have Dead Man Running which, while less sensational and gung-ho than its predecessor, is an altogether darker and more disturbing read. Dead Man Running begins with a phone call from one of McGartland's former Special Branch handlers in Northern Ireland, who tells him that MI5 had actually conspired with the IRA to get McGartland killed and were very annoyed that he had managed to escape. If this has all the hallmarks of a paranoid conspiracy theory, then one can't deny that McGartland is a very convincing conspiracist. He tells of the reluctance of Special Branch to provide adequate protection and how the Northumberland police constantly harassed him-- even though they knew who he was--until he was forced to break his cover in open court, thereby making him an easy target for the IRA death squads, in order to clear his name of criminal charges.
But Dead Man Running is more than one man's search for the truth. It is also a fascinating insight into the murky world of Irish politics. We have all heard the gruesome details of the punishment beatings, but McGartland lifts the lid on the compromises that the establishment is prepared to make to reach a settlement with the terrorists. It is a world where people mean nothing and appearance is all, and it leaves you wondering whether a peace at any price is a peace worth having and whether the Good Friday Agreement is worth the paper it's written on. --John Crace
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Author of bestselling FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING - published in the US by Hastings House.