I purchased this book on the basis of the above synopsis, and interests in accounts of The Troubles and political biographies. Unfortunately, the synopsis does not accurately represent the book, and readers are unlikely to learn anything new about The Troubles or about Martin McGuinness. The authors' credentials, as presented to the reader on the cover, are of a prominent journalist (Clarke) and established researcher (Johnston). This suggests to the reader a degree of detachment from the subject matter that is belied by every page; it soon becomes apparent that Clarke and Johnston personally revile McGuinness. They may have good grounds for doing so, but in this case, their grounds for feeling this way should be openly declared; their book may have been strengthened, and in any event, would have been more honest. Adulation of a subject and revulsion both undermine biography. A key source for this book was Paddy Ward, who was shown at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry to have contradicted himself in the various accounts he has given of his actions on Bloody Sunday. Clarke and Johnston have him as a key player and close associate of McGuinness on the day, whereas Ward was 16 years old, and no other witness to the Inquiry supports his testimony.
It isn't necessary to speculate about the authors' motives in writing this book, to argue that if those elements in the British government who would like to pass the responsibility for the death and injury of unarmed people on Bloody Sunday by British soldiers from the British State to the IRA, then this book would make an excellent commission.
For an honest account of why someone might have been drawn into the IRA in the 1960s and the events surrounding Bloody Sunday, the classic account remains that of Eamonn McCann, War and an Irish Town (Pluto Classic - Oct 1993). McCann was a member of the Official IRA and closely involved in the Civil Rights movement from its earliest days; he remains a committed socialist and peace activist in Derry, and writes with wit, passion, and a sceptical eye. For readers looking for a more detached - and well sourced - account of events that precipitated the most recent Troubles in Northern Ireland, The Sunday Times Insight Team: Ulster (Paperback - Feb 1972), which was read into the US Congressional Record, is also highly recommended; (it was Clarke's connection with the Sunday Times, as well as the synopsis above, that lead me to buy From Guns to Government.) A more recent work, Those Are Real Bullets, Aren't They?: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 30 January 1972 by Peter Pringle [Sunday Times & Observer] and Philip Jacobson [The Times] (Paperback - 27 April 2000) also provides a balanced and gripping account of Bloody Sunday.
A clear eyed biography of an Irish politician who first came to prominence through the politics of violence needs to be written - Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government is not it. [G.K., Cambridge, UK]