I remembered some of theses stories from my schooldays and Frank O'Connor is a master of that particularly difficult genre, the short story. A bit like the proverbial parson's egg, these stories are good in part but not just good as some are excellent and only a couple are somewhat disappointing.
My personal favourite is Guests of the Nation which is set during the Irish War of Independence and tells the story of two Englishmen who are being held captive by the IRA and who are subsequently executed by the two IRA men charged with guarding them. The earlier part of the story shows the comraderie that develops between the Englishmen, who are decent and gentlemanly, and their IRA captors.
Having carried out the executions both killers are very much affected and one of them, a man called Noble, "saw everything ten times the size, as though there were nothing in the whole world but that little patch of bog with the two Englishmen stiffening into it" but the other killer, the narrator Bonaparte, felt "as if the patch of bog where the Englishmen were was a million miles away ..... and I was somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow".
But it is the last line of this story that is the most powerful and it is as chilling as it is revealing "And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about".
There are many other gems in this collection and some very memorable characters who will stay with the reader long after the stories have been put away.