I recently read Pig in the Middle which I found fascinating. Big Boys' Rules contains all the same (in)famous characters and dates, the difference being that Mark Urban examines in some detail the roles of Special Forces, MI5 and special units of the RUC. (I have also read Taskforce Black which encouraged me to try this book)
The underlying dilemma is "One Man's Terrorist is another Man's Freedom Fighter". I must say that I never realized that the Provisional IRA referred to their dead as martyrs.
I couldn't put the book down, as I moved from one incident to the next through the 70's and 80's. There are some amazing stories of bravery, where lone British soldiers have walked away from what I can only describe as unimaginably deadly situations. As well as the deaths of innocent people either caught in the cross-fire or victims of their own curiosity.
In some ways it is like a spy novel on steroids with informers, double agents, spy catchers and enforcers. Within the bounds of the book the violence and brutality is unbelievable, but you must remember that the Provisional IRA was one of the most ruthless and efficient terrorist organizations of the late twentieth century. Is there any other method to adopt other than being equally ruthless and efficient when the opportunity allows?
It is a very interesting, exciting and readable book, and you begin to realize how much of a "Dirty War" the conflict in Northern Ireland was for both side in the conflict.
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