Books

Top 5 books about the Troubles, chosen by bestselling author Henry Hemming 

The Troubles inspired coming-of-age memoirs, historical fiction and thrilling accounts of espionage. Here are some of the best

Shankill Road during the Troubles. Image: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Henry Hemming’s Four Shots in the Night explores the role that espionage played during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Here he picks the best books about the era.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly 

One of the best and most powerful books I’ve read in ages. This memoir of growing up during the Troubles is every bit as honest and moving as it is funny. O’Reilly is a fantastically talented writer. 

A Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney 

No other journalist in Northern Ireland had the level of access to the IRA during the Troubles as Ed Moloney did, and few risked as much. This book is the culmination of the decades he spent reporting from the frontline of this conflict. 

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe 

A book that deserves to be seen as a classic in the true crime genre. Say Nothing is elegant, gripping, and full of fascinating insight and detail, as well as being a good historical primer on the Troubles. 

Breed of Heroes by Alan Judd 

Although this is a work of fiction, Breed of Heroes was inspired by Judd’s own experiences as a British soldier in Northern Ireland. It gives a rare insight into what life was like for some of the thousands of soldiers taking part in ‘Operation Banner’, the longest continuous deployment in the history of the British Army. 

The Informer by Sean O’Callaghan 

It’s rare to hear about an Irish agent who supplied as much information as O’Callaghan and lived to tell the tale, which makes this memoir of his life as a spy even more startling. His account of the IRA plot to assassinate the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana during a Duran Duran concert is particularly memorable. 

Four Shots in the Night by Henry Hemming is out now (Quercus, £22).

You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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