Peace Breaks Out by Robin Hardy and Donough O’Brien – Review
By Sarah Morgan
When director Robin Hardy passed away last year at the grand old age of 86, horror movie fans of a certain vintage (like me) when into mourning – he had been one of the last surviving major members of the cast and crew of the greatest British cult film of all, The Wicker Man.
So when the opportunity to review his most recent novel came up, I grabbed it with both hands, expecting something strange, possibly otherworldly and mind-boggling. Well, the mind-boggling bit was right; sadly, the rest did not materialise.
Reviewers are often sent proof copies of books, early editions that haven’t yet been gone through with a fine tooth comb to ease out all the spelling and grammar errors. However, Hardy’s book, co-written with his friend, former marketing executive Donough O’Brien, was not one of these – it was a genuine paperback. As a result, it was shocking to find so many mistakes in there, including paragraphs that ended mid-sentence, leaving readers hanging, and others that just made no sense at all.
That didn’t help me form a favourable impression, but I attempted to sweep them to one side and concentrate on the story instead. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a mess too.
Following a quick scan of the internet, I discovered that Peace Breaks Out was originally the title of a film Hardy wrote in the 1990s which was set to be directed by Uli Edel, but never saw the light of day. I’m guessing it was brushed down and turned into a novel instead, but it would have been better left alone.
Having said that, the story would have made more sense in the 1990s – it’s set during ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, a period that doesn’t seem far enough away to be truly historical, but close enough to feel out of date in the 21st century. As a result, this particular tale simply seems irrelevant.
It begins on St Patrick’s Day with an IRA attack on the family of Bill Heathcote, a wealthy Northern Irish company owner. He is the intended target, but it’s his wife who is killed and their young daughter maimed.
The bomber, Danny, is so horrified at what he’s done that he saves Bill from his bloodthirsty colleague. Knowing the IRA will be out for revenge after Danny ‘betrayed’ them, Bill helps him and his family escape the country on one condition – that Danny sets about murdering some of the key figures in the funding and arming of the IRA.
Bill’s slick Irish-American father-in-law is also embroiled in the plot, as is a beautiful FBI agent who catches Bill’s eye.
Unfortunately, it’s all so cliché-ridden, you just don’t care what happens to any of the characters. In fact, I’m not sure how I managed to stick it out until the very end, through all the badly written sex, stilted dialogue and implausible plot.
It’s such a shame that this is the final project of such a talented man. Peace Breaks Out is certainly not a fitting epitaph.
‘Peace Breaks Out’ by Robin Hardy and Donough O’Brien is published by Urbane, £7.99