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Novel by Stuart Christie, volumes 1 and 2, Pistoleros

Exciting times

Do we live in exciting times?  We had a modest march against the cuts not so long ago, and the thrill of local elections in May. But pick up a copy of Pistoleros!, published by Hastings-based publisher Christie Books, and you’ll be transported back to a time when local politics, if you can call it that, were very different, writes Nick Terdre.

We’re following the adventures of Farquhar McHarg, who sets sail from Glasgow in 1918 and alights in Barcelona, where revolution rather than the success of the local footie team was blowing in the wind. Our hero is befriended by members of the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), which is in the front line of resistance to an unholy alliance of big capitalism, the army and the Catholic church. The struggle is not confined to strikes and lock-outs, as the forces of the Right deploy death squads to take out trade unions leaders and the workers organise action groups to revenge themselves on the assassins.

At one level it looks black and white, but politics always has its murky side. Farquhar’s first job for his new comrades is to act as liaison with the local British secret services – the Brits distrust the Spanish Right’s close ties with emerging fascist forces in Italy and Germany, so – ever pragmatic – they’re prepared to trade some intelligence to help combat these forces.

All this is seen in retrospect from 1976, when Farquhar is a seasoned exile living in Paris. His friend and long-time associate Laureano has just been gunned down in the street and Farquhar knows he is next for the assassin’s bullet. So he hurries to write his story while he still can.

While some of the characters and conversations are imagined, most of the protagonists are real people and the big events really happened – as we are reminded by a long section of historical notes filling in the background to our hero’s adventures, plus pages of photos of the people and the events – mugshots of the major protagonists, pix of demonstrations, troops in the street, and so on.

While the Right attempts to restore civil order through repression, death squads and mass arrests, the CNT has to try and proceed democratically, taking important decisions to the mass meetings of the union. They don’t believe means and ends can be separated – if a more democratic society is to emerge, it must be through democratic means. That’s not the view of all the left parties, however, and such differences were to fatally undermine the Left when civil war finally broke out in the 1930s.

Pistoleros! is a trilogy – volume 1 covers 1918 and volume 2 1919 – the denouement awaits in volume 3, which I have yet to read. It’s probably not a happy ending as required by Hollywood film-makers, but then this is reality!

Pistoleros! 1:1918, 2:1919. The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg. Vol 1 254pp, vol 2 200pp. £12.95 each. ChristieBooks, PO Box 35, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 1ZS.

Posted 18:11 Monday, May 21, 2012 In: Literature

1 Comment

  1. Book Review: ¡Pistoleros! – The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg, Vol. 3: 1920-24 by Phil Ruff » Christie Books

    […] also reviews in: Hastings Online Times , Edinburgh Anarchist Federation Blog, and PM Press Share and enjoy:  Posted by christie at […]

    Pingback by Book Review: ¡Pistoleros! – The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg, Vol. 3: 1920-24 by Phil Ruff » Christie Books — Sunday, Jun 3, 2012 @ 12:57

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