“The Sunday Service” – Book 1 of the new “Straker Series”
Hugh’s first work of fiction – an historical military thriller set in the Belfast of 1981, when PIRA was running out of money, desperately needing a spectacular success. But their top bomb operator’s meticulously planned attack on an SAS patrol is thwarted, with tragic and serious consequences.
“The Sunday Service” is the first of a five-book series which covers an extraordinarily turbulent and dangerous period of UK military history: from 1981 in Northern Ireland, to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands eighteen months later.
The series’ protagonist is a Parachute Regiment and SAS officer, Peter Straker, a gladiator misplaced amid the peacetime careerism of his peers; and a senior intelligence officer Stanhope Chapman.
Hugh brings to life the ill-preparedness of the British Army of that era, with its ambitious officers focussed on a Cold War that everyone knew could never entail actual fighting. For these senior officers, counter-terrorist operations in Northern Ireland were a distraction, although providing “good low-level training for young officers and junior NCOs”.
“The Sunday Service” focuses on Northern Ireland; the desperation of PIRA, and the security forces’ in-fighting – powerful ambitions preventing the necessary compromise.
The planned second book “Athena’s Owls” shows how PIRA’s desperation for money and materials leads them to bomb high-level targets in England; and is a continuation of Captain Peter Straker’s uncertain military career.
This was also a time of political and social pressure: the Miners’ Strike, and raging inflation as well and PIRA bombs and bullets. The months before the Argentine invasion of April 1982 were filled with distractions, and Whitehall ignored many warnings from the Islanders. The British Government had little interest in the Falklands, and Foreign Office officials wanted simply to get rid of them. A government minister said exactly this at a public meeting in the Falklands with Argentine officials present, causing the Argentine junta to believe that an invasion would not be opposed by Britain.
But amid the ignorance of Cabinet Ministers and the idle disinterest of Foreign Office and MI6 officials, MI6 officer Stanhope Chapman can see what’s coming. And the now Major Peter Straker gets sucked into the vortex.
Hugh McManners knows from personal experience the MoD and Whitehall environment in which he traces the often unbelievable development of the Falklands War. Much of what Hugh describes really did happen, with several of the major and most shocking incidents being fictional extrapolations of actual but so-far unreported events.
Far more than is openly accepted, The Falklands War was “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” – as the Duke of Wellington might have put it. These two novels, the first major work of fiction about this remarkable war, show just how close-run it really was.
Order a signed copy of “The Sunday Service” (available as paperback or hardcover)