Kevin Myers’ ‘Watching the Door’: Book Review

This reads as if a mad picaresque tale. Myers as first a reporter for RTÉ and then as a freelance journalist with no real experience, finds himself wandering into savagery as he hastens north as the Troubles explode. A soldier dies next to him; he witnesses an IRA ambush; he sees children shot to death by snipers. The adjectives pile up: the conditions in 1970s Belfast lead to a life led as lies. ‘Insane, vile, ludicrous, preposterous’ characterise what happens to everyday situations turned into hidden truths, revealed only behind one’s own doors, to one’s own ‘Catholic’ tribe.

Not that the British troops, their commanders, the loyalist paramilitaries, the nutting squads escape opprobrium. ‘Everyone in Northern Ireland lied. Everyone, without exception: republicans, loyalists, soldiers, police–everyone. Lying is easy in such a place. It is the default mode to which everyone turns when there is no consensus about truth. In the absence of an agreed reality, truth is whatever you’re having yourself’. (117-8) Myers names the victims, and makes us watch as they die. He tallies forty people he knew who died in the North, and another eight he did not, but whom he watched die. We like him are forced to remember how statistics cloak murder, and how anguish shatters those left behind.

As the decade and the Troubles grind on, Myers loses his bearings. He struggles to find work, to keep girlfriends (although he beds an impressive number), and to stay sane amidst the ‘exonerative moral machinery’ which grinds down his resistance to republican rhetoric and unionist idiocy. The cant of their volunteers and the endlessly one-sided recital of their woes disgust him. ‘For immunity-to-consequence was both a by-product of the Troubles, and its fuel, rather as a nuclear reactor can run on its own waste’. (230)

Still, Myers for all his acerbic contempt fills the narrative with vivid reportage from his perspective, starting with the Shaws Road ambush he tape recorded after he stumbled upon its IRA setup, and continuing into Robert Bankier’s last breath as a British soldier, the final moments of Rose McCartney and Patrick O’Neill at the hands of loyalist killers, and a bomb attack Myers narrowly misses meant for that ‘deeply manipulative’ republican apologist to “revolutionary tourists”, John McGuffin. Myers provides abundant tragedy, danger, and narrow escapes.

Luckily, he intersperses happier tales. His best, such as Lady Henrietta Guinness meeting the consumers of her family’s stout in West Belfast’s pubs, combine a poignant moment with a satirical relish for the absurd that all too often became the ordinary. He loves relating his two escapades when the man of the house returned and Myers had to hide from the cuckold; his visit to his friend Barney’s brothel, surely the least successful in all of Ulster, represents a comic triumph. My favorite episode, near the end of this often dispiriting narrative, managed to lift my spirits. His hosting of Shannon, an utterly unspeakable American feminist, who befuddles Myers with her contradictions, as a splendid set piece succeeds.

His memoir confronts his own complicity as a journalist who becomes too intimate with those who he meets, for England-born Myers looks back upon his own compulsion to mix with the natives turned friends, lovers, and neighbors. Everyone talks to him, but Myers learns that half-truths fill their admissions. He is never trusted enough by any side.

This malignant maelstrom before decade’s end spun him out of the province, as he tried to escape the degradation that corroded his professional career and personal life. As I finished, I wondered what he learned, for the back cover tells us he went on to cover civil war in 1980s Lebanon and 1990s Bosnia.


  • Harry Flashman

    Odd that this book is being reviewed now as it must be at least two or three years since it was published.

    It is indeed a very thought provoking, well written book much derided at the time of publishing by the usual provo-bots for the one or two “romps” which he recorded and seem perfectly plausible for a young man in his situation.

    The book itself is about much, much more than them however and describes at very close quarters some of the most appalling and memorable (and indeed sadly completely forgotten) atrocities of the early seventies. His account of the Lenadoon incident is particularly excellent, you can almost feel yourself there.

    Well worth a read with the incomparable Lost Lives as the usual accompaniment for reference.

  • Harry Flashman

    And still they can’t get past the “romps” aspect.

    Try reading the book, the two incidents in question, rather minor perfectly believable affairs (or do you think young people didn’t have sex in Belfast in the 1970’s?) are sidelines, pieces of colour which enliven the almost unremitting awfulness of the rest of the events he describes.

  • I did try. I got about a third of the way through before I came to the same spoofer conclusion. Threw it into a charity book bucket in my local garage where it still lay when I checked 7 or 8 months later.

  • Rory Carr

    Hardly surprising that Harry Flashman finds Myers’ implausible tale so diverting since it reads uncannily like one of the memoirs of his fictional namesake.

    As to GTM’s gross slander on Malachi O’Doherty, all any reader has to do is to compare one of O’Doherty’s more confessional memoirs with Myers’ dubious recollection and decide then which account has the ring of truth and which more akin to ” …a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

  • “Gross slander” is a very strong term Rory.

    I was merely suggesting that the negative reception afforded to Myers’ book by people who were around at the same time (such as O’Doherty) has more than a whiff of the same pomposity that they have accused Myers of.

    I’d disagree however that ‘The Telling Year’ by O’Doherty is “dull and turgid”. Indeed it is an excellent documentary account of a dramatic era for Northern Ireland. It is, however, not the only account.

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, first two important things.

    One, John had the review some considerable time ago. I just took a long time ‘getting round to’ sorting out the book review section. Any responsibility for its late arrival acrue to me, not John!

    Two, I am very keen to build up a team of review bloggers, to have a go at books new and old… In fact if you have a book burning inside you want to tell us about, drop me a line at

    I’ll change the title. In the mean time, there’s a difference between man playing and robust criticism. If you are going to criticise robustly, do it robustly. Telling us you dislike the author is frankly a waste of yours and everyone else’s time.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’m not entirely sure where Rory and Ulick are coming from with their “spoofer” and “implausible” remarks. Are they saying that none of the book is believable including his remarkably vivid accounts of several incidents in which he as a journalist would probably have had first hand knowledge and which certainly read like eye witness accounts?

    Or is it once again the puerile fascination with the rather unremarkable and fairly commonplace sexual liaisons, which last time I checked still happen pretty much every day among young people in urban environments?

  • Mick Fealty

    Evidence Harry? Stick to evidence, and you’ll play up to the standards of the review writer who took the time to read it and tell the rest of us who have not read the book about it?

    If you have read it, tell the rest of us about it?

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh dear Mick, I read the book about three years ago and I’m at work at the moment.

  • Rory Carr

    I do not pretend to understand (or for the sake of decency at least, pretend not to understand) Harry Flashman’s continual dwelling upon the sexual hi-jinks in this book and his insistence that both Ulick and myself are similarly so fixated, when in fact neither of us have made any mention of this aspect, myself at least assuming that such confections were a response to the dictatorial demands of editors in these times for a bit of “above the knee” titillation before any contract would be forthcoming.

    After all this is the stuff that helps improve the chances of selling serial rights to the Sunday newspapers and positively reeks of Little Jack Horner bravado that is hardly worth commenting upon.

  • Harry, there’s a book called ‘The Long Walk’ by Slawomir Rawicz that always sticks in my memory even though I last years it 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a rip roaring autobiographical story of Rawicz’s escape from a Soviet gulag, crossing Sibera into Mongola through the Gobi desert over the Himalayas and into Tibet. A real page-turner, it had me hooked from the first page. There was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that the author was embellishing the tale a little, but sure we all do that when retelling old stories. However the killer for me was when he started to describe the abominable snowman he met in the Himalayas and then it dawned on me the whole thing was a load of oul bollocks. He “jumped the shark” as the young folk say.

    Ever since then I can’t abide these autobiographical narratives liberally embellished with the authors accounts of his daring deeds as I’m always waiting for that ‘jump the shark’ moment. They can’t be trusted, as you don’t know what he’s embellishing, what is truthful and what is an outright deliberate lie justified in the authors mind with some sort of egotistical call to artistic license.

    Myers’ book is filed away inside my head along with ‘The Long Walk’. Reads well as a work of fiction but when one incredulous incident begins to stack up on top of another you realise none of it can be trusted as an accurate or truthful account. I suppose that’s in tune with the man himself (and I’m trying to play the ball here Mick) and the columns he writes as I hear he was turned inside out by the Smithwick Tribunal last week. On being questioned about his knowledge of the IRA mole inside the Dundalk gardaí he changed his story a few times, suggesting firstly was there one, then six secret IRA agents, before coming out with something along the lines of “why are you asking me, sure what would I know about the whole thing?”. Not sure if that was a ‘facepalm’ moment or another jumping of the shark, though I think you can only jump the shark once, so in that case I’m wondering why Smithwick even bothered.

  • Mick Fealty

    Have you read the book Rory? I have to admit, I haven’t, since I didn’t get a review copy at the time of publication (which is another reason it wasn’t reviewed here back then).

  • Harry Flashman

    OK fair enough thanks for the clarification so you are saying that he’s “embellishing” to put it no stronger, his experiences.

    I too did think he was very close to quite a few incidents and that was remarkably coincidental but then central Belfast isn’t that big a place and his job was actually to go and find trouble and report what was happening.

    Furthermore quite a few of the incidents he describes, whilst appalling, are hardly known about today and the details he provides about them (maybe he picked them up from interviewing witnesses) are quite detailed and vivid. I used Lost Lives as a back up while reading his account and he did at least get dates and places correct, no doubt Kevin has his own copy.

    I had a friend, the same age as me who grew up in the Bogside and he was able to give me details of almost every killing in Derry city centre over a particular three year period in the eighties. When I challenged him he looked askance and pointed out that as a teenage lad hanging around the Bogside and city centre with his mates every night it was hardly surprising that he witnessed the indidents which were happening in plain view on the city streets.

    So I suppose the jury is out on Myers’ veracity but the book (bedhopping notwithstanding) is nonetheless a fascinating account of life in Belfast at that time. Something that in all honesty I did not find with Malachi’s book and which disappointed me as he is normally such a good writer.

  • Framer

    I have read both Kevin Myers and Malachi O’Doherty’s ‘The Telling Year – Belfast 1972’ and would say both are excellent in their own way and, importantly, easy to read.

    Myers is good on the deception and lying and has an inexhaustible hatred of that amoral reprobate, the late John McGuffin.

    Malachi’s book however is almost the best on the Troubles describing as it does the events around and the feelings of someone caught up in the middle of the war between the army and the IRA in west Belfast.

    He can be and is quite honest as he is not sympathetic or emotionally attached to either force.

  • Rory Carr

    Rather than insist that I have read the book, Mick, it is safer to admit that I “read at it” since I cannot in honesty say that my reading was particularly assiduous. It is a poor workman…, and all that, but I will blame the author here. It si not so much that his prose is sufficiently compelling or his stories sufficiently lurid to demand attention, but rather that they are too much so, which is not what we require in a memoir of this nature.

    An indicator of the frivolity with which the whole episode is considered by the author and at least one of his publishers might be indicated by the cover of this edition of the same memoir offered on Amazon at £0.45p, no doubt a bargain if one is the mood for “that sort of thing”.

  • Rory Carr

    That should be “It is not so much that his prose is insufficiently compelling…” etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, but Ulick richly earns his right to dunt (Mr) Myers because he takes the time to explain his reaction/feelings. You don’t. If it’s not worth commenting on, then don’t bother commenting!

  • Nunoftheabove

    I read this quite some time ago despite (ok, possibly because of..) my misgivings about the author, misgivings I’m unsure the book really helped alter that much.

    As – and let’s assume that it is all true – a journal of a very specific time and place it captures quite a bit though. Notwithstanding the events themselves the almost purity of bleakness of the (mainly) Belfast portrayed is noteworthy enough and doesn’t ring untrue. How typical his experience as a journalist was is difficult to say – I’m unaware of any serious colleague or peer seriously unpicking or challenging what he’s written but may stand merrily corrected if anyone knows differently. Had the book been written/published much earlier it’s not inconceivable that it may have inspired different career choices within me, leastways if I had had no previous awareness of the author.

    He does try a bit too hard in places and narcissism and immaturity on this scale is of course almost always unbecoming iresome however there is, I discerned, a sense in which he does share a certain embarrassment about how he was at that age – and who among us cannot relate ? – and just how little he knew about the north (or the rougher edges of life generally, frankly) and how ill-prepared he appeared to be for all of it.

    He does carry fairly well a sense of the sheer randomness – or certainly apparent randomness – of events at that time and of the awful residual fear and general unease which this in itself carried – the constant creeping menace of it all, the lack of opportunity for reflection, for holding breath, for taking stock, for thinking outside of the tribal narrative, jam-packed full of half-truth, mythology and misjudgment. While he’s no sociologist, he does nonetheless create some sense of the awful orthodoxy of crtain spects of the ghetto experience, the narrowness, the small-mindedness, the claustrophobia in the thinking and of the experience of life, the comfort of the simple solution and so forth. The shade may have been more sharply focused had he also applied some light here and there and humanity in the events portrayed and even around the edges of his remarks as I recall were noticeably absent. There is little of political insight within the book as I recall, it’s micro rather than macro in perspective and in the end is about him than about the story he’s describing parts of and his critical faculties ebb and flow disorientingly for this reader.

    He could perhaps have gone further into the impact it had on him at an impressionable age and also address quite why he appeared to resolve with some determination to get the hell out and never turn back. I also felt that there was no attempt at really understanding quite why such numbers of people rationalized the violence other than perhaps glancing blows at societal credulity and the relative ease with which a handful of careerist and innately violent characters went unchallenged. Perhaps that’s unfair as it was a while ago but be interested to learn what others who have read it more recently think and whether my own recollections are entirely accurate or assessments unreasonable.

    I wouldn’t incline towards reading it again however it does, as they say, require to be read nonetheless.

  • PaddyReilly

    Have ordered the book. I knew I had to have it when I read the lines:-

    Everyone in Northern Ireland lied. Everyone, without exception: republicans, loyalists, soldiers, police–everyone. Lying is easy in such a place. It is the default mode to which everyone turns when there is no consensus about truth. In the absence of an agreed reality, truth is whatever you’re having yourself’

    Some of the other reviewers intimate that Colonel Myarse had no difficulty adapting to local custom. His stories tend to have no living corroborative witness. He does not consider that the inability of the natives to achieve a shared reality is anything to do with shaky foundations of the state they are forced to live in: he thinks the political set-up is faultless, but that the people are inherently scum.

    I make this purchase in the expectation of being entertained, in one way or another, rather than being persuaded by the author’s rhetoric.

  • carl marks

    Firstly let me say I haven’t read this book yet, and secondly I always looked forward to KMs column in the Irish times, but having been brought up in north Belfast during the darkest hours (clichéd or what) off the troubles and having seen quite a bit of it, to be honest if someone in a bar claimed that they seen 48 people dying in our dirty little war I would be thinking either this is a Olympic level BS artist or the unluckiest person alive.

  • carl marks

    onhe subject of books ( hope you dont mind a bit of drifting mick) im shortly going on a very long flight and am looking for a book to pass the time. i dont think it,s this one but anyone got any Suggestions.

  • Mick Fealty

    CM, even better, can we get someone to suggest the right book and offer a review of their own?

  • carl marks

    ok ill go for it, if i bring along a suggested book i will review it for slugger.

  • Nunoftheabove

    carl marks

    Try Misha Glenny’s “DarkMarket: CyberThieves, CyberCops and You”; and/or Jon Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test”; and/or (of course) “I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan”. There’s the Tony Francis’s Higgins book too but if you want/need something local do O’Rawe’s “Afterlives”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good man!!

    Don’t forget to tell us about the flight!!

  • Nunoftheabove

    carl marks

    I haven’t got it yet but “Sean Lemass: Democratic Dictator” by Bryce Evans might prove of some interest to Sluggerites and Sluggerettes alike if the spirit moves you.

  • Hi all–I reviewed on Amazon & my blog a while ago Malachi O’Doherty’s ‘Telling Year’ as well as ‘I Was a Teenaged Catholic’ and ‘Empty Pulpits’; I admired his ‘Trouble with Guns’ way back. In my original blog review (5-5-11) of ‘Watching’, 1500 words, I briefly compared Myers with O’D’s 1972 account.

    I knew of the reputation of Myers (in reference to his stance on the ‘ra as well as the odd duck Francis Stuart regarding that ‘worm in the rose’ libel fracas) from reading his journalism before opening this. I decided to give it a fair go, without prejudice, and despite some self-aggrandising moments, which Myers himself acknowledges more or less, I tried to convey in the limited space my reactions. My reviews attempt to convey my stance without getting bogged down in partisanship, no easy feat on such topics as this.

    I look forward to overcoming my ‘distance’ from the fracas and submitting more (eclectic, too) book reviews to Slugger soon.

  • Decimus

    I read the book a while back and found it a good read. I got the impression that Myers was suffering from a touch of PTSD as a result of his experiences, which would be perfectly understandable. His anger at the morons who were causing the suffering that was going on around him was understandable too. Small wonder that their supporters deride him.

    I thoroughly recommend “Me Cheeta The Autobiography” by Cheeta (James Lever. The hard drinking, chain smoking side kick of Tarzan takes us through his life from capture in Africa, Hollywood stardom and right up to his retirement in California where he wiles away his time painting.

    His description of the Hollywood golden years, and his impressions of the stars is priceless. He especially detested Mickey Rooney, and his revenge on Charlie Chaplin is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

    His admiration for Johnny Weissmuller never diminishes throughout his life, and after reading this book it is hard not to agree with him. Weissmuller developed his unique swimming style by necessity as he had to avoid the turds floating in Lake Michigan. In 1927 whilst training with his brother an excursion boat sank half a mile away from them. They were taken out by boat to the scene and between them hauled thirty bodies to the surface. Eleven of those bodies were resucitated.

    If you want a good read which will have you laughing out loud, whilst at the same time learning something of the Hollywood stars of the thirties and forties the I recommend the above.

  • Rory Carr

    For an interesting historical police thriller with a twist try Peeler by Kevin McCarthy.

    The Amazon product description reads:

    West Cork. November 1920. The Irish War of Independence rages. The body of a young woman is found brutally murdered on a windswept hillside. A scrap board sign covering her mutilated body reads ‘TRATOR’. Traitor. Acting Sergeant Sean O’Keefe of the Royal Irish Constabulary, a wounded veteran of the Great War, is assigned to investigate the crime, aided by sinister detectives sent from Dublin Castle to ensure he finds the killer, just so long as the killer he finds best serves the purposes of the Crown in Ireland. The IRA has instigated its own investigation into the young woman’s death, assigning young Volunteer Liam Farrell – failed gunman and former law student – to the task of finding a killer it cannot allow to be one of its own. Unknown to each other, an RIC constable and an IRA Volunteer relentlessly pursue the truth behind the savage killing, their investigations taking them from the bullet-pocked lanes and thriving brothels of war-torn Cork city to the rugged, deadly hills of West Cork.

    I don’t seem to be able to lay a hand on my copy just now but I recall a quotation from Sebastian Barry which prefaced the novel which repeats a heart-felt claim by an RIC man (or his grandson) to the effect that “we were not traitors, we served the law in place and served the people accordingly..” or something along those lines.

    Suffice to say that an author who can include among his characters a Black and Tan who, when shot and killed in an IRA ambush, elicited a great well of pity from this reader might be thought to have some quiet power in his pen. £8.55 delivered free or Used pbk. at £2.77p + £2.80p postage.

    On a heavier note, and a much heavier and much, much longer read, the late Roberto Bolano’s, 2666 . A reader’s review in Amazon sums up my own feelings entirely:

    When I finished the novel I started again; it was the only thing to do; there was too much to absorb on the first reading; too many themes–writing, violence, detectives, murder, identity, travel, death, books, libraries, biographies, success, failure, race, fascism, Nazis, and war.”

    Ostensibly a tale of the quest by four writers to trace Nobel Literature hopeful, author, Benno von Archimboldi this five-part work examines the post WWII world through literature, poetry, politics, all to a backcloth of the relentless horrifying series of murders of women in the fictional Santa Teresa (a thinly disguised Juarez, Mexico). £6.99 post free or for as little as £0.06p + £2.80p postage.

    A more gritty noir treatment of the Mexican savagery visited on poor women already exploited to the maximum as maquiladoras (factory) workers in the border town of Ciudad Juarez across the bride from El Pao, Texas, is Sam Hawken’s The Dead Women of Juarez. Don’t expect any answers as to what really might be going on in Juarez, who might really be responsible, just enjoy a well crafted piece of sweaty modern hard-boiled if that’s what grabs you. £8.34 delivered free.

    Recollection of the last two of which have prompted me to order Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden which promises to examine all that is happening in that benighted border town with greater scrutiny.

    Dundalk, in comparison with Juarez you are Shangri La !

  • Rory Carr

    I can also concur with Decimus in heartily recommending Me Cheetah for all the reasons that he advances.

  • Decimus


    I’ve just ordered ‘Peeler’ on the strength of your review. I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

  • Rory Carr

    Do please, Decimus, I would be keen to hear the opinions of others on this one of which I have become a keen champion to the extent that I am willing to risk charges of having succumbed to “revisionism”, which would surely scupper any reputation I might have earned to date as a consequence of my well known views on that subject..

  • lamhdearg

    Why would anyone want to relive that, Carl i suggest the Otterbury incedent by C, Day, Lewis,. or it if you still want to have a dark clowd over you head, Albert Speer, His battle with truth, by gitta sereny.

  • Harry Flashman

    I alluded to a book I was reading at the moment in another post and which I am thoroughly enjoying, no doubt Rory would be familiar with it from his youth. It’s Dorothy McArdle’s “The Irish Republic”.

    I picked it up while I was back home some months back, it’s an old hardback, the 1951 edition if I’m not mistaken, and probably belonged to my late grandmother, a Cumann na mBan veteran of the period described in the book. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, if you’ll excuse the pomposity, so I love the book for the fact that it’s been lying around the cellar of my dad’s house for decades, probably never opened in all that time, yet here I am opening it many thousands of miles away on the other side of the world and it just sweeps you into the world she writes about. I don’t think I will ever be a fan of e-books.

    Anyway the book in question is a great read, it’s an old fashioned history book written by an old fashioned historian written in clear simple English recounting the facts (as she chooses them) and backed up with sources. Ms McArdle writes as an unashamed Republican and makes no bones about her stance and for that reason is quite refreshing to read, particularly for someone like me more used to reading later, I hesitate to use the term, ‘revisionist’ histories. There is none of the psychoanalysis or sociological mumbo-jumbo of modern history books, she gives the facts ma’am, just the facts.

    In style it is very similar to Churchill’s books, especially his histories of the two world wars which I also love. So I don’t know if it’s still in print but if you’ve a long journey and you want to immerse yourself in a genuine period drama then get your hands on McArdle’s venerable tome, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  • Brian


    I was keen to read that book for quite some time. I finally found a copy of that (for some reason it hasn’t been republished in decades) and I was not disappointed at all, to put it mildly. It is beautifully written and tells the the Republican point of view rather convincingly, at least until the Treaty.

    In my opinion it is one of the best books on modern Irish history and in capturing the broad sweeping feeling of Irish Catholics during and up to that period; the disillusionment, the awakening, the hope, the chaos, the disappointment and the bitterness.

    I found it ironic that there was a big picture of De Valera before the beginning of the book; I think Dorothy might have lost faith in Dev in later years.

  • Harry Flashman

    I too am at the Treaty and I will admit my attention is flagging somewhat not because of any decline in her writing standards but because the events themselves are not a worthy climax to the preceding years. You know the whys and the wherefores, you understand where everyone is coming from but it just seems so obvious that there could be no other outcome.

    In my version Dev has written the foreword in which he frankly admits that he and Ms McArdle might not have been seeing eye to eye towards the end although I do note from Wikipedia that he was a daily visitor to her sickbed before she died, vainly praying for her conversion to Catholicism!

  • Dorothy Macardle was from a brewing family, and she spent ten years on what was regarded as the Fianna Fáil version of official history, perhaps a bit unfairly. In the 1999 reprint (nothing added, but from the second rev. ed, of 1965, reissued by Wolfhound Press, Dublin) of this thousand-page plus tome, Terry DeValera has a brief preface, insisting on her independence of thought in terms of Dev’s own strong-minded positions. She also wrote fiction and plays early on, and she represented Dev’s paper the ‘Irish Press’ at the League of Nations. She was from Dundalk, was jailed for republican activism, and was in the service of the Cause 1916-23. She died in 1959.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I read it a few years ago aswell. I remember being baffled by his obsession with Carlisle Circus. Could be because I only experienced it in the 80s, but he makes it sound like a cross between Times Square and the Arc de Triomphe.

  • carl marks

    I’m not sure what way to do this, lamhdearg has a point I’m of on a holiday and don’t want anything to heavy so me cheeta looks good but is it long enough for the 20 odd hours not including stopovers) that I will be flying, Jared Diamonds Guns, Germs, and Steel. Is worth a reread but again I’m going on hols,
    So i have been told that the game of thrones is worth a read but I’ve seen the show,
    I would still like some suggestions. If it helps i will be in Borneo for a week or so with my Daughter trekking and the like, then on to Bali and Flores to see some old friends and then depending on the schedule and whims of the local airlines I might get a week in Irian Jaya, if that doesn’t work then back to Bali and loaf around a bit.
    I will be able to pick up or swop books in bali which hopefully sort out the return flight.

  • carl marks

    by the way, sorry for the late reply but been busy at the lately

  • Decimus


    ‘Me Cheeta’ is 306 pages long. You will definitely read it in one sitting.

  • Harry Flashman

    Carl, while in Bali airport, or Soekarno-Hatta if you’re transiting in CGK, go to the bookshop and buy John Hughes’ “The Fall of Sukarno; A Coup that Misfired, a Purge thet Ran Wild”, it’s written by one of the few western journalists that was in Indonesia during the events of 1965/66, and is a fascinating account of the events of those days.

    It reads like a fast paced political thriller and is an excellent introduction to modern Indonesian politics and history, a rollicking good read, I thoroughly recommend it.

    Enjoy Bali, although it’s a bit rainy here right now.

  • Harry Flashman

    One other thing Carl that came to my mind, you might not have been following it but things have been kicking off a little bit over the past few weeks in Eastern Indonesia, we had some serious sectarian rioting in Ambon in September which thankfully was settled quickly but which served as a reminder of how volatile things still are there.

    More relevant to you is the trouble in Papua which has turned nasty in the past couple of weeks related to a strike at Freeport (all trouble in Papua is related to Freeport). There have been a dozen or so killings culminating in the murder of a senior copper last week blamed naturally on the Free Papuans. Extremely unlikely though that is given the nature of his execution, two blokes pinning him down at the airport before shooting him twice in the head with his own gun is not the modus operandi of men whose weapons are penis gourds and bows and arrows, things are a bit tense.

    Jakarta has been making conciliatory speeches but still sent extra paramilitary police and tensions are still high so take care. Keep up to date with the Jakarta Post and Jakarta Globe websites as you’ll find nothing in the BBC, heck why would the Beeb bother themselves with such an unimportant place as Indonesia?

    Selamat Jalan, ya.

  • carl marks

    Cheers Harry, if i get to Irian Jaya i will be in the Parrots Beak area and stayin with friends some of whom will be wearing penis gourds,
    ( must get them to show me how they can be turned into weapons)
    ill be hopping straight to Flores from Bali and vice versa.
    I suspect the most risky thing i will be doing is climbing Kinabulu in the wet, sans guide.
    I have ordered Me Cheeta for the way out and will look in Bali for something for the return trip.