“With its Romeo and Juliet beginning, I’d call it a romantic as well as a political crime thriller.” Barry Lees, lecturer in policing at the University of Cumbria, is talking about his new book Exiles from a Torn Province, published on Amazon.
Set in 1978 against a backdrop of Belfast during The Troubles, it is rather different to his previous three ‘Chandleresque’ crime novels. He explains, “It’s a story told over 15 years and leads up to the beginnings of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. How today’s peace was achieved has fascinated me for years and it’s still a secret how it began”.
Exiles supplies a fictionalised account of how it was started. Extensive research into life in Northern Ireland has gone into the preparation for this novel, although Barry has, as with the settings for his earlier work, never actually set foot in the province.
“There are no rules about visiting a place in order to write about it,” he says, “if there were, we wouldn’t have Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Tarzan.”
On retiring from the Lancashire police force after 32 years, Barry had a change of career and became a lecturer at the University of Cumbria, bringing his experience to academia. At the same time, he started an English and creative writing degree with the university and on graduating turned his hand to writing his crime fiction.
For Barry, one of the pleasures of being a writer is talking to people about the process, ideas and future projects. His love for the craft extends to part-time lecturing on the creative writing course at the university along with his other policing lecturing commitments.
The ultimate aim of many authors is to see their work transfer to the big screen. Ask him about this and Barry comments: “Given the opportunity to choose an actor to play main character James Coleman, I’d favour Belfast-born actor Jamie Dornan – although I understand he may be rather tied up at the moment…”
Exiles from a Torn Province is Barry’s fourth novel. His previous three titles are part of ‘A Kerrigan Crime Mystery’ series: By Sword and Feather; This City of Lies; The Governor’s Man. They are all available to download on Amazon Kindle. His fifth, due for release later this year, is set in a top security mental hospital in the 1980s.