Benn's current and fourth novel in his World War II-based series, Evil for Evil, has Boyle in Northern Ireland investigating theft of arms from a U.S. base for possible use in a Nazi-sponsored IRA uprising. (For some reason, IRA ties to Nazi Germany are not much discussed in the United States.)
The first book, Billy Boyle, which I'm reading now, has explored no such politically dangerous territory yet. But it does lay the groundwork for interesting internal conflict. Boyle, a young Irish American police officer from South Boston, heads to war in London with no particular military ambitions and a family legacy of ill will toward the English.
Young Billy, also the novel's first-person narrator, scorns advice that he be discreet about flaunting his American cash in front of the beleaguered and relatively impoverished English — until, on his way to his new assignment, he sees a wounded woman flashing the V-for-victory sign as she is carried from a pile of rubble on a stretcher:
"`Welcome to London,' Harding said as the traffic moved forward.This shapes up as a compelling, politically charged take on the loss-of-innocence-in-war theme. It also makes me wonder how big a readership Benn has in South Boston.
"`Yes, sir,' Maybe I wouldn't wave those sawbucks around for a while."
© Peter Rozovsky 2009