What’s your favorite food? That’s tough, I love all sorts of foods – rich curries, simple pastas, fresh fish and seafood. But I guess one of my favorite rituals is ending each night sitting quietly with my wife and enjoying a glass of good port, a sliver of Stilton cheese with crackers, savoring the taste and letting the activities and thoughts of the day fall away.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become an author? I always wanted to be a good writer but what “made me” into an author was unexpectedly finding myself using words to “get my life back” after the traumas of war. In the 1970’s I joined the British Army – The Parachute Regiment – and served in different parts of the world. It was being in combat and the subsequent years of recovery having lost my entire large bowel from service in Northern Ireland that dramatically changed my life. I came out as a very “weathered” 30 year old wanting to make sense of all that had happened to me. So I starting writing and that outpouring of my soul became my first book Contact. It was a bestseller and I’ve never looked back. Now I prefer writing fiction and the different worlds I can create that way.
What inspired you to write your first book, CONTACT? My first book Contact started out as a way of coming to terms with the world after returning from combat physically and emotionally wounded. I was lost, angry, sad, and felt I didn’t fit in with the so-called “normal world” – what’s “normal” after being at war, anyway? I wanted people to understand what it was like going out expecting to be shot or blown apart every day. How we came to terms with the stress, loss of life, fear and boredom. Wanted families of veterans to understand why their loved ones might be distant, different. But my primary motivation was to ensure that the lives lost and destroyed, both of soldiers and civilians, counted for something – and that politicians might stop and think long and hard before choosing to go to war.
Was your second book as successful as your first? No, but only because I made a rookie mistake that I’ve never made again. My first book Contact was a bestseller which was great – but I spent time basking in the limelight and enjoying my fame rather than reining in my ego and getting back to work on the second book. So by the time Collisions came out I had lost a lot of momentum I had gained. It did OK, but not nearly as well as it could have. It’s an important lesson for any author. Now that I’ve “written my way back” to being a fulltime author I’m wiser and more disciplined and keep on releasing new books to follow up the last – that consistency is important for readers and for me as well.
Was it easier to write other books after your first book was published? It was easier because I knew I could do it and so the passion and excitement of success was a wave I could ride on and helped my confidence. But in another way it was harder because I became more self-critical rather than just letting the words and story flow. I thought about it too much and so had to stop myself overanalyzing everything or questioning everything. So I have learned to stop that kind of thinking while writing and allow the spontaneity and instinct to take over. I need to feel, in some ways, that every book is the first book, though it comes from a place of deepening experience and expertise each time as I publish more and more books.
This new expanded edition of AFN Clarke’s bestselling and controversial book CONTACT is a raw, visceral, “no-holds-barred” account of combat from one of the men we paid to kill. When first published it caused a furor for its devastating honesty and chilling revelations.
Clarke vividly recounts his experiences of two tours in Northern Ireland (in Belfast and Crossmaglen) as a Platoon Commander with Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment during the blood soaked 1970′s. Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan comment on how relevant the book still is today, as the dangers, political agendas and religious roots underlying the conflict are eerily and heartbreakingly similar to their own more recent experiences.
Clarke takes us to heart of the action. We feel what it’s like to live each day with senses on high alert, waiting to be ripped apart by the accuracy of a sniper or a well-hidden bomb. We enter the private world of soldiers ordered to hold the lines in an ancient quarrel they have little affinity for, but whose consequences are deadly. We experience their emotions, fear, courage, humor, bravado and the anguish of death.
This expanded edition continues from where the print version ended, revealing the untold nightmare Clarke lived through having nearly died, with half his insides missing, suffering from PTSD and being expected to return to a “normal life”. A story of the scars of war that affect generations. Of heartache, courage and hope for peace.
“I am an ex soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and this is an excellent account of what it was like. I only wish we had an officer like Captain Clarke.” pm, 5 Stars Amazon UK“.. its honesty and passion cannot be denied .. Mr. Clarke has sent out a powerful and disturbing early warning signal.” Maurice Leitch, Daily Telegraph.
“..a major contribution to our understanding of war and how people act .. Contact is the work of a brave writer.” Kevin Toolis, Irish News.
“As a civilian it’s hard to imagine what’s it’s really like to be a soldier in combat but this book opened my eyes. I highly recommend it …” KTHuffy, 4 Stars Amazon USA.
CONTACT was reviewed by soldiers who served with Captain Clarke as verification of his recollections. It was first published in the UK in 1983 by Martin Secker & Warburg, was serialized for 5 days in The Mirror and became an instant best seller. In 1984 it was published in paperback by PAN Books, by Schocken Books New York and made into an award-winning BBC TV film. And in 2012 came the expanded ebook edition, which all these years later is still selling strong. Readers outside the UK are invited to visit Amazon.co.uk for soldier’s reviews and comments.
AFN Clarke is a full-time author and writes fiction of various genre – fast-paced thrillers (An Unquiet American), poignant human drama (Dry Tortugas), humorous satire (The Book of Baker Series - Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon; Genesis Revisited), psychological horror (Collisions); and the Thomas Gunn suspense series (The Orange Moon Affair) with more coming soon. Visit the Amazon Kindle Store or afnclarke.com for further information.
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Genre – Autobiography / Biography & Memoir
Rating – 18+
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