Anthony McIntyre 🔖A transnational dimension is not a new feature to the life of Harry Hole who after the losing a finger to the The Snowman has given the finger to the Oslo police and decamped to Hong Kong. 


Among other far off places investigations have drawn him to are Australia and Thailand. Although great crime drama, the feeling lingers that Scandinoir is more authentic when anchored in Scandinavia. Most of The Leopard was played on home turf.

Not that life was much less stressful for Hole on a compact and congested stretch of land close to mainland China. The grizzled investigator has taken to gambling and owes the Triads money as a result of Harry's luck. Moreover, knowing his drink addiction could not be overcome, his way of dealing with it is to find a new addiction – opium.

In the midst of his self induced haze he is visited by an Oslo cop, Kaja Solness, Her becoming his lover takes a while but for now her task is to entice him back to Norway to help trap a serial killer whose method of murder is a spiked ball placed in the victim’s mouth. Any attempt to free oneself and the spikes erupt. It is a fiendish device causing a painful and terrifying death. The type of thing most people would expect never to come across in the course of their lives unless they find themselves in a Stalinist or fascist torture chamber.

Harry, despite his legendary expertise, is not enticed by the lure of catching Norwegian serial killers: let the Oslo cops do their own work. Police authority doesn't much appreciate him anyway. They will claim his successes while sneeringly regarding him as one of life's losers. But the news that his father is seriously ill is too great a temptation to resist. With a heavy heart he departs Hong Kong for the wintry streets of Norway.

The first two victims are young women, each with dozens of puncture wounds in their mouth. The pressure really mounts when a member of the Norwegian parliament too is murdered. The media really sniff blood and it is not that which the victims excruciatingly drowned in. The hunt for police inefficiency is on.

All the victims have spent a night in a mountain retreat. Apart from that one common thread there is little else to go on. But as ever, the mind of Harry Hole is as penetrating as any spike from a serial killer's ball. 

The killer is not the only nemesis Harry has to contend with. Mikael Bellman of Kripos is a constant irritant. An ambitious and covetous pursuer of others' turf, he wants his own agency to take charge of the country’s homicide investigations which leads to friction with the normal police. The battle between him and Hole is persistent but predictable. There really is only going to be one winner from these clashes. Lesson is: big shovel or not, don't dig a Hole - the kickback is worse than that from a horse. And that is without Harry having had much luck on the horses in Hong Kong. 

The transnational dimension sees the narrative shift to the Congo. The murder weapon is of African origin. It is in the African state that the simmering tension eventually reaches boiling point.

This is the eighth in the Harry Hole series. Some readers might have tired by this stage, feeling perhaps that things have gone a bit stale. And there have been complaints that this outing has been a tad long, with one reviewer suggesting it needs clipped by around a third of its content. Yet for the aficionado, this is sacrilege for which a blasphemy law suddenly sounds not such a bad idea. At no point in the book did the feeling arise that it was a drag. Nesbo tackles the challenge of length with pace and suspense.

Next stop - The Phantom.  

Jo Nesbø, 2012, The Leopard. Vintage. ISBN-13: ‎978-0307743183

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

The Leopard

National Secular Society Mocking religion in Portugal can be punished by up to a year's imprisonment, report finds.


A new report has identified eleven more countries with blasphemy laws since 2020, bringing the total number to 95.

The report, produced by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), lists Bahamas, Barbados, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cambodia, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Monaco, Portugal and Cape Verde as countries with newly-identified blasphemy laws. This represents an increase of 13% since 2020.

Portugal's law states whoever "publicly offends another person or mocks him because of his belief or religious function" may be imprisoned for up to a year. Publishing a "blasphemous or obscene book" in Bahamas can be punished by two years' imprisonment.

In El Salvador, repeatedly and publicly 'offending the feelings or beliefs' of a religious group or 'mocking their dogmas' can lead to an eight year custodial sentence. "Writing or uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings" is now a misdemeanour in Tuvalu. 'Outraging ministers of religion' in Monaco is criminalised.

Blasphemy remains a capital offence in Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia.

Continue reading @ NSS.

Blasphemy Laws Identified In 11 More Countries Since 2020

Right Wing Watch 👀 You might think religious-right leaders would be more than satisfied with the Trump Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v Wade and invited the criminalization of abortion nationwide, but you would be wrong.

 Peter Montgomery 

Religious-right activists are delving deep into the religious views, church attendance, and families of conservative judges considered possible Supreme Court nominees under a future Republican president, and making “red lists” of judges they deem unacceptable.

The effort is being led by the Center for Judicial Renewal, a project of the American Family Association’s political action arm. The Center is led by Phillip Jauregui; as leader of the Judicial Action Group in 2018, Jauregui was so convinced that God had anointed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court that when Trump instead chose Brett Kavanaugh as his second nominee, Jauregui denounced Kavanaugh as a “usurper” and warned that God would destroy him if he did not withdraw.

Jauregui and AFA’s Walker Wildmon described the justice-vetting effort during Pray Vote Stand, the Family Research Council’s religious-right activist conference held Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C. AFA Action hosted a luncheon to promote its work . . . 

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

Religious Right Leaders Demand Next GOP SCOTUS Nominees Meet ‘Biblical Worldview’ Standard

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Six Hundred And Seventy Two

 

A Morning Thought @ 1921


Brandon Sullivan with the first of a two part review of the latest work from the fingertips of Richard O'Rawe.


Introduction

The author came to my attention recently as I had a copy of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers military logs from 1972. A Richard O’Rawe was lifted in Valentine’s Day, 1972. The log contained a note – “lifted by Ball”. I am certain that Ball was Julian Ball, the soldier who attempted to kill the Conway brothers, and a member, variously, of the MRF and SAS (see here for more of Ball’s astonishing story).

I enjoyed O’Rawe’s books on the hunger strike, and about Gerry Conlon, and so I was pleased when my copy of Stakeknife’s Dirty War arrived a day early last week.

I read it in two sittings. I wasn’t disappointed. I blitzed through the book in two sessions and will re-read for this review.

Near the end of the book, the author mentions that he “accepted a commission to write it”. This interested me. Did Merrion Press spot a gap in the market for a book about “Stakeknife” as Operation Kenova approaches its report publication date? If so, they’re as savvy as they are skilled at putting out quality ‘Troubles’ books.

I’ve heard that, expecting a D-Notice, the publishers did an initial run of 15,000 books, the rationale being that UKG would buy them up if it contained anything they desperately wanted hidden from public view. I would expect that run to sell out fairly soon.

Chapter 1 – 6

The book is replete with fascinating detail. O’Rawe starts off with a brief portrait of the Italy that the Scappaticci family emigrated from. The Scappaticci family were hardworking and became successful in their working class communities, always seeming to “have money” – a trait their third child Freddie (born 12th January 1946) would apparently emulate. As we see later in the book, Freddie Scappaticci (whom I will hereafter refer to as Scap) was rarely short of money. Scap was a short man, and carried some extra weight; extra weight that was an issue when he went to England for a trial with Nottingham Forest.

He also had violent tendences. O’Rawe recounts the 18-year-old Scap being fined £10 for participating, with a friend, in a fight with “a sectarian flavour” with two Shankill men: Samuel Bell and Alan Morton. A man named Alan Morton was convicted of rioting, having attacked the army, in 1970. Numerous sources cite Scap as repeatedly assaulting his wife, Sheila Cunningham, “regularly beating the crap out of her”. Many sources also compliment his wife’s personality.

Scap started off his IRA career as a “model volunteer”, and one with a sense of republican integrity so complete that he refused a chance at early release (he was interned for many years) by giving a written undertaking to a British army officer to renounce his former ways.

Reported to have become OC of the Markets Provisional IRA in 1970, he participated in bomb attacks on Belfast city centre, and “he never asked a volunteer to do something he wouldn’t’ do himself … he had balls to burn”. Scap would also make a point of meeting up with an on-the-run IRA volunteer from his area (TPQ’s Anthony McIntyre) to give him £5 spending money (£56 in today’s money) a week.

Eamon Collins thought that Scap “did not abuse his power excessively”. This was not a view shared by many of his neighbours in the early 1970s, who noted that he “was a fucking bully … he had the place terrorised”. There are many stories of him using his position as a “top ‘RA man” to intimidate those around him. These stories continue throughout the book. O’Rawe writes “it is clear from these accounts that Scappaticci was given to violence long before the Troubles”.

The second chapter of the book contains what I consider to be a jarring error. It depicts a scene in early 1971 when Scap confronted, and faced down, hardened IRA men with a machine gun because, Scap had heard, those IRA men were considering kneecapping his son who had driven a stolen car into a garden wall. Scap would have been 25 years old, and had married five years before the incident described. He could not have had a son old enough to be driving a car. O’Rawe does not tell the story first-hand, but in publishing it, opens it up to scrutiny, particularly without caveat. I hope it is amended or deleted in future editions. Nevertheless, the reader is left in no doubt about Scap’s presence and capacity for intimidation.

Republicans had advance warning of internment – Operation Demetrius – coming into force, and as Markets OC, Scap ordered his volunteers not to stay at home. He did not follow his own advice, and was duly lifted, beaten, and found himself, as a rebel song goes, “imprisoned without crime and without trial”. A fellow internee described him as “a nasty wee fucker” and in jail, as on the outside, he gained some sort of leadership position. He remained in Long Kesh until January 1974 when he was released, and reported immediately to the IRA for service. Still a committed and dedicated republican paramilitary.

I was surprised to learn that Scap had been, briefly, OC of the Belfast Brigade, his short tenure marked by massive bombs in Belfast city centre. But he was recaptured again, and interned, on 16th August 1974. As O’Rawe, a diligent and impressive researcher, noted, it made the front page of the Belfast Telegraph:


Scap, along with all other internees, was released on 5th December 1975. He had spent close to four and a half year in Long Kesh. This time, he did not report immediately back for IRA service.

He did however, set about making money, legally and illegally. His industrious and scheming nature seeing him derive a substantial income from a complex VAT fraud, alongside his wages as a builder, and income as a contractor. His work ethic, alongside his bullying and violent nature, were constants in descriptions of Scap. O’Rawe writes that Scap was Belfast Brigade Intelligence Officer by the end of 1976, and that the Internal Security Unit (ISU) was introduced as part of the restructuring of the IRA devised within Long Kesh in 1978. As is generally known, and written about by Eamon Collins in his 1997 book Killing Rage, Scap was the second-in-command of the ISU, with John Joe Magee as its OC.

Another character trait of Scap’s was his predilection for pornography – he would infamously be convicted of possession of “extreme pornography” including images of bestiality. The book relates that he had “cupboards” of pornography at his home. A journalist friend told me how Scap would watch “blue movies” with his father. There are also convincing accounts of Scap having a sexual interest in minors, and whilst there are other theories about how Scap was turned, this one seems to me to be the most plausible.

I’ll review the rest of the book next week.
 
Richard O'Rawe, 2023, Stakeknife's Dirty War: The Inside Story of Scappaticci, the IRA's Nutting Squad and the British Spooks Who Ran the War. Merrion Press. ISBN-13: ‎978-1785374470

Stakeknife’s Dirty War

Simon Smyth 🎥 41 years ago today as I write this, the Sabra and Shatila massacre of men, women and children started in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.


It lasted 3 days. I have watched this Israeli made film 4 or 5 times before. A powerful anti-war film bordering on traumatic.

Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel was killed sparking a massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees by his Christian Phalangist followers. The Israelis wanted him to rule the fractured country so they were angry too.

A phone call is made to the Israeli Defence Minister Arik Sharon to warn him of the massacre, "Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Happy New Year," Sharon said before going back to sleep.

It is an animation style film. The film tells the story of a film maker (the director himself) speaking to a number of his old friends from the Israeli army. He is trying to piece together what happened during the War in Lebanon as he has no memory of it. This docudrama feels palpably real and is as close to his truth as we will get. The interviews, stories and the speakers themselves are real except for two participants whose appearance and voices are disguised.

I would recommend this film despite it being a heavy watch as I believe it is valuable education wise and is an excellent story. Despite or because of the horror there is much to be learned. Stories like this should spur efforts to halt the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and elsewhere.

I note how the film made two direct comparisons with Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto. I would never make these comparisons myself, believing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine can stand on its own. The genocide of the Second World War and that of the Armenians in Turkey or the Belgian Congo are all different. I note it purely because the comparisons in this 2008 film would be censored or shouted down today.

Despite watching this film before and being fully aware that live footage was coming at the end, I was unprepared and couldn't stop crying.

There are many good films about the Palestinian plight and this one deserves our attention particularly if you shy away from an Israeli soldier's perspective.

⏩ Simon Smyth is an avid reader and collector of books.

Waltz With Bashir

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Six Hundred And Seventy One

 

A Morning Thought @ 1920

Anthony McIntyre ☠ reviews a secular podcast for Being Human.


Most humanists, I imagine, subscribe to the Carl Sagan principle that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” As a statement there seems no reason for viewing it as deeply insightful, being pretty much a common-sense observation. What can often make it less than straightforward, giving rise to lethal consequences, is the thorny matter of what constitutes evidence.

In my home library there sits a brace of books sharing a common theme: why people often have an unshakeable belief in things for which there is little or no evidence.

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World in their own ways seek to identity the reasons humans are driven to believe that for which there is no evidence.

This is what makes the podcast Growing Up Fundie a fruitful exploration of lives interweaved with the evidence for no evidence!!

The host claims not to have been brought up Fundie at all, pointing out that hers was a Baptist household. Yet, with so much Baptist belief rooted in Calvinism, many in the humanist world might struggle to see the difference.

Growing Up Fundie bills itself as:

A podcast analyzing the true life experiences of everyday people who grew up fundamentalist, orthodox, or within any other strictly religious environment, and the impact (positive or negative) that this upbringing had on who they are today.

Running from December 2021 the project sets out to understand the impact that strict religions have on the lives of their adherents. It is not an endeavour that has as its mission the pouring of scorn on weird religious beliefs but seeks to explore why people hold them in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. The host Sydney Davis Jr, who also runs the YouTube channel Humorous Humanists, while being a standup comedian, is perhaps not the best ringmaster when it comes to excluding mockery from the gig. Many of her guests are from the world of comedy. Well worth a listen to for flavour is a July foray titled Godless Granny on Devoting Her Life To The Truth, Until she discovered she’d been living a lie.

Sydney Davis Jr, despite her laidback demeanour and occasional profanity serves up a very informative dish, where guests unpick topics including the double R – resurrection and rapture.

A podcast that attacks dogma and promotes the value of the answer ‘I don’t know,’ has left me knowing that I know a lot more courtesy of having listened to Growing Up Fundie. 

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Growing Up Fundie

Frankie Quinn with a poem from his book Open Gates.

Pensive

Inside a box tied with wire
Our hands touched: crowds
Gasped as time ran out
On lips wet from captive kisses.
♞♜♝
Gordian knots untighten when
Your gentle fingers tug at their ends
Frayed from wear. Your hands
Pulled hard, melted my trust.
♞♜♝
A soft light blinks on a barbed horizon,
Only the sun set deep in our eyes.
Obstacles impair our vision of a future
When hope is our sunlight.
♞♜♝
Regrets are smiles wasted: pain is more
Than love, in a room, of an evening.
Gently put your hand inside the
Box, cut the wire gripping me.

⏩ Frankie Quinn is a former republican prisoner who is now a community activist. He is the author of Open Gates, a book of poetry.   

Pensive

Christopher Owens  🔖 Domestic violence and marital breakdowns are never fun to read about.


Akin to seeing a film where people have their knees drilled or their feet cut off, the topics violate our sense of the family and personal relationships. Hence why horror writers have used them so many times to accentuate their own tales.

Enter J.C Moore with his entry, The Repayment.

Running less than 100 pages, this book tells the story of Sarah Ross. A woman living in a decaying farmhouse, she is clearly traumatised by the years of abuse from her estranged husband, David. Her life is falling apart as she neglects friends and is close to getting fired from her job. At least she has Rodney, who lives in the basement and eats meat.

The choice to tell the story through third person narrative threw me at first as it seemed that the first-person perspective would have seemed the most natural way to depict the trauma that Sarah is going through, with third person being a distant by comparison. However, I was won over by the compelling depiction of a woman at the end of her tether, the tight story and the atmospheric setting that made me think of a line from Robert Leckie about how “It was a darkness without time. It was an impenetrable darkness”.

And, like all good horror stories, it’s even more fun on second reading.

Necessary pre-Halloween reading.

J.C Moore, 2023, The Repayment. Missing Star Books. ISBN-13: 979-8372966895

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

The Repayment

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Six Hundred And Seventy