Would you have done what he did?
They hurt his wife, in front of his daughter.
Sam must wrap his little girl in love, to help her heal. He must also provide for her. His extraction from special operations at sea leads him to form a clandestine company. ‘CHARLIE’ helps Sam appease his desire for vengeance, to deal with his grief, and to cleanse his conscience of some of the questionable things he’s seen and done. Until he’s asked to do a job which throws their healing, and safety, into doubt.
Charlie is a bad fit. I’ve been told as much on a number of occasions. There’s a reason for that though.
I wrote what I knew. I knew about people who are tough; not in the sense of the word often associated with Northern Ireland (where much of the book is set) but in their heads, in their endurance, and in their resilience. I also knew that to be the type of tough I wanted to reflect, the main character had to have something they desperately cared about. Otherwise the extremes they put themselves through, would be to no purpose.
And so came Sam. Not a figment of imagination, but an informed and flawed human being, with a moral compass that swings differently to the common bearing.
Sam’s motivation is his little girl. Which is a bad fit for the genre splicing that publishers insist upon. Those prepared to do harm, albeit for good purpose, cannot be caring, committed fathers, can they? Well, in the blocks that I’ve been around, some can, some are.
I’ve seen people do things that in and of themselves appear brutal, base, even thuggish. But I’ve also been afforded the chance to find out why, and no story is as it seems at first.
I don’t believe in human nature. I’ve never seen sufficient evidence of a consistency. I believe that we are all built differently. It took me a long time to accept that some people are just no good. Few, I accept, but they’re there, and their impact is often enormous and enduring. Sam understands this though. His experience makes him believe that there is often only one way to deal with those who would exploit others for little more than money, or pleasure. Hence his hardness.
But there is no hard without soft, and the soft is Sam’s rationale. Isla, his grieving daughter, needs every ounce of gentleness Sam can summon. Some have commented on the tenderness between the two, for which I am grateful. Sam believes that for the good to flourish, some of the bad must be extinguished.
And then there is his dead wife, Shannon, whose guidance echoes around his mind. She drew the dormant empathy from him, and chiselled him into civilian life, ready to cleanse his conscience of the horrors of a life drenched in violence.
The family at the root of CHARLIE is perhaps its greatest flaw. It means that this is a book which does not fit easily into any category. Some tell me to try military action, others that it’s a thriller. More than a few have said it is a book about modern families, even with a hint of romance. I don’t know what it is to be honest, but I know it’s drawn from everything I’ve seen, done and thought, and that there is more to come.
Finn Óg is a new Irish writer. CHARLIE is his first novel. He lives and works in Ireland, and is surrounded by rogues and the sea.