AMeMOUR (FICTION) (French Edition)

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It's a fictionalised account of the lives of three policemen in the early Eighties but Sam admits that he's based much of the fast-moving story on the fast-evolving Troubles of the time, an era dominated by the republican hunger strike. He says though there are parts of his own story in the book, he isn't one of the RUC trio in Nights In Armour, but another character is largely based on a real-life policeman.

And he's okay about it," says the author.

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Sam, who frequently has to tell people he isn't related to the late Belfast playwright Sam Thompson, was born and raised off the Shankill before moving to other parts of the city. And he remembers the Troubles were exploding all around him in his formative years when his parents tried to keep him and his siblings away from the paramilitaries and protect them from the violence. One of his earliest memories is of seeing his terrified grandfather arming himself with a hatchet because he lived close to where nationalists from the Falls Road and loyalists from the Shankill were engaged in vicious clashes.

He says: "I can recall as clear as day that the hatchet was in his lap in case someone came to attack his home. And I can also remember seeing a bloke walking round the area with a rifle wrapped in brown paper. It was bizarre. And our school buses were attacked regularly too. His late father, who shared his name, was an ambulance man and controller during the height of the bombings and shootings in Belfast. But Sam jnr said he rarely talked about what he saw. On one occasion the Thompson family heard on the TV news that an ambulance man had been shot dead and they asked Sam snr if he knew about it.

Sam jnr says: "Dad told us that he was sitting beside the murder victim. But he'd tried to keep it to himself though a couple of days later he collapsed with stress and we also found out later in life that dad had been on the scene of other major atrocities like Bloody Friday and McGurk's Bar. For Sam jnr the daily rigours of life in north Belfast saw him running foul of other teenagers and being stopped repeatedly by soldiers and police.

But he now thinks that when he was a young boy, a loyalist paramilitary leader may have used him as cover to evade security checks. He says: "The man would bring me and a friend who knew him with him to a farm where we would play to our heart's content while he busied himself in the outbuildings.

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After training in Enniskillen he was stationed in Armagh city and several bases in Belfast before moving to backroom work in RUC headquarters for five years until he went to the police's Mobile Support Unit in Dungannon. The deaths of two colleagues in the previous months were on his mind but in the space of seven days in Dungannon Sam was within 25ft of three bombs, and though he escaped injury, he reckoned it was time to say farewell to front line policing.

He says: "One of the bombs contained 20 pounds of Semtex and a similar amount of nails in it. We had been lured into the area after a man was murdered as bait and we were right beside the bomb, but for whatever reason it didn't go off. I'm a firm believer in the law of averages and I didn't want to chance my luck any more.

Looking back, he says he believes he was fortunate to have come through his RUC career virtually unscathed. I was headbutted and punched but I was never badly injured in a bombing or a shooting. I was shaken definitely and I was slightly burned by petrol bombs. But nothing serious. However, Sam says that, even 11 years after retiring from the RUC, looking at a photomontage poster that was produced of the plus police officers who died during the Troubles is still chastening for him.

He adds: "I counted up the number of people that I knew and it came to over But if you add on the number of officers who died in accidents or suicides the figure on the poster would go up to more than Although it's fiction and not fact, obviously your experiences influence what you write. He used notes from his day to day service in the Eighties to help him with the writing of his book, which he says gives it an authenticity. And the way we think about nowadays isn't the way we thought about it back then.

He says that the first edition of the book, which he has set in the fictional town of Altnavellan, was published in under the pen name of Blair McMahon. The publisher was David Trimble's Ulster Society, but the book didn't trouble the compilers of the bestsellers' list, though it's become something of a collector's item since.

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Patrice Lawrence makes sure the storylines leap along nicely and her central characters Leo and Rosa feel like old friends even by chapter two. A fun, original adventure that will keep everyone hoppy. July Book of the Month A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July A beautifully told, deeply moving story about how a boy finds a special way of remembering his soldier father.

When the council decide to remodel the garden and remove the statue Owen knows that he must take dramatic action.

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And fast. The first two stories are genuinely chilling and dark, fortunately the final story takes us back into the sunshine, and a happy ending, if a distinctly uncanny one. Anne Fine is one of our most brilliant authors for children and these stories, simple and super-readable as their sticker says, will stay with readers for far longer than the time it takes to read them.

Here on Lovereading4kids we are constantly selecting new titles and refreshing our special dyslexia friendly category. Click here to view our current selection which is broken down by age range. A brilliantly fun whimsical comedy featuring Tom, Ellie and their cat who are whisked off to stay with the dreaded aunt, aka The Sticky Witch. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.

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