Wednesday, 30 January 2013


by AFN Clarke

This new expanded edition of AFN Clarke's best selling 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.  The dangers, political agendas and religious roots underlying the conflict are eerily and heartbreakingly similar to Iraq, and Afghanistan today.  

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.

".. 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.

CONTACT was first published in the UK in 1983 by Martin Secker & Warburg, was serialized for 5 days in The Mirror, a national newspaper, 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.  Book length 69,237 words.

AFN Clarke is a full-time writer, with 5 contemporary works of fiction available on Amazon and more on the way.


AFN Clarke is the bestselling author of CONTACT and numerous works of fiction.  He has lived all over the world, served in the British army, had a near death experience, lost half his insides and recovered from the physical and emotional traumas of war.  He a proud father of four daughters, writer, pilot, race car driver, screen writer, loves to sail, listen to opera, cook gourmet meals, drink wine, read good books, have heated discussions and travel off the beaten path. 

His books are rich with his own past and present experiences, giving them a greater immediacy, depth and realism, even in his flights of fantasy.  Writing mainly fiction these days, he tends to favor politically charged thrillers, suspense and intrigue, humorous satire and books about the challenges of human relationships. Despite setbacks, he's an optimist at heart and still believes in the overwhelming power of love and of the human spirit.

5.0 out of 5 stars CONTACT: A timeless and classic account of terrorist warfare November 27, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
A few years ago I was a guest speaker at a `Peace & Reconciliation' conference hosted by the Tim Parry Peace Centre in Warrington. Various figures from the military were there to speak about our experiences of serving in Northern Ireland at different stages of the conflict; I was there to discuss how it felt in the very end stages, when 'The Troubles' had all but petered out. But by far our most illuminating guest and powerful speaker was a former Parachute Regiment Captain and author, AFN Clarke - which brings me to the purpose of this review.

In 1983 Tony wrote Contact, a blisteringly honest and deeply controversial account of his two tours in NI at the very height of the troubles in the 1970s. Contact rapidly achieved cult status amongst the rank & file of the army, won critical acclaim from prestigious reviewers and at the same time drew stinging criticism from the retired Brigadiers & Colonels establishment brigade - which usually means you're doing something right because you've got them rattled. As the saying goes: "You judge a man by the strength of his enemies." Well Tony gained plenty; not least of all in the highest ranks of the MOD and politics - so much so that a smear campaign was launched against him and he was forced to defend his name with aggression and grit. The attacks only strengthened him and Contact was immediately made into an award-winning BBC film.

Tony went on to live in America where he built a new career as a Pilot, Yacht Charter Captain for hire and general all-round adventurer. If ever you have the privilege of meeting him you'll instantly recognise the classic `rebellious officer' streak that runs right through him and so irritated his former paymasters. But maddeningly for them he was undeniably a gifted soldier; he joined 3 Para as a Private `Tom', made Lance Corporal within a year and was commissioned from the ranks after just two; a difficult task in today's army but damn near impossible in the class ridden 70s - unless you were very, very good. And he was.

Contact deals with his first tour in Belfast in 1973 and his second tour in South Armagh in 1976, before culminating in his tragic and premature medical discharge from the army as a 28yr old Captain with his entire brilliant future cruelly ripped away from him. During his first tour the temporarily `friendly' locals spiked his tea with ground glass as he drank it on hearts & minds patrols, which resulted in internal organ failure, the removal of his entire bowel region and the almost complete ruination of his health. He soldiered on for six long years passing glass shards and undergoing a dozen operations, before his body finally gave in and literally half of his belly was removed. It was only his previous dogged fitness and determination that kept him in the army and on his feet for so long. Of course, he fought back and went on to climb mountains and fly planes, but all the time since he's carried a permanent pain and dreadful scars.

But the pride, fierce glint in the eyes and inner steel remains...

It felt a little odd at the Warrington peace talks because some anti-war types and `Troops Out' members were there and they clearly had strong feelings about British soldiers. And there was Tony, sat there with injuries that they couldn't imagine, this hard-as-nails former Para, and he was cool as a cucumber, effortlessly batting away their attacks with genuine warmth, humour and compassion. He'd seen more action than everyone in that room put together and paid the highest price, yet he was the calmest, most graceful and forgiving one there. It was inspiring stuff and a lesson in how to handle yourself when you're getting it from all sides.

Tony has now fully updated Contact to take in the aftermath of his own service, that of his former colleagues and his own assessment and true feelings about the peace process - something that I know he's a great supporter of, however painful NI was and continues to be for him. I can't recommend his book highly enough to you - truly it's a superb, timely read - especially in light of the recent deaths in NI and roadblocks that seem to constantly block the path to peace. I think too that it's an important and hugely relevant book in that we seem to be bogged down in an eerily similar `terrorist War' in Afghanistan, and there are lessons and parallel conclusions to be drawn for our military involvement `out there'.

Certainly I reckon that any young Squaddie going on his first tour abroad would get a hell of a lot from this book, because for me it was an object lesson in how to treat and interact with the locals; they're never going to be your friends and they'll never accept your presence, but if you at least treat them with a modicum of tact, diplomacy and discretion (whenever you safely can), then a wary tolerance and fragile mutual respect can sprout. Which is a damn sight better than the alternative...

Contact is one of the best military stories that I have ever read and I recommend it to you in the highest terms; it's a book from a past conflict that has timely and resonant lessons for a present one.

Steven McLaughlin,
Author of Squaddie: A Soldier's Story
Mainstream Publishing

5.0 out of 5 stars An Endless WarAugust 18, 2002
John J. Mclennon "John J. McLennon" (San Antonio, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Contact (Hardcover)
Contact is the best account of military service in North Ireland during the latest eruption of terrorism. It gives us a fresh view of the "Troubles" from a British paratrooper who served in Belfast and Crossmaglen. It discusses lessons that might apply to the violence now taking place in Isreal.



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