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Angela didn’t set out to write a book. Even the thesis on which Informers in 20th Century Ireland is based was only an excuse to go on being a hypermature student, but then she started a whole series of obsessions – all of which are in the book. She bored other postgraduates with stories (but hey! she had to listen to theirs too) which concept is utterly forbidden to the historian so she called them case studies instead; her writing style, after many years of writing fiction, wasn’t academic; her research methods were unconventional and consisted mostly of talking to people (many of whom are now old and tried friends); and she’s still not sure why Diane, her former supervisor, is still speaking to her. Though after each holiday-cum-research trip to Ireland there was always a summoning email so that Diane could hear about Sean in Ennis who would laugh when he saw Angela and say “You’re going to get shot, you know!” or the time she was kidnapped, or her exit from the archives in Dublin for a fire drill completely forgetting that she had a large wodge of precious documents under her arm. In addition she wrote the thesis (and therefore the book) backwards.
As for her case studies: they’re full of skullduggery, secrets and mayhem, all of which she likes, and there is a more serious side to the book, as there should be. This is history, it really happened, and a great deal of the collusion and torture she has depicted went on in our name – yours and hers. And its effect on Angela has been to give her a love of research which just won’t go away – she always thinks of it as panning for gold: sometimes nothing, sometimes just little bits (never to be despised because one of those little bits consisted of two seemingly identical telegrams providing proof positive of one man’s guilt) and the occasional nugget when she wants to dance around the archives shouting “Zoweee!”
And Diane’s final verdict: “If I can survive Angela I can survive anything!”
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