LARA HARTE


Honour Bound

This is my latest book, published by Banyan Tree Books, New Delhi, in April 2007. It is a novel based on the life of Michael Mallin, one of the leaders of Irelandís 1916 Rising, which led to the establishment of the Irish Republic. Set mainly in India at the height of the British Raj, it focuses on his youth as a drummer in the British Army and the evolution of his political consciousness through this experience.

Honour Bound begins in Dublin, in 1916, after Mallin has been condemned to death. William, one of the English soldiers sent to Ireland to suppress the Rising, becomes fascinated by Mallin and wonders what it took for a former soldier like Mallin to risk his life and sacrifice his family by rebelling against the British Empire. From the prison cell in which he awaits execution, Mallin himself then reflects back on his own youth in the British Army. We see Mike as a young drummer on overseas service in India, struggling with his duty, his relationship with his NCO uncle, and his developing romance by letter with Agnes Hickey, a young Irish nurse who comes from a republican family. Sent to fight on the North-West Frontier of India, he becomes increasingly uneasy with what the Army is doing in India, and his disillusionment with army life is compounded by the predicament of his cousin Annie, who as a woman has no rights in the Regiment. While stationed in peaceful Allahabad, these conflicts escalate due to his new friendship with Induj, a local nationalist. . . .

I had always found Michael Mallin a fascinating figure, and felt he had been unfairly neglected by Irish history. As Chief of Staff of the Irish Citizen Army, he was second-in-command to James Connolly, whose iconic status as a socialist leader may have overshadowed Mallinís contribution, though he was a formidable trade union leader in his own right. However, I suspect the real problem is that the Countess Markieviczís role in the College of Surgeons during the Rising has captured the public imagination to the extent that many erroneously believe that she was in charge of this rebel outpost when she was in fact second-in-command to Mallin. The inspiration for this novel came when Mallinís youngest child, Maura Phillips, showed me the letters he had written to his sweetheart, her mother, during the six long years he had spent in India. These letters suggested an experience of British India that was different to any I had come across before, and one relating to a strand of Irish experience that is only now beginning to be explored. However, they were tantalizingly incomplete: key events in his life were missing. And so I found myself filling in the gaps, using my own imagination to create an authentic scenario. Unfortunately, so much important information has been lost over time, that I felt the only way to recreate my subject was to do so with the speculative hand of a novelist, fleshing out the surviving bones of his story.

This novel was an extremely challenging and complex one to write. The research took me to London, Glasgow, and ultimately India, where I retraced some of the steps of Michael Mallin, travelling from Allahabad in the plains to the foothills of the Himalayas. It is a wonderful country, and the trip helped me enormously to visualize the characters and their surroundings and to evoke them in a convincing way. Iím delighted that Honour Bound is being published in India, as it is a story of cross-cultural friendship and the life-changing effect it has on one man. Honour Bound brought me into contact with a lot of great people, and I owe a very special thank you to the late Maura Phillips, who sadly did not live to see this book in print, and to her brother, Fr Seosamh ” MeallŠin, who is now Mallinís sole surviving child. Thanks also to Michael Phillips and David Phillips, Mallinís grandchildren, for their interest, assistance and support over the years. Iím also grateful to the Arts Council / An Chomhairle EalaŪon for awarding me a Bursary in Literature to support my work on it.

'Her marvellously vivid descriptions of India, combined with material garnered from Mallinís letters, make for compulsive reading. The tortured struggles of a sensitive man . . . are brilliantly portrayed.' Irish Mail on Sunday

'A novel full of the dark heat of India . . . . she has taken on a tough subject and has made an engaging story of it.' Sunday Business Post

'Lara Harte has outgrown the label of wunderkind and matured into a talented historical novelist.' Sunday Times

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