cover image Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike

Peter Maas, David Beresford. Atlantic Monthly Press, $18.95 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-269-7

Taken inside infamous Long Kesh prison in Belfast, the reader of this searing journal experiences the emotional stranglehold that the legacy of troubled Ireland has on 10 men who in 1981 chose to perish in a hunger strike. Written by a reporter who covered the story for The Guardian , the book is shaped around secret communications, scraps of cigarette paper which the prisoners wrote on and concealed in bodily orifices until the messages could be smuggled outside to the IRA leadership. These ``comms'' are intimate, meticulous records of the men who went first ``on the blanket'' in naked protest, then to their self-scheduled deaths. We see and hear the families, alike and yet different in their grief; the churchmen and political leaders in attempts to dissuade and negotiate; and ``Iron Lady'' Margaret Thatcher, resolute in the grim battle of wills. In the final compelling words of Beresford, ``They died for a cause more ancient than the gray walls of Long Kesh prison.'' (Mar.)