Monday, November 19, 2012




This piece was prompted by my browsing around the web late at night and running across a site called

For some reason I had Googled “Hugo Fitzduane” –something I rarely do.

The following came up:

This series cries out for more adventures. The writing style Mr. O'Reilly brings to the books is refreshingly brisk and engaging. It makes reading his books fun, easy, and compelling. Pretty much what you want in a good yarn. Fitzduane is a character who is tired of violence and who has the luxury of retreating to his private island to get away from it, except it doesn't stay away and how Fitzduane handles the intrusion and the danger to himself and his family and friends makes for a compelling series.
       The first book did not feel at all like a series. It told a complete tale and ended dramatically but firmly. I, for one, was concerned that the ending might be lessened with the coming of the second book, as in "but wait! The bad guy isn't really dead!" I am sorry, Mr. O'Reilly, for doubting you. The return of Fitzduane to action is not only dramatic and exciting, it made sense.
       Well done, sir!

Hugo Fitzduane (pronounced “FITZDWANE”), in case you don’t know, is the protagonist in my first three novels. He is Anglo-Irish, was a soldier in his early twenties, and then resigned his commission to become a war photographer. He both hates war and is fascinated by it—and he comes from a long line of warriors. War—combat—is, so to speak, in his blood. He is also very good at it. For generations past, his ancestors were soldiers and both his parents fought behind enemy lines in WWII. The castle he lives in was built by a Norman knight, a part of the Norman force which invaded Ireland towards the end of the twelfth century. The place has remained in Fitzduane family hands—despite great turbulence—ever since.

A hanging on his island—a suicide on the face of it—has brought Fitzduane into the counterterrorism business. Despite the successful outcome of that adventure, GAMES OF THE HANGMAN, he now finds himself a target for revenge and in a game he cannot leave. RULES OF THE HUNT makes that point with vigor; and THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINT just re-enforces it.

That apart, he is a thoughtful, sensitive man—of an idealistic, even romantic nature—who would much prefer to be left to his own devices. However, he has character traits which counter his innate desire to have a peaceful life. He is of a curious disposition with an original cast of mind; he, is, fundamentally, a decent man with a desire to do the right thing; and he is extraordinarily determined.

He lives in an old Norman keep on a small, windswept island off the West Coast of Ireland. A keep is, in effect, a rectangular stone tower—think small castle--which was routinely built by the Normans to secure land. First you built a wooden fort, then you built a stone keep—and then you added a courtyard enclosed by a stone wall. After that, you built a smithy, stables, and other utility buildings within the courtyard—and soon you had a self-contained strongpoint that could dominate a given area of land, assuming the castle was adequately manned. Some, like the Fitzduanes, built a pitched roof extension to the main keep which allowed for a Great Hall, a kitchen of size, and other quarters. But Fitzduane’s castle should not be confused with the massive structures that kings built. 

Dotting a conquered land with strongpoints was a very practical system developed by the Normans—an extremely practical people. Add the armor they wore, and the prodigious power of a cavalry charge by massed armored knights, and they were practically unstoppable until gunpowder came on the scene and changed the technology of war. And prior to that, both the longbow and the crossbow did not help—because they could allow any peasant with well developed shoulder muscles (the longbow required years of training) to take out an armored knight. But such skilled bowmen were in short supply so the armored knight reigned supreme for many centuries. After archers became more available, knights with brains brought their archers along too to counter enemy archers—so armor still held sway when it was properly used. The battles of Agincourt and Crecy showed what happened when it wasn’t. The French knights, in both these cases, were slaughtered by the English bowmen

But let us return to the present day. The fundamental point about Hugo—at least as I see him—is that, in essence, he is a knight, and each adventure is a quest. He doesn’t consciously think of his life that way, of course, because he is very much a modern man in many ways—but his values are rooted in his family traditions. They constitute his essence. He has been brought up to preserve the family holdings, to care for those less fortunate than him, and to serve. In practice, he lives such an independent way of life on his island that his loyalty is more abstract than to the Irish state as such—in many ways, he lives, for all practical purposes, in his own world. But, for all his reservations about political corruption, and the direction Ireland the country, as a whole, is taking, he steps up to the plate with a will when asked. At heart, he is a decent and honorable man.

Hugo, while attractive to women, though lucky in war, is unlucky in love. His first wife is killed under appalling circumstances, in the Congo. His long time love, Etan—a TV journalist and anchor—bears him a son, but leaved him for fame. His second  wife, Kathleen, a nurse who cared for him when he was wounded, dies from a hospital contracted infection. Such experiences make Hugo cautious. He has affairs—some with women he is very close to—but he is reluctant to commit. He also knows that because of his counter-terrorism work, every woman he becomes close, becomes—automatically—a target.

Such is Hugo Fitzduane. In truth, I am not sure I liked him much when I created him—I preferred Kilmara—but as I worked on the character, and researched his adventures—my regard increased. Now, three decades later, I regard him as the closest of friends; and no day goes by when I don’t think about him for hours.

Is her real? Of course not—yet in a way he is because he is a compendium of all my friends, and the values I hold in high regard. And these include include a lively sense of humor. The man has both a wit and a good sense of timing.

As to more books, THE BLOOD OF GENERATIONS is due out very shortly—making a total to date of four in the series—and other titles are in development.



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