What are the labors of a hero during the darkest of times? A question many of us are asking in this day and age is also an important plot point in the historical novel Divide the Dawn.
My readers may have noticed that I have written more on this book than any other new release this year. That is because it is by far and away the most exciting book out there.
Harry Reynolds is a dour and secretive character who rarely speaks or acts out, but when he does the impact propels the storyline. He disappears when the story is in set-up mode, then bursts onto the scene during the payoff amidst fire and chaos to deal the antagonists decisive blows. Only to disappear again afterward. When the true hero of the story (the idealistic leader of a benevolent street gang) is in desperate need, Harry appears to again undermine villainy. Harry Reynolds is the man behind the hero. The one whose terrifying means lead to good ends.
But the mystery surrounding Harry Reynolds obscures his motives. We can only try to understand him by his actions which, judging by his limited dialogue, is exactly how he wants to be judged. He does not want credit, refuses the power his colleagues hand him and avoids attention altogether. In fact Harry’s enemies, who have murdered a police officer and raped and planned to execute a woman who knew too much, would call Harry a terrorist.
We could use a few more Harry Reynolds in our day. People who shun social media, refuse power and never engage in rhetoric and sophistry. Just straight-up action.
One of the biggest questions Divide the Dawn asks is: When is doing something bad, or against the law, justifiable? It’s a dark question. A question seeped in subjectivity and opinion. Combing through history, the most dramatic and justifiable example I can think of is Operation Valkyrie, a plot to murder Adolf Hitler. Is it terrorism to murder a megalomaniacal dictator who oversaw the death of millions? Or is it an act of heroism?
Vigilante justice is not a new theme in historical novels, but in Divide the Dawn it is presented in a brilliant, if not bittersweet manner.
“Harry Reynolds is a sort of benevolent terrorist,
something that is both enthralling to our current
political predicament and ingeniously re-invents
the American gangster at the perfect time.”
We are already asking and answering this important question, actually. Protesting is a form of civil disobedience. And people are coming out in droves to support of black people in America, who lose their lives at an alarming rate to police brutality. Only racists would argue that what the protesters are doing is terrorism, but I don’t think we can put anything past this president in his bid to retain power.
The author of Divide the Dawn, Eamon Loingsigh is a master of the Trojan horse set-up with an explosive payoff. He recently posted a video of a song called “Ballad of Harry Reynolds” (yes Divide the Dawn has its own soundtrack. Wha?). The video, posted below, got me thinking about Harry again.
After re-reading the novel I have concluded that Loingsigh has a secret concerning Harry. In the first chapter after the prologue Liam, the protagonist, mentions that he has heard about Harry’s dark and treacherous past.
Later, the gang leader publicly banishes Harry under mysterious pretenses. But Liam is confused by this since Harry is the most loyal gang member. Many chapters later there are rumors that Harry was publicly banished so that he could go underground to terrorize the antagonists from the cover of darkness.
Conspiracy Theory: I speculate that Harry had some sort of relationship with the gang leader’s wife, Sadie years earlier. More on this some other time.
For me, Harry Reynolds redefines the American gangster and continues a long tradition in its evolution. Harry’s nickname is “the Shiv,” which confirms that yes, at heart he is a gangster. But his decisions are very different than anything Sergio Leone, Scorsese, Puzo/Coppolla, Cagney, Pacino or DeNiro could ever create or portray. Harry’s deep longing for family (he is an orphan) brings him closer to a young Vito Corleone in comparison. The violence he commits is only to ensure that his gang stays on top, since it feeds the many immigrant Irish families in Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods of 1919. Harry’s arc does not include the typical American gangster’s rise to great riches and violent end. Instead he is a sort of benevolent terrorist, something that is both enthralling to our current political predicament and ingeniously re-invents the American gangster at the perfect time.