Keeping the faith in exile – Pistoleros! Vol 3. Review from Hastings Online Times

Pistoleros3-resized1-197x300Hastings Online Times 27/3/2013

The third volume in the Pistoleros! trilogy by the anonymous Hastings-based author finds our hero Farquhar McHarg still in revolutionary Barcelona, now in the early years of the 1920s, as he continues the struggle, alongside fellow workers and anarchist comrades, against the forces of right-wing repression.

We know he survived these murderous times because interspersed with that first-person narrative is the third-person account of his latter years as a political exile in France. In volume one his close comrade Laureano Cerrada was gunned down in the streets of Paris, and Farquhar knows he is next on the list.

He has two ambitions to fulfil before his life ends: to write his own history and to sort out shenanigans among the anarchist exiles in France. Two people in particular obsess him: Germinal Esgleas, secretary-general of the executive council of the Libertarian Movement, based in Toulouse, and his partner Federica Montseny, a former minister in Spain’s short-lived Republican government.

Have they been collaborating in exile with the Francoist and Gaullist secret services? Were they responsible for the disappearance of both the organisation’s monies and assets after they were smuggled out of Spain, and the generous funding provided by the Swedish anarcho-syndicalist union? Collecting evidence is not easy, but with the aid of Cerrada’s files and some helpful statements from others who have worked with the couple, Farquhar is able to convene a hearing at which he can make his accusations.

Meanwhile life in Barcelona is not for the faint-hearted. It’s all strikes and demonstrations, death squads, union meetings, mass arrests, assassination attempts…and moral questions. Is it worth our bothering with meetings and democratic decisions when the enemy just sends in trained killers to assassinate our leaders? Why not arm as many as we can and declare insurrection? Easy there, comrade, it’s too soon, people aren’t ready to rise up yet.

And how could we arm them without any money? Well, we’d better rob a few banks. And as groups edge into criminal activity, it’s inevitable that once driven into exile, some convert to the criminal life. As the book portrays, despite their idealistic roots, such movements are as susceptible as any others to internal disputes and power struggles, and probably more so in the environment of an émigré group with no hope of regaining power, or even having much influence, back home.

Farquhar’s hearing ends inconclusively – there’s no killer blow in his case, and probably most of those present side with Esgleas and Montseny anyway. Farquhar returns frustrated to Paris, his best shot having failed. But has it? Suddenly, some weeks later – well, that would be giving the story away. Farquhar seems to be about to meet his end, but…does he in fact?

Our hero is the creation of an anonymous, Hastings-based author, but most of the characters and most of the events are real, as is extensively documented by photos, footnotes and – unusual in a novel – an extensive index.