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‘The Accidental Spy’ is the gripping real story of the ordinary American man who found himself at the centre of a deadly terrorist organisation - and working for both MI5 and the FBI. Here, in an exclusive piece for the Eason blog, author Sean O’Driscoll shares how he came to write the book, and how perseverance and determination have a key part to play in the writing process.
"I wrote the entire 92,000 words of The Accidental Spy on the Luas, travelling up to the Point and then back down to Tallaght, then back up to the Point and back down to Tallaght. It’s a true story about how New York trucker, David Rupert, infiltrated dissident republicanism for the FBI and MI5, eventually sending the Real IRA’s leader to prison for twenty years.
It was a story that was built up from dozens of hours of interviews and thousands of pages of documents. It needed focus and for me, the best way to achieve that was to leave my apartment and get on the tram, where there was enough background noise and movement to keep me writing.
For a change of scenery, I would occasional switch lines on O’Connell Street, travelling up to Broombridge and then down to Bride’s Glen and back up to Broombridge. On my lap was my Mac, along with printouts of over 2,000 classified emails between undercover agent, David Rupert, and his FBI and MI5 handlers, along with excerpts from his wife’s diary, court judgments and transcripts. Sometimes I would have to quickly hide it all away in my computer bag, if someone very drunk got too close, or, in one occasion, when I was sitting opposite a prominent member of Continuity IRA, one of the organisations David Rupert had infiltrated.
The two Luas lines meet just steps from Easons on O’Connell Street. Every time I passed the bookshop, whether from Abbey Street on the Red line, or O’Connell Street on the Green line, I would always look up from my computer at Eason and wonder if some day my book would be on display in there.
The book is now on the Irish top ten bestsellers list. I occasionally wander into the shop to look at them on display in the new non-fiction section. Ever since I was a young boy, when we would visit Dublin to see relatives or visit the Spring Show in the RDS, I would wander around Easons looking at the titles and imaging what it must be like to be one of these authors. Seeing the book there now is a childhood dream finally fulfilled.
Many people have said to me that they have always quietly dreamed of writing a book but they give up after a few pages or have too much to do. I believe that anyone can do it if they find their own way through it. Some people love the silence of an empty room (when would drive me and many others insane within ten minutes), others like the sounds and movement of a coffee shop and other still, like me, need physical movement to get anything done. To that final group, I say “don’t despair” All our brains work differently. Get on the Luas and give it a go. No matter which line you take, Easons will be there on the corner, reminding you that there is a purpose to all of this, after all."
David Rupert, a complete outsider with no connection to Ireland, rose to the very top of the Real IRA - all while working for the FBI and British intelligence. But his story is really about just how a bored, frustrated New York trucking manager becomes one of Britain's most valued spies, brings down the entire IRA structure and makes $10 million dollars in the process. Along the way he finds himself in the most extraordinary and terrifying situations - he is involved in major terrorist operations, sets up an Iraqi sting operation and organises US arms shipments with a man being trained to kill the then British prime minister, Tony Blair.