Farquhar McHarg, seventy-six-year-old anarchist from the Govan district of Glasgow, was prompted to write Pistoleros! by the murder of his lifelong friend, Laureano Cerrada Santos, in October 1976.
Pistoleros! records McHarg's evolving beliefs and sense of mission, and the remarkable adventures he experienced from the day he sailed into the neutral port of Barcelona in the spring of 1918 as a naïve but idealistic eighteen-year-old, to 1976. Pistoleros! is folk history, bringing the changes that shook the political and social landscape of Spain (and the world) between 1918 and 1976 into the framework of adult lifetime. The chronicles make a vexatious but fascinating story that provides a deep insight into the spirit that moved the selfless, generous, occasionally naïve and recklessly idealistic people who were involved in the bitter social struggles that marked the hectic insurrectionary and utopian aftermath of the great imperialist war of 1914-1918.
The transformation of the unworldly young Farquhar, in the climactic and rebellious years between 1918 and 1924, is fascinating to observe as he acquires consciousness and identity through his experiences in a world for which he is little prepared. The journey he embarks upon in these pages is not simply a personal memoir or an exploration of his own psyche; the many hitherto untold stories that unfold along his way provide profound understanding of the circumstances, thoughts and deeds of people who tried to rescue the Europe of the twentieth century from the cycle of disaster, war, and death.
Author: Farquhar McHarg
Publisher: PM Press / Christie Books
Published August 2011
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 264 Pages
Subjects: History, Autobiography
Barcelona, 1976: Hired gunmen brutally murder a lifelong friend and fellow anarchist, forcing Farquhar McHarg into a race to document an epic history before he too can be silenced. The first volume of his memoirs finds him a Glasgow boy, dropped by chance into Barcelona’s revolutionary underworld at the tail end of the great imperialist war of 1914–1918, recruited by Spanish anarchists to act as a go-between with Britain’s Secret Service Bureau. McHarg tells of a corrupt and brutal Spanish regime, bent on bringing a rebellious working class back under its heel, and the generous and recklessly idealistic men and women who struggled to transform it after rejecting traditional party politics.
Pistoleros! is a thrilling tale of intrigue and romance, and a sweeping inside view of the saboteurs and spies, the capitalists and bold insurrectionaries of Spain’s bloody past.
“The ﬁrst volume of memoirs from Farquhar McHarg, is a highly charged narrative that ﬁres from the hip in its scattergun treatment of revolutionary politics. It made me think of Marx’s Herr Vogt meets Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry. Punchy as a bare-knuckle boxer, the writing in this vivid ‘red noir’ captures the craziness and complexity of the period, as well as exploring the big issues of commitment, faith and violence. In its heady brew of poetry and polemics and its dynamic depiction of the anarchist version of revolution it also does what it says in the title, and offers an explosive account that is as anarchic as the worldview it espouses. A book you’d want to carry in your bandolier.”
-- Professor Willy Maley, Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Glasgow
“...A rare plunge into the dark whirlpool of politics, passion and intrigue that swirled around the docks, bars and tenements of Barcelona in 1918. B. Traven would be envious of McHarg¹s skill in re-creating the dangers and treachery of the times with such historical accuracy. The story is a fascinating bildungsroman; a young Scots seaman has hardly set foot on shore before he is caught up in the maelstrom. Chance encounters with charismatic characters of Barcelona's anarchist movement combined with tests of his resolve bring about the dawning of his own political consciousness and commitment. It is above all a richly-textured adventure story, refreshing in its humour and in its illuminating depiction of life in a period and place that will be unfamiliar to many readers of British fiction. Pistoleros! is a crack shot that rings out to remind us of times that were less bland.”
-- Pauline Melville, writer, actress and author of Shape-Shifter, The Ventriloquist’s Tale, The Migration of Ghosts and Eating Air
"Written with tremendous brio, this is a passionate and gripping tale of an idealist's 'coming of age'. McHarg's gripping narrative convincingly taps the rich historical seams of intrigue, protest and conflict of an age in which many of the streets of Barcelona, like those of many other European cities, became stained with blood due to the struggle between the defenders of the established order and those who dreamed of overthrowing it." -- Dr Chris Ealham, author of Class, Culture and Conflict in Barcelona
"....Pistoleros! is written in the style of a genre thriller with all of the accompanying intrigues; double dealing spy networks, evil foreign agents, love and betrayal all framed within the romantic backdrop of post WW1 Barcelona and in this way it¹s is a gripping read, yet these characters and events are real, the colourful backdrop the grim reality of poverty versus the opulence and wealth of the Barcelona bourgeoisie. Anarchists are often caricatured as firebrands and disorganised individualists and universally accused of being better at 'analysing the problem' rather than providing practical solutions. Pistoleros! shows that the history of Anarchism has been that of pragmatism; Anarchists were always on the frontline of providing real-world solutions through organised labour in effective opposition to the exploitation and corruption of the ruling classes when the traditional left were constantly mired in internal power politics and global machinations."
-- Simon Crab, musician and designer
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