Local Author: “Above The Ground” by Dan Lawton

“Above The Ground” by Dan Lawton

Kevin Barry Artt is an innocent man. His story is a tale of survival and redemption.

“Above The Ground” is the true story of Kevin Barry Artt, an innocent man falsely convicted of the brutal Irish Republican Army murder of British prison official Albert Miles during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This new book tells the tale of a young man who grows up mostly insulated from the bitter sectarian strife that gripped Belfast during the 1970s before leaving home at fifteen, moving to a Republican neighborhood, becoming a taxi driver for Ace Taxi, and developing sympathy for the Republican cause.

When Charles McKiernan, an IRA man-turned-jailhouse-informant desperate to please his captors, falsely names Kevin as the killer of Albert Miles, police arrest Kevin in the early morning hours in front of his young wife and baby and whisk him to Castlereagh Interrogation Center. After days of grueling interrogation, beating, and intimidation, detectives coerce a false confession from Kevin. The “Irish Trial of the Century” that followed led to the false conviction of Kevin by partisan Unionist judge Basil Kelly, Kelly’s sentencing of Kevin to serve a life sentence in Britain’s notorious Maze prison, and Queen Elizabeth II’s knighting of Kelly at Buckingham Palace six months later.

The story ends in 2020 when the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal threw out Kevin’s murder conviction based on new, exculpatory evidence discovered by the author. True crime, courtroom drama, prison escape, Irish history, and the vindication of a man caught up in the unrelenting machine of sectarian and unjust policing and legal systems combine in this story of survival, redemption, and reconciliation between Kevin Barry Artt and Alan Miles, the son of Albert Miles and eyewitness to his father’s murder four decades earlier.

Dan Lawton grew up in Fullerton and still visits there often to see my mom and dad.  His new book, “Above The Ground:  A True Story of the Troubles in Northern Ireland,” launched last week in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle format. Lawton’s short fiction, essays, and columns have appeared in several journals and periodicals since 2001. Lawton currently resides in San Diego, where he is a practicing lawyer.