Numb: war journalist ‘memoir’ originally written as novel

Author Colin Carroll promoted his book as a work of non-fiction

The “memoir” of a British war correspondent who purportedly committed rape, murder and other crimes before dying last year was initially written several years ago as a novel, it has emerged.

Author Colin Carroll had described the novel in an interview more than five years ago with a local newspaper in Cork.

Using a pseudonym, Carroll appeared two weeks ago on the John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio 1 and the Sean Moncrieff Show on Newstalk to promote his book, Numb, published by Dublin-based Liberties Press.

He said it was a work of non-fiction based on the diaries of a journalist who had spent his career in conflict zones including Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq.


Carroll graphically described on air how the journalist had supposedly been involved in the torture-murder of an IRA man in Belfast in 1981, and the rape of a teenaged girl in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

Carroll was also interviewed for The Irish Times’s Off Topic podcast, where he denied that the book’s many implausibilities suggested it was either a fiction or a fraud.

Following that podcast, Sean O’Keeffe of Liberties Press stated that the publisher “stood over” Numb as a memoir, although he acknowledged that the publisher had not seen any of the book’s source material.

Nor had it verified Carroll’s claims to be the anonymous ghostwriter of bestselling books for international celebrities.

In a further interview with The Irish Times two days ago, O’Keeffe reiterated his belief that Liberties Press had not been misled, but also stated that, as a publisher rather than a newspaper, the company didn’t have “a responsibility to report the news in an accurate way”.

Carroll’s interview with weekly Munster paper the Avondhu on May 27th, 2010, was discovered by Cork-based writer Donal O’Keeffe following a search of newspaper archives in Cork City Library.

In it, Carroll, described as an "adventurer, novelist and solicitor", states that he has written a novel called Numb, which is doing the rounds of various London publishers.

“The concept for the novel came to me in Dubrovnik two summers ago when I went there for a week’s holidays,” Carroll told the newspaper. “I was disturbed at how the war had been glossed over.”

He also said he had completed “seven or eight chapters” of the book, which was about a London war journalist.

“It scares me to think that I could write such a book and about such a subject,” he told the Avondhu in 2010. The version of Numb published by Liberties Press in 2015 contains scenes of lurid sexual violence, interspersed with the narrator’s supposed philosophical musings about the motivations for his crimes.

Numb is still being stocked in the non-fiction sections of most Irish bookshops. Sean O’Keeffe told The Irish Times he wasn’t aware of the 2010 article, had nothing to say about it, and that Liberties Press continued to stand over Numb as a memoir.

Asked whether he would consider contacting bookshops and retailers about the issue, he asked “Certainly not, Why should I?”

Questioned on whether newspapers and broadcasters should read future press releases from Liberties Press with scepticism, he replied: “The Irish Times or RTÉ or anyone can make any decision they like about anything that’s sent to them. That’s really not my concern.”

Mr O’Keeffe rejected the suggestion that Liberties had ethical or professional questions to answer over Numb. “The publisher of a book on the Graham Dwyer case might have a case to answer for cashing in on the public’s voyeuristic interest in a fairly lurid murder,” he said. “But I have no problem in standing over the book and the manner in which we published.”

Colin Carroll did not respond to a request for comment.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast

Patrick Freyne

Patrick Freyne

Patrick Freyne is a features writer with The Irish Times