Dark Night, Black Horse

Spain 1936 - on the brink of civil war. As the conflict draws closer, Diego Martin takes desperate measures to save his family from starvation. He endangers his life and freedom by smuggling contraband across the mountains at night. But the authorities are closing in. They’ve got one eye on him and the other on his magnificent, black stallion, Lucero – ‘Bright Star'. Can the courage and resourcefulness of his eight year-old son, Paco, save Lucero and the family from impending disaster?

Read the opening pages of this short story....


If there is one word that sums up the Spanish Civil War it’s betrayal, a million betrayals by friends and neighbours and family. In the many oral histories of the war there are few tales of heroism or altruism among the many of deceit and cruelty.
Spain is less a nation than a patchwork of regions and villages – people are more likely to say “I’m from Asturias or I’m from Sevilla” than “I’m Spanish” -and J.G. Harlond’s story
Dark Night, Black Horse captures perfectly both this provincialism and the early onset of betrayal, the sudden realisation that things are not what they were, that trust is no longer a given and, above all, that people are taking sides. In the space of a few pages Harlond conveys how the ground is shifting. The tension in Diego’s first run in with the police comes from him being a poor man and them being armed. There is nothing unusual in that. The second time around everything has changed: the police have taken sides and the threat is magnified; it is political.
Harlond’s light touch and sensitivity creates a vignette that is a window on to a larger and terrible story that Spain has not yet been able to come to terms with.

Stephen Burgen journalist and author of Afterlife and Walking the Lions