Thomas McCarthy


Life
1954- ; b. 6 March, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford; partially raised by a blind grandmother; ed. St. Anne’s High School, Cappoquin and at UCC (BA; HDip.Ed), where he studied under John Montague; co-founded the Poetry Workshop 1973-76; winner of Patrick Kavanagh Award, 1977 - going on to publish The First Convention (1978); received Arts Council bursary, 1978; taught at University of Iowa International Writing Programme 1978-79; employed as Cork City librarian 1978- ; appt. Fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, 1978-79; winner of Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, 1981;
 
trans. story for English edition of Padraic Ó Conaire (1982); received Annual Literary Award of American Irish Foundation, 1984 and the O'Shaughnessy Poetry Award of the Irish-American Cultural Institute, 1991; ed. The Cork Review; ed. Poetry Ireland [1988]; issued poetry collections dealing with Irish politics, love and memory; also a series of novels on a Fianna Fáil party-political family; issued The Gardens of Remembrance (1998), a social and literary memoir of youth in W. Waterford together with his American experiences, and reflections on Dervla Murphy, Molly Keane and other writers of his county; novels incl. Without Power (1990);
 
issued Asya and Christine (1992); and The Deputy (1992); held Humphrey chair of English at Macalester College, Minnesota, 1994-95; employed in the European Capital of Culture office in Cork, 2005, afterwards resuming work in Cork Library; issued Merchant Prince (2005), the “lost” poems of Nathaniel Murphy, who is sent for the priesthood to Rome, meets James Barry there, returns to save his father’s business in Cork; set in the period 1769-1831 and incorporating 60 poems; member of Aosdána; O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award of Univ. of St Thomas, Minnesota, 2003 ($5,000); Without Memory, a novel, was forthcoming in 2006; contrib. to Michael Longley at Seventy (July 2009). DIW DIL FDA OCIL

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Works
Poetry
  • Shattered Frost (Miros Press 1975);
  • Warm Circle (Miros Press 1976), pamphlet;
  • The First Convention (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1978), 45, [1]pp.;
  • The Sorrow Garden (London: Anvil Press Poetry 1981), 64pp.;
  • The Non-Aligned Storyteller (London: Anvil Press Poetry 1984), 63pp.
  • Seven Winters in Paris (London: Anvil Press Poetry; Dublin: Dedalus Press 1989), 61 [3]pp. [withdrawn & reiss. Dublin: Dedalus Press 1990];
  • The Lost Province (London: Anvil Press Poetry 1996), 75pp.
  • Mr Dineen’s Careful Parade: New and Selected Poems (London: Anvil Press Poetry 1999), 174pp.; Merchant Prince (Dublin: Anvill Poetry Press 2005), 199pp.
  • Merchant Prince (London: Anvil Press Poetry 2009), 199pp. [see note]
  • The Last Geraldine Officer (London: Anvil Press Poetry 2009), 170pp. [see note]

—also listed at Lyricline [see online; accessed 20.10.2013]

Fiction
  • Without Power (Dublin: Poolbeg 1990; 1991);
  • Asya and Christine (Dublin: Poolbeg 1992), 217pp. [see note];
  • The Deputy (Dublin: Poolbeg 1992) [q.pp.].
Prose
  • The Gardens of Remembrance (Dublin: New Island 1998), 199pp. [memoir];
  • trans., ‘Marcus Beag’, in Padraic Ó Conaire (Dublin: Poolbeg 1982) [15 short stories, with other writers].
Miscellaneous
  • ‘The Outsider in Irish Poetry’, in Fortnight (Belfast 1988), [Supplement,] p.19 [on MacNeice et al.]
  • ‘Walking into America: Journal 1978’, in The North Store Review (Fall/Winter 1992), pp.132-151 [diary kept while attending Iowa Writing Programme];
  • contrib. short piece in ‘The State of Poetry’ [Special Issue], Krino, ed. Gerald Dawe & Jonathan Williams (Winter 1993), pp.42-43, and Do., as ‘The State of Poetry’, in Agenda, 22, 3 [q.d.], pp.49-51;
  • Preface to Bowen’s Court, by Elizabeth Bowen (Cork: Collins Press 1998), xvi, 460pp.
  • ed., The Turning Tide: New Writing from Co. Waterford (Waterford County Council 2003), 224pp.

Thomas MacCarthy, “Why I Write”, on Laoise Centre Website [online] and in the RICORSO Library [infra]

Poems in anthologies incl: “State Funeral”,“Mr Nabokov’s Memory” and “Persephone, 1978” in Modern Irish Poetry: An Antholog, ed. Patrick Crotty (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), pp.390-93 [attached]. Sundry contributions to journals incl. “The Dying Synagogue at South Terrace” and “Moonlight Cooler, 1948” [attached].

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Criticism
Gerald Dawe, ‘The Suburban Night: On Eavan Boland, Paul Durcan and Thomas McCarthy’, inContemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, Elmer Andrews (London: Macmillan 1996), pp.168-93 [also printed in Dawe, Against Piety: Essays in Irish, Poetry 1995, p.169ff.]; James Naiden, interview with Thomas McCarthy, in New Hibernia Review, 3, 1 (March 1999) [q.pp.]; Tom Redshaw, ‘Reflections of a gentleman', review of Merchant Prince, in The Irish Times (25 June 2005), Weekend [infra]; Rory Brennan, review of Merchant Prince, in Books Ireland (April 2006), p.79.

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Commentary
Nick Laird, review of Thomas MacCarthy, Mr. Dineen’s Careful Parade: New and Selected Poems (2000 Anvil), 174pp. [cover ill.of de Valera], in Times Literary Supplement, 12 May 20090, p.26. Speaks of continuity of vision and an ‘equable, regretful tone’; further, ‘the eschewal of rhetoric is impressive; quotes “State Funeral”, 1978: ‘It is a landscape for old men. Today/They lowered the tallest one, tidied him/Away while his people watched quiety.//I think of his austere grandeur;/Taut sadness, like old heroes he had imagined.’ Also cites and quotes from “A July Afternoon on Jameson’s Farm”, “November” (from The Lost Province, 1996); “The Provincial Writer’s Diary” (‘far from the heroic’); notes old fashioned timidity about some of these poems and matronly euphenisms (‘scents of summer’, and ‘fresh dog mess’), and calls the McCarthy a poet whose ‘early poetic promise has not quite been fulfilled’; quotes ‘our poor Republic’; ‘potholes’; ‘abrupt and botched revolution’; ‘liberation is a valley of disappointment’; remarks, ‘McCarthy is not a poet’s poet like Paul Muldoon, and compared to many of his contempoaries’ work - Matthew Sweeney’s hermetc, aggressive whimsies, the withering intelligence of Aidan Matthews [sic], - his can sem old-fashioned and, at times, gauche; but he has a strong voice very much his own, held steady at a medium pitch. His is a cautious celebration, a “careful parade” over common ground.’ [End; photo-port in tie.]

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Theo Dorgan, RTE interview (Sunday 28 April 2002): McCarthy speaks of a mentally-ill father and strains of growing up with ‘an ill person’; death of both parents at 55 within 18 months; ‘my past was sealed’; f. worked in Cappoquin forestry; infl. by Denis Fitzgerald, and Anglo-Irish neighbour who encouraged him to read Stendhal and Gide; speaks of the Anglo-Irish world of the Keane’s, the Cavendishes, the Geraldines [Fitzgeralds], and of Drimnagh and Villierstown and notes that Kim Philby was minded in Cappa in 1956; ed. The Turning Tide for Waterford Co. Council; infl. by Professor O’Kelly, archaeologist, at UUC; speaks with praise of John Montague; notes impact of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s essay on Sean O’Faolain and literary Parnellism [Maria Cross]; ‘people who don’t play sport in rural Ireland have got the option of joining Fianna Fáil’; professes belief in life after death and reacquaintance with deceased loved ones.

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Tom Redshaw Dillon, ‘Reflections of a gentleman', review of Merchant Prince, in The Irish Times (25 June 2005), Weekend: ‘McCarthy's readers will discover, however, that Merchant Prince is thoroughly modern as well as Modernist, given the Romanticism native to Nathaniel Murphy, McCarthy's chosen persona. McCarthy handles this persona as tellingly as John Berryman did, for example, in his Dream Songs , but in a far different idiom. Indeed, Merchant Prince combines McCarthy's signal strengths of invention and empathy - strengths displayed so well in prose and verse in Gardens of Remembrance (1998) and in Mr Dineen's Careful Parade (1999). [.... &c.] (See full text in RICORSO Library, Criticism, full text.)

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Quotations
See & hear 10 contributions to Lyricline - online [accessed 20.10.2013].

The Standing Trains”: [epigraph “… and I thought how wonderful to miss / one's connections; / soon I shall miss them / all the time (Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False ): ‘From the windows of a standing train / you can judge the artwork of our poor Republic. / The prominent ruins that make Limerick Junction / seem like Dresden in 1945. and the beaten-up coaches at Mallow Station, / the rusted side-tracks at Charleville, / have taken years of independent thought. / It takes decades to destroy a system / of stations. On the other hand, a few / well-placed hand-signals can destroy a whole / mode of life, a network of happiness. / This is our own Republic! O Memory, / O Patria, the shame of silenced junctions. / Time knew we'd rip the rails apart, we'd sell / emigrant tickets even while stripping the ticket-office bare. / The standing trains / of the future were backed against a wall. // Two hens peck seed from the bright platform, / hens roost in the signal-box. / Bilingual signs that caused a debate in the Senate / have been unbolted and used as gates: / it's late summer now in this dead station. / When I was twelve they unbolted the rails. / Now there's only the ghost of my father, / standing by the parcel-shed with his ghostly / suitcase, When he sees me walking towards him / he becomes upset. Don't stop here! he cries. Keep going, keep going! This place is dead. (Rep. in Patrick Crotty, Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology, Blackstaff 1995, pp.393-94.)

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The Dying Synagogue at South Terrace”: ‘Chocolate-coloured paint and the July sun like a blow-torch peeling off / the last efforts of love. / More than time has abandoned this, / God’s abandonment, God’s synagogue, / that rose out of the ocean / one hundred years from here. / The peeling paint is an emigrant’s / guide to America - lost on the shore / at Cobh, to be torn and scored / by a city of luftmenshen; / Catholics, equally poor, equally driven. [...; see full text in RICORSO, Library, Authors, infra.]

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“The Sorrow Garden”, from Mr Dineen’s Careful Parade - New and Selected Poems (Anvil 1999)

I. HOLE, SNOW
It is an image of irreversible loss,
This hole in my father’s grave that needs
Continuous filling. Monthly now, my
Uncle comes to shovel a heap of earth
From the spare mound. Tear-filled, he
Compensates the collapse of his brother’s
Frame. I arrived on my motor-bike to help
But he will not share the weight of grief.

It is six months since my father’s death
And he has had to endure a deep snow;
All night it came down, silently like time,
Smoothing everything into sameness. I
Visited the winter-cold grave, expecting
A set of his footprints, a snow-miracle.


II. SMALL BIRDS, VOICES
These are the neatly twisted sounds of death,
Those small brown birds singing, small winter
Birds clinging to an overhanging bough.
Never in life did I know him to stare
So silence-stricken for one brief moment.

These birds recall the voices of his life:
A low cold note is the voice of torment
From childhood poverty and the brief, light
Notes are the tones of Love and Marriage.

“There’s the beginning of your life’s troubles”,
A neighbour said at his grave. I arranged
The wilting wreath-flowers, feigning numbness.
Something, perhaps his voice, told me even then
How much of Love, Sorrow, Love one life contains.


III. MISTING-OVER
These bright evenings I ride
through the young plantation
by the river; at times I can
see the young trees clearly
through the collapsing mist.

Sometimes in the misted river
at dusk his face at my left
shoulder has become distinctly
settled and lined with peace.

But now in the clouded pools
I drive through on the avenue,
he no longer calls out as if
injured by my rear wheel, but
is happy as clay, roads, memory.


IV. LOST WORDS, SORROWS
It’s difficult to believe that it could
go on; this wanting to participate
in a rigid plan of water and wood,
words and wood and other inanimate
worlds that cannot explain sorrow.

Around me I find the forms that know
his lack of living. The wooden sculpture
on a shelf points to its lack of finish,
calls for a finishing touch, for his sure
and solid polish. I pray for its wish.

As if water could explain my crying,
I visited the salmon-weir after
a snow-fall. The fish were manoeuvring
through the spray, determined to get over
protective obstacles of wood and stone.

Like salmon through water, like virgin wood
disturbed into its form in art, his death
obfuscates words irrecoverably. Death plays
its own tune of vision and shadow. It has
attached itself as a vocabulary of change.

   
 

—available at Poetry International Web - online; accessed 20.10.2013.

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Moonlight Cooler 1948”: ‘It was the four frosted tiki-stem cocktail glasses, / Survivors of a disreputable Irish bar in Minneapolis, / That you were most proud of on the day / Of the Ballysaggart races; that day when a man / Claiming to be Bing Crosby, or Bing’s brother, / Walked into the pub with a Fine Gael Senator. [...] they mentioned / The word “cocktail”, thinking to embarrass us all [...]. Sure every baptised Christian in the county knew, / In them days, that on a moonlit evening in November / Two ladies on the way to dinner at a Big House / Would have the juice of one lemon, a little sugar, / Two Irish ounces of Calvados, and soda; all / Shaken with a bit of ice from O’Connor’s fish store / And strained into - pardon the lack of highballs - Your tiki-stem cocktail glasses fit for any Bing.’ [See full text in RICORSO, Library, Authors, infra.]

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The Euro”, poem: ‘I’ve seen the first photography of the new Euro / in a shop-window in Patrick Street. / Rather than anything that belongs to the future ,/ it reminds me of the orange ten-shilling note / of my childhood … that held the promise of so much happiness … there is a small boy of ten - a child with coins - / for whom the Euro will come with a sudden pain of optimism, a sunbeam // to illuminate the cleared path ahead. / I have high hopes for that boy. I honour him.’ (The Irish Times, 6 Oct. 2001, Weekend.)

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Cork Poetry in Its Wider Context”: ‘Poetry, whether written in Irish or English, is not just a language: it’s a personal language, intimately bound up with the speaking voice and personal atmosphere of a poet. A poetic voice is not something that can be transferred or taught. But it can be encouraged, enabled, empowered by fine example and the reading of literary magazines and poetry collections. A public library is one of the best places for the aspiring poet to find recent work, in both books and magazines. Cork has been particularly blessed with the publication of two crucial journals, Poetry Ireland, edited by David Marcus in the 1940s and Innti, edited by Micheal Davitt in the 1970s. [.... &c.; see full text in RICORSO Library, infra.]

Why I Write” [online article at Laoise Education Centre, ?2006]: ‘[...] I think of books as radios or televisions that have been flattened for storage or convenience. When the cover of a book is lifted it’s like switching on a radio or television. Imagine, when you open a book, that the cover is a kind of a power-pack or solar-panel that makes the book receive signals from far away. When I go into a library or a bookshop now I think of all those books as radio programmes, full of voices and opinions. You know, literature was really the first successful multichannel company, the first broadcasting corporation. The voices in books are honest, funny sometimes, rich and brilliant.’ [...; see full text in RICORSO Library, Authors, infra]

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References
Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), incls. ‘Bachelard’s Images’, pp.112-14 [with photo-port.].

Poems in The Inherited Boundaries: Younger Poets of the Republic of Ireland, ed. Sebastian Barry (Dolmen 1986):
from The First Convention
Stranger, Husband
State Funeral
Last Days in the Party
Daedalus, the Maker
The Rarest Thyme
Greatrakes, the Healer

33
33
34
35
36
36
from The Sorrow Garden
De Valera, Lindberg and Mr Cooper's Book of Poems
The Sorrow Garden
A Neutral State, 1944
The Phenomenology of Stones

37
38
40
41
from The Non Aligned Storyteller
Claud Cockburn
Shopkeepers at the Party Meeting
Party Shrine
The Chairman's Widow
The President's Men
Question Time
Windows
Winter
Particulars
Hours Ago, 1973
Mr Nabokov’s Memory

41
43
43
44
45
45
46
46
46
47
48
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Sebastian Barry, ed. & intro., The Inherited Boundaries: Younger Poets of the Republic of Ireland (Mountrath: Dolmen 1986), incls. poems.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects ‘A Meeting with Parnell’; ‘Windows’ from from The Sorrow Garden; also ‘Black Flags at a Party Meeting’, ‘The Non-Aligned Story-Teller’ from The Non-Aligned Story-Teller [1424-26]; BIOG, 1436.

Anthologies, Patrick Crotty, Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “State Funeral” [390-91], “Mr Nabokov's Memory” [392-92], “Persephone” [392-93], “Standing Trains” [393-94; infra].

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Catalogues, &c.
CCLIB archive contains record supplied by author: b. 06/03/54, Co. Waterford; ed. St. Annes High School, Cappequin; University College Cork 1973-76 BA. HDE; University of Iowa (International Writing Programme), 1978-79; Librarian at Cork City Libraries 1978- . Works: The First Convention Dolmen Press 1978) [manuscript in possession of Brigadier D.H. Fitz-Gerald, Cappoquin Co. Waterford]; The Sorrow-Garden (Anvil Poetry, September 1981) [manuscript in possession Brigadier D.H. Fitz-Gerald]; The Non-Aligned Storyteller (Anvil Poetry 1984) [manuscript with author]; Seven Winters in Paris (Anvil Poetry 1989) [withdrawn because of major print error], Do., rep. (Dedalus 1990) [manuscript with author]. Fiction, Without Power (Poolbeg Press 1991), novel, rep. (1991) [manuscript with author]; Asya and Christine (Poolbeg Press 1992) [manuscript with author]; selected among 15 years of reviewing, ‘In A Nutshell’. - Review of ‘The Faber Book of Epigrams’, Irish Times (Oct 1, 1970 [first public review]; ‘Down to Earth in a Poets Garden’ an interview with Ciarán Carty, Sunday Independent (Oct 23 1977); ‘Roethke’ [review of Harry Williams, ‘Theodore Roethke After’], Irish Times (March 24-25 1978); ‘Tides Revisited’ [review of John Montague’s Tides], Irish Times (17 June 1978); ‘Poet’s Cloak’ [review of John Montague, The Great Cloak’, Irish Times 1978; ‘Northern Voices’ [ review of Michael Longley, Echo-Gate, Irish Times (9 Feb 1990); ‘Colonial Consciousness in Commonwealth Literature’ [interview with Peter Nazareth], Somaiya Publications [?Put], Ltd Bombay/New Delhi 1984), pp.128-173; ‘Heaney’s Sweeney’ [review of Seamus Heaney, Sweeney Astray’ Connaught Tribune [December 23 1983]; ‘Recent Poetry’ [review of Paul Durcan, Gerard Smith, Desmond Egan], Irish Times (Feb 25 1984); Review of The Selected Prose of Louis MacNeice, ed. Glan Heuer (OUP), and Grandmother & Wolfe Tone by Hubert Butler [Lilliput Press 1990] in The Irish Review [n.d.; 1990]; ‘Sean Ó Faolain at the Dinner Table’ [eminiscences of Sean Ó Faolain at American Embassy Dinner], in Cork Review (November 1991); ‘Why Politics World Have Been Wrong Choice’ [interview with Helen Conghlan about fiction and politics], Waterford News and Star (September 4 1992); ‘Fine Summer Afternoons’ [autobiographical essay on writing and student life at UCC], Eire-Ireland, 26: I (Spring 1991), pps 7-18; ‘Walking into America, Journal 1978 [diary kept while attending Iowa Writing Programme], The North Store Review (Fall/Winter 1992), pp.132-151; ‘The State of Poetry’ [contribution to a feature on the state of poetry in AGENDA Vol 22 no.3 [n.d.], pp.49-51; ‘James Simmons and Martin Luther in the Larne District’, J. Simmons 60th Birthday in Larne Press; ‘Gerry Adams & Political Fictions’ [interview with Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin for Stet Magazine, Cork (December 1993). [Centre for Irish Literature & Bibliography, Coleraine.]

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Anvil Press Poetry lists Thomas McCarthy, Mr Dineen's Careful Parade ( 1999) [0 85646 320 5]; The Non-Aligned Storyteller (1984) [0 85646 123 7].

Laoise Education Centre website has a Thomas McCarthy webpage [& online and as infra].

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Notes
Merchant Prince (2009) presents two groups of poems, set largely in Cork, and a novella set in Italy, in the period from 1769 and 1831. They tell the story of Nathaniel Murphy: his training for the priesthood, the loss of his virginity and vocation, his flight from Italy, and later his happy marriage and successful career as a Cork merchant. The unusual mixture of verse and prose and the meticulously imagined history - replete with portraits of such great figures as the painter James Barry, and four Italian poets who are strangely reminiscent of certain contemporary Irish poets - gives the book a compelling flavour. Poems and prose combine in a poetic fiction which is, among other things, a meditation on the craft of verse and the artistic calling, and a restoration project on a kind of Irishness overwritten by later history. (COPAC summary - online.)

The Last Geraldine Officer (London: Anvil Press Poetry 2009): The first part of the book collects recent short lyrics. Part Two daringly recreates a forgotten period in the Anglo-Irish world: a Big House in the years between the World Wars, a FitzGerald ("Geraldine") family that has tilled the soil of County Waterford, absorbed its language and history, and sent young men back to British regiments, particularly the Irish Guards. Focusing on his Gaelic-speaking soldier-poet, Sir Gerald FitzGerald, and his man-servant, Paax Foley, McCarthy creates a fully imagined landscape of men escaped from Irish neutrality to fight against Fascism. Moving from ballad to prose poem, from mid-century Gaelic verse to County Waterford recipes, McCarthy mixes competing loyalties and readings of Irish history to create a single Irish narrative of exile and bereavement, of battles won and love lost and found. (COPAC summary - online.)

Asya and Christine (1993) follows the story of FF man Paudie Glenville from 1925; married to Adele Griffith with five children, since arriving in Cappoquin in 1924; having been a smuggler of Irregulars to the US, he retains some funds with the connivance of the authorities; by 1943 he is a respected TD; he is called to intercede with Eamon de Valera on behalf of a man threatened with execution at the risk of exposing the source of his wealth, now invested; de Valera refuses; the novel ends in remorse with the death of his own son; Aysa is the Jewish girl who looks after their children. (See review, Fortnight, March 1993 - narrative questions concerning Christine and others unanswered.)

Namesake: Thomas McCarthy (b.1941), ed., with Mike Gerrard, Vengeance!: Passport Anthology (Serpent's Tail 1993) [208]pp. [stories] and and Passport to Arabia (Serpent's Tail 1993) [copies in TCD Library]. Note also, do. [Thomas McCarthy], author of Finals Day and other Stories (Cambridge Poetry Workshop c2002) and other works incl. A Fine Country (London: Citron 2002), 229pp. [suspense fiction dealing with the IRA], &c.

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