Rearden Conner (1905-91)


Life
[Patrick Rearden Connor; also pseud “Peter Main”; var. b.1907;] b. Dublin; educ. Presentation College [CBS], Cork; m. Gipsy Farrell; emig. to London, 1941; served with the Red Cross during the Blitz; worked as landscape garden in London; turned novelist, critic and broadcaster; wrote books about tramps and gipsies; reviewed for many British, Irish and American papers; worked as a broadcaster for BBC, RTÉ, and South African Broadcasting; contrib. short fiction, articles, and reviews to Fortnightly Review, The Star, John O'London's, Johannesburg Sunday Times, Irish Bookman, Men Only, Toronto Star, Lilliput, The New Strand, nd contrib. 188 stories to Evening News from 1937 to 1980.
 
issued Shake Hands with the Devil (1933), his novel of the 1919-1920 Troubles, was the Literary Guild Choice, later filmed with James Cagney as a pathologically violent, woman-hating IRA-man in 1959; his other novels are Rude Earth (1934); Men Must Live (1937); The Devil Among the Tailors (1947); My Love to the Gallows (1948); The Singing Stone (1951); River, Sing me a Song (1939), and The House of Cain (1952), while A Plain Tale from the Bogs (1937) is an autobiography; also many short stories; Epitaph (1994), concerning rising against the penal laws in Kenmare during 1701. IF DIW OCIL

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Works
Fiction
  • Shake Hands with the Devil (London: Dent 1933), and Do. (NY: Morrow 1934);
  • Rude Earth (London: Dent 1934), and Do., as Salute to Aphrodite (NY 1935);
  • I Am Death (London: Chapman & Hall 1936);
  • Time to Kill (1936);
  • Men Must Live (London: Cassell 1937) [extract];
  • The Sword of Love (London: Cassell 1938);
  • The Devil Among the Tailors (London: MacDonald 1947);
  • My Love to the Gallows (London: MacDonald 1948);
  • Hunger of the Heart (London: MacDonald 1950);
  • The Singing Stone (London: MacDonald 1951);
  • To Kill is My Vocation (London: Cassell 1939);
  • River, Sing Me a Song (London: Cassell 1939);
  • Kobo the Brave (London: Warne 1950);
  • The House of Cain (London: MacDonald 1952);
  • Epitaph (London: Janus 1994), 252pp.
 
Autobiography
A Plain Tale from the Bogs (London: John Miles 1937).

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Commentary
A. N. Jeffares, Anglo-Irish Literature (1982): ‘[...] detail of observation rather than portrayal of character is found in Shake Hands ... (1933), a realistic novel set in time of Black & Tans by Rearden Conner, the first of several powerfully-written novels. A Plain Tale from the Bogs (1937) is a more directly autobiographical description of this troubled period, which repays reading more than his fiction.’

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Quotations
Men Must Live (1937): ‘John Brannigan was shopkeeper like his father before him. But now that the old man had died he had decided to leave the back of beyond and try his luck in the little town that many said was a coming place. He had bought at a cheap price a general store which had belonged to an old half-blind woman [...]. John Brannigan was determined to make a success of his life in the town of the plain. [3] .. I see these men not as dirt-grimed peasants, but as men from whose seed will spring the race that’ll make Ireland a country able to raise its head among the other nations of the earth, and even though [sic] in that very making the ground under our feet at this moment may have to run with the blood of the new generation ...!’ [81]

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Men Must Live (1937), cont. - ‘[O’Mara:] ... that’s where we score, because our strength comes from the spirit. We’re willing to shed our blood, to set up a nation - when we’ve won our fight - that’ll lose heavily in material advantages. But we’re ready for these sacrifices. Is that not a spiritual readiness? Our blood will water the earth of this land and great seed will come to life in it and bear fruit beyond even our understanding. [300-01]

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Men Must Live (1937), cont.: ‘He [Brannigan] remembered how, after Moynihan’s death in jail in England, he had decided that it must be his endeavour to live life as near as possible to the verge of nobility. That thought would sound almost insincere if he uttered it aloud, he knew. Yet it came to him with deep sincerity. He saw in it his spiritual salvation. It was not mrely the justification of his existence, but the purpose which he saw in the life ahead of him. It was no longer the time for looking back into the past, muttering about Ginkel and Cromwell and going into fervid ecstasies over Sarsfield or Tone. It was the time for men to look forward as intently as possible.’ [390]. ‘The wheel of Fate must turn ... men must live on and one so that the world of which these things are a part may endure until the human race has achieved its purpose in the scheme of the Universe.’ [392] (For longer extracts, see RICORSO, Library, “Authors”, supra.]

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985); regards his novels as a melange of violence, melodrama, and sentiment, occasionally derogatory towards Irish Catholics and clergy, full of unbelievably wicked persons, male and female, and fuelled by gelignite explosions; Clarke regards his novels as a melange of violence, melodrama, and sentiment, occasionally derogatory towards Irish Catholics and clergy, full of unbelievably wicked persons, male and female, and fuelled by gelignite explosions. The Telegraph thought Shake Hands a notable picture of Ireland, and the Tablet though the it showed how demoralised the Irish were after the Troubles; The Telegraph thought Shake Hands a notable picture of Ireland, and the Tablet though the it showed how demoralised the Irish were after the Troubles.

There was a biographical notice on Reardon Conner in the “Evening News Short Story Index” [online at GeoCities; accessed 12.07.2009; defunct at 09.09.2010].

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Kevin Rockett, et al., eds, Cinema & Ireland (1988), Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), 100 [first international production made at Ardmore, in 60 days with budget of £600,000], 111 [dir. Michael Anderson 1959; a commercial success for his British company, Troy Films], 164-7 [Kerry O’Shea (Don Murray), initially opposed to violence, joins the IRA after his friend is shot attending a wounded man in Dublin and he himself beaten by the Black and Tans; at the end he throws away his revolver; he falls in love with the IRA hostage, Jennifer Curtis (Dana Wynter), and when she is threatened with execution, he saves her; the commandant, Lenihan, played by James Cagney, is sadistic with the prostitutes in the house where they hide; it is women rather than the British which most unsettle him and inspire his violent outbursts]; 168 [Lenihan has shed blood for so long he can’t lose the taste of it], 175-6 [romance between political opponents undercuts political relationship; structural relations are collapsed into individual emotions], 182 [sees potential of love to triumph over political divisions, 231-34 [dénouement in which young woman is at the receiving end of a psychotic IRA leader’s bloodlust ... Lenihan the misogynistic IRA leader who also happens to be one of Ireland’s leading surgeons[!] ... in a scene which fell foul of the censors, the camera lingers on Kitty’s legs as she caresses herself while lifting her clothes on the beach.. at this point Lenihan appears on the scene ... attempts to strangle her [as an informer].

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Anthony Slide, The Cinema and Ireland (1988), p.188 n36 [in Plain Tale from the Bogs (London: John Miles 1937), Connor’s explains that he intended to write in a way that would ‘not shield the brutalities nor the courage of the men on either side’ and how this resulted in a book pleasing neither the ‘Imperialists’ nor the ‘extremist Irish’ (pp.237-41).]

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