Some Irish Reading for Saint Patrick’s Day

Some Irish Reading for Saint Patrick’s Day.

For this reading list, I may have to paint with broad strokes. Turns out, you see, I have not quite read everything in the library. I usually offer books that I know firsthand, if only a little, but a few of the books on this list are going to be brand new to me. Not all of them, mind you, and as you will soon find out, not all of them are new to you, at least if you did your English homework when you were in school.

When you do a basic Internet search for Irish writers, you end up getting a lot of familiar names. Yes, if you’ve read Dracula, you have read an Irish writer; Bram Stoker was born in Dublin. Also born in Dublin: Jonathon Swift, the man who gave us Gulliver’s Travels. The more you research, the more you realize that every other building in Dublin must have at one time housed an important writer. Keeping to just Nobel Prize winners, we have these three names: poet William Butler Yeats, playwright Samul Becket – he wrote Waiting for Godot – and George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote Pygmalion, another work you very likely know even if the title is completely unfamiliar to you. That work became the musical My Fair Lady. Among the Dublin born writers, I must mention Oscar Wilde. If you have never read his The Importance of Being Ernest (or at least watched a film version of this play), you are missing one of the great comedies of all time.

The previous paragraph is the English major’s portion of this reading list. Being an English major, I could have made it much longer. However, I am not always a literary snob. I often prefer genre fiction especially a strong dose of rough-and-tumble crime stories. Among the roughest and toughest of all is the Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen. Jack Taylor is a disgraced police officer living in Galway. It has been a number of years since I read the first of these 15 books so I cannot quite recall how he became disgraced. It hardly matters because Taylor is a monster. He could have been removed from the force for alcoholism, drug abuse, police brutality, theft, or simple lack of interest in a case. Without a badge and without a PI license, he does not arrest criminals. Rather he brings them to justice, his style of justice not always being legal in and of itself. Despite all this, he never lacks for clients. He is a trouble magnet. There are two quarks that prevent this series from being quite as dark as I am describing. Oh, it is plenty dark, mind you, but these quarks are somewhat of a countermeasure. First, Bruen salts the pages with plenty of droll Irish humor. Second, Taylor is a massive consumer of books and pop culture in general. Every volume generates a long reading list, a small list of television shows, and a few mentions of music. These books are very fast reads, easily finished during a comfy evening on the sofa. The first title is The Guards.

Speaking of Taylor, we now enter the portion of the list where I cannot vouch for the books. They look fine, but I have yet to read them. Consider Patrick Taylor. Currently five of his books are sitting on the Dillsburg shelves. Here are the tiles:

1.) An Irish Doctor in Love and At Sea

2.) An Irish Country Wedding

3.) An Irish Country Village

4.) An Irish Country Courtship

5.) Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor

I think we can safely say these are appropriate titles for Saint Patrick’s Day. Besides, the beautiful paintings on the cover remind of something, a little bonus, I will save for the end.

While compiling this list I examined a few other titles that might someday make it to my (rather tall) stack of volumes. Two of the titles speak for themselves; they are both murder mysteries. Irish Coffee by Ralph McInerny is set of the campus of Notre Dame. A Catered St Patrick’s Day by Isis Crawford is a mystery of the “cozy” variety. Here are two more titles along with the book jacket description that prompted their placement in this blog. False Mermaid by Erin Hart: “American pathologist Nora Gavin fled to Ireland three years ago hoping that distance from home would bring her peace.” Hart has a small series (4 volumes) featuring Nora Gavin that appear to be set largely in Ireland. The Searcher by Tana French: “Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish Village would be the perfect escape.” Well, Hopper is a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, and a “perfect escape” is just not how crime fiction works.

I’ll mention one more writer new to me: Stuart Neville. I am so intrigued by his short Belfast series that I have already placed the first one on old. These books are published by Soho Mysteries, a company I’ve written about previously for this blog. Soho tours the world via crime fiction. This publisher has never failed me, so Neville is going to be my Saint Patrick’s Day reading project.

Before I get to the bonus ending conclusion as above promised, I feel I should apologize for omitting so many worthy candidates. Where, for example, is all the historical fiction? I left out all the great modern practitioners of Irish literary fiction. For goodness sake, the children’s room of our library has a dozen Saint Patrick’s Day titles in the holiday section. There is no shortage of Irish books.

The bonus.

This is not a book. Our DVD section contains a copy of director John Ford’s The Quiet Man starring John Wayne. What’s that you say, John Wayne in a movie that’s not a western or a war film? He plays an ex-boxer who moves to Ireland. Not just any Ireland but an idealized and romanticized dream version of Ireland that probably never existed. It is just utterly too perfect. The covers of Patrick Taylor’s books immediately forced it to mind. The rolling hills are ever so green; the pub is always warm and friendly; the church is well attended by the neighbors you have known and loved all your life. I almost do not care if such an Ireland never existed. It exists in my mind and that is plenty good enough.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Craig Magee