Faber to publish Ronan McGreevy book on assassination of Sir Henry Wilson

A round-up of the latest literary news and a preview of Saturday’s book pages

Relatives pray outside Wandsworth Prison, London, for Reggie Dunne and Joe O’Sullivan, the IRA men who killed Sir Henry Wilson, shortly before their execution in August 1922. Photograph: Getty Images

Relatives pray outside Wandsworth Prison, London, for Reggie Dunne and Joe O’Sullivan, the IRA men who killed Sir Henry Wilson, shortly before their execution in August 1922. Photograph: Getty Images


There is a feast of book features in this Saturday’s Irish Times. Jonathan Franzen is interviewed by John Self about his new novel, Crossorads. Aisling authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen tell Jennifer O’Connell how their writing partnership has survived babies, break-ups, lockdown and an eating disorder. Rosita Boland talks to Patrick Freyne about Comrades, her new book on the importance of friendships. Michel Barnier is interviewed by Denis Staunton about his book, My Secret Brexit Diary. There is an extract from Shane MacGowan’s new biography, A Furious Devotion, which shows him to have been a child prodigy. Finally, there is an extract from The Coastal Atlas of Ireland, the latest in the bestselling and acclaimed Cork University series of atlases.

Reviews are Diarmaid Ferriter on We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 by Fintan O’Toole; Barry Pierce on Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr; Julia Kelly on Comrades: A Lifetime of Friendships by Rosita Boland; Nicholas Allen on The Coastal Atlas of Ireland; Andrew Gallix on The Making of Incarnation by Tom McCarthy; Paschal Donohoe on Confronting Leviathan: A History of Ideas by David Runciman; Rabeea Saleem on Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka; Lucy Sweeney-Byrne on Exteriors by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie; Emma Flynn on Three Graves by Sean Gregory; and Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction.

Faber is to publish Great Hatred by Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy, exploring the assassination of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, next June, marking the centenary of the assassination.

Associate publisher Laura Hassan acquired world English language rights, including audio, from Faith O’Grady at the Lisa Richards Agency in a three-publisher auction.

On June 22nd, 1922, Sir Henry Wilson – the former professional head of the British army and one of those credited with winning the First World War – was shot and killed by two veterans of that war turned IRA members. This was the most significant political murder to have taken place on British soil for more than a century. It horrified British society, precipitated a near-collapse of government and triggered the Irish Civil War.

McGreevy investigates, as the synopsis explains: “Who ordered the killing? Why would Michael Collins, who had signed a peace treaty with Great Britain just six months earlier, want Wilson dead? Great Hatred is a revelatory work that sheds light on a moment that changed the course of Irish and British history forever.”

Hassan said: “This is absolutely gripping and first class narrative history. McGreevey’s vivid, pacy writing coupled with his meticulous research is so impressive and reveals fascinating new material in relation to this turning point in Irish and British history”.

McGreevy said: “I am delighted that such a prestigious international publisher as Faber & Faber has decided to publish this extraordinary story. Wilson was an Irish-born, British imperialist killed by two English-born Great War veterans turned Irish republicans. That one of them had lost a leg at Ypres and was unable to flee the scene is another dimension to this tragic incident. The killing of Wilson was a profound shock to British society. It was also Ireland’s Sarajevo moment leading six days later to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War – a war which left the bitterest of legacies in Irish society.”

McGreevy was the editor of Was it for This: Reflections on the Easter Rising, an anthology of commentary on the Easter Rising from the pages of The Irish Times, and is the author of Wherever the Firing Line Extends: Ireland and the Western Front. He was also the editor of Centenary, the official State book on the Easter Rising commemorations. In 2018 he was the presenter of the full-length documentary United Ireland: How Nationalists and Unionists Fought Together in Flanders, which was shortlisted for the Imperial War Museum’s short film competition. In the same year McGreevy was made a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government for his work on the first World War.


Literature Ireland and the Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris have announced the winner of the Prix de Traduction, 2021. This year’s prize for the best first translation of an Irish work into French is being awarded to Nicolas Richard for his exquisite translation of Mike Mc Cormack’s acclaimed novel Solar Bones. Published in France by Grasset, the book’s title in French is D’os et de lumière.

On hearing of his award, Richard’s delighted response was: This book enthralled me from my very first reading of it. Throughout the long months of working on the translation, I never stopped appreciating the meticulous care with which Solar Bones had been crafted as I tried to communicate in my French words the feelings and concerns of this exceptional novel. I hope this Centre Culturel Irlandais- Literature Ireland Translation Prize will help French readers further appreciate just what an exceptional writer Mike Mc Cormack is.

Awarded biannually by the Centre Culturel Irlandais in partnership with Literature Ireland the prize was established in 2018. The prize money of €3,500 is awarded to the translator for the first translation of an Irish author’s work into French.

The previous recipient of the prize was the translator Mona de Pracontal for her translation of Conor O’Callaghan’s novel Nothing on Earth. Her translation of the book, Rien d’autre sur terre was published by Sabine Wespieser in 2019.


Dublin Book Festival has revealed this year’s programme, happening from November 8th to 15th. The festival is especially delighted to be returning with an exciting selection of live, in-person events, as well as online events. Featured will be some of Ireland’s most established and emerging authors, with events exploring everything from contemporary fiction and works of historical interest, to poetry, children’s books, and much more.

Some live in-person highlights include President Michael D. Higgins in conversation with Paddy Woodworth at Smock Alley Theatre, Jo Kerrigan in conversation with Brendan MacEvilly at Dublin Port, and Declan Murphy in conversation with Manchán Magan at the National Botanic Gardens.

Panel discussions will cover everything from life as a woman writer in Ireland and LGBTQIA+ in contemporary Irish literature, to crime writing, books that emerged in response to the pandemic, and authors from the An Post Irish Book Awards Shortlist.

Get your walking boots ready to join the literary walking tours, and join the festival for some exciting launches and celebrations, including the Play it Forward launch with Skein Press and the Stinging Fly, the Young Writer Delegates’ Showcase with the Irish Writer’s Centre, and the Blackstaff Press Anniversary Event with Belfast Book Festival.

The DBF Opening Night special broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena, with Sean Rocks, will feature Roddy Doyle, Lisa Harding, Hugo Hamilton and Caitríona Lally. The full programme, with all event details, is available at dublinbookfestival.com.

The Irish Cultural Centre in London has announced an October literary festival, A Celebration of Contemporary Irish Writing, running from Friday to Sunday, October 15th to 17th. Itwill be opened on Friday evening by the Irish Ambassador, who will launch a packed programme of live interviews, events and readings.

Irish authors taking part include: Colm Tóibín, Eimear McBride, Dermot Bolger, Glenn Patterson, Carlo Gébler, Susan McKay, Eoin McNamee, Mary Costello and Séamas O’Reilly.

The festival will conclude on Sunday afternoon with the premiere of Sé Merry Doyle’s documentary about the ICC’s patron, Edna O’Brien. This will include an interview with Edna O’Brien by Dr Maureen O’Connor, author of an about-to-be-published monograph on this leading figure in Irish writing.

Interviews will be conducted by writer and broadcaster Carlo Gébler, writer and publisher Dermot Bolger, London-based journalists Anne Flaherty and Dorothy Allen, along with two academics Dr Maureen O’Connor and Dr Keith Hopper.

Dr Anne Goudsmit, a member of the ICC Board, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming this exceptional line-up of successful Irish writers and their interviewers as a continuation of our 25th anniversary celebrations. Whatever your interest is: memoir, literary crime, fictionalised biography, journalism, essay writing or just a cracking good read, do come along and join us! I am confident you will find something entertaining, amusing, stimulating and thought-provoking in our weekend programme.” Details here.


Poetry Ireland and Stanford University have announced a new annual poetry award in honour of Eavan Boland. Submissions opened last Friday today in recognition of Eavan’s birth date.

The Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award is an award for two emerging poets, one from Ireland and one from the United States, and is presented with the support of the Boland/ Casey family and with the financial support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy, Dublin.

Niamh O’Donnell, Director of Poetry Ireland said: “Eavan always argued that space for new voices must be made, and diversity in all its forms must be cherished, so we at Poetry Ireland are delighted that this award represents these values so well.”

Eavan was a relentless advocate for emerging poets, particularly those whose work risked being overlooked. She was a poet revolutionary, a searing talent, and a formidable artist. To her peers, students, and readers, she was an exemplar of courage, generosity, and unfailing friendship.

As she wrote herself “New voices in an old art – and women poets have been that for much more than a century – do not diminish the art through the category. They enrich it. They renew it with common quandaries of craft and innovation.” In her editorial for Poetry Ireland Review 125, Eavan memorably wrote, “the margin re-defines the centre, and not?the other way around. But that margin has to be visible, has to be vocal, has to be sustained by new critiques as well as new poems.”

Two judges have been appointed; Paula Meehan in Ireland and Jane Hirshfield in the US.

Meehan said, “This award is a perfect way to honour the much loved and greatly missed Irish poet Eavan Boland. That it is offered jointly by two communities she was so committed to, Poetry Ireland and the Writing Programme at Stanford University, and that it embodies her belief in nurturing the emerging poet with resources as well as with honour, would, I believe, have pleased her more than any other memorial. She was a radical force in poetry; she changed the very terms of engagement. This award celebrates her indomitable spirit and offers the emerging poet the most precious gift of all - time to write.”

Hirshfield said, “Eavan Boland’s work made visible lives that had not been visible, gave voice to the unvoiced, and, phrase by phrase, proved the indispensable force of art in the knowing of our history and our human lives. Her poems expanded the reach and vision of the art. As a mentor of fierce devotion, her fostering of emerging poets was legendary. This honor, bestowed in two countries, is an unsurpassable way to bring her gifts of inclusive embrace, discerning spirit, intimate encounter, and creative generosity into new voices, lives, and poems.”

Each poet will receive €1,700, as well as three mentoring sessions by leading poets over the course of four months.“

Applications will close on November 5th. Announcement of the awardees will be made on December 15th. Details here.


The shortlist for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2021, sponsored by Insight Investment, has been revealed. This year’s shortlisted books, chosen from a record number of 267 submissions, are: The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque (Oneworld); Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (Penguin Life); The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds by Jessica Nordell (Granta Books); The Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories of Mystery Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan (Picador); Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science by Stuart Ritchie (Bodley Head); Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Bodley Head).

Little Island has refreshed its brand identity including a new company slogan: “Books create waves”. The slogan expresses the Irish children’s publisher’s commitment to publishing powerful books that cause a splash, move young readers, and stir the sea within. It will appear on all new Little Island books, together with a refined version of the Little Island logo, this autumn.

Publisher Matthew Parkinson-Bennett said: “The importance of digital marketing and selling have been accelerated by recent world events and it’s vital we have a visual identity that is suited to digital environments. ‘Books create waves’ expresses our independent spirit and dedication to exciting books that make an impact on readers and their world.”

Marathon Man by Alan Corcoran is an uplifting story of an extraordinary achievement – all the more gripping given that the author was an inexperienced long-distance runner and only 20 when embarking on his mission to run 35 marathons in 35 consecutive days. Corcoran’s response to the shock of his father’s stroke, was to get active, create positive from negative and raise money for charity. Alan faced many obstacles along the road beyond the sheer physical endurance challenge of running 1,500km around Ireland. He candidly submerges the reader into his world with an endearingly light touch, showing how through sheer perseverance, you can achieve your objectives. His humour, positivity and pure determination shine through this story. Whatever your challenge, this book aims to show you that you can succeed. marathonman.co

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