Major book deal for Michael Nolan; Patrick Radden Keefe wins Baillie Gifford Prize

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

Reviews in The Irish Times this Saturday include Naoise Dolan on Shadow Voices: 300 Years of Irish Genre Fiction: A History in Stories edited by John Connolly; Sally Hayden on The Power of Women: A Journey of Hope and Healing by Denis Mukwege; ;Martina Evans and Seán Hewitt on the best poetry of 2021; Declan O’Driscoll on The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft; Margaret Kelleher on All Strangers Here: 100 Years of Personal Writing from the Irish Foreign Service, edited by Angela Byrne, Ragnar Deeney Almquist and Helena Nolan; Barry Pierce on The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles; Mike Hodkinson on My Lifey by Paddy McGuinness; Daniel Geary on The Bostonian by Larry Donnelly; Liam Cagney on Five Straight Lines: a History of Music by Andrew Gant; and Sarah Gilmartin on The Falling Thread by Adam O’Riordan.

The Dark Room by Sam Blake is this weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer. You can buy the awardwinning author’s new thriller for €4.99, a saving of €6, when you buy Saturday’s paper.

Hamish Hamilton has won the rights to publish two novels by debut Belfast author Michael Nolan in an eight-way auction.

Hermione Thompson, commissioning editor, bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Close to Home and a second novel and Molly Walls pre-empted North American rights for both novels on behalf of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


Close to Home is described by the publisher as a “gripping auto-fictional exploration of masculinity, class and trauma”. It opens with its narrator, Sean, beating up a stranger at a party. The publisher explained: “The rest of the novel traces the aftermath of this single mistake, which tips Sean’s life into chaos. And it examines, with extraordinary patience and subtlety, the forces which brought him to this point. The creeping horror of finding himself back home after three years at university, educated but unemployable in a city where the jobs have vanished. The widespread poverty of post-crash Belfast, where his mates dream of leaving but never will. The suffering his older brother endured, and shielded him from, as a child, and his mother’s unbearable guilt at failing to prevent it. And the complex legacy of the Troubles which he glimpses, numbly, in half-familiar faces from the past. Michael Nolan is a writer of great courage and compassion, and I feel profoundly honoured to be his publisher.”

Nolan said: “I’m thrilled that Close to Home has found a home at Hamish Hamilton, and with FSG, two publishers I’ve always admired with lists I could only dream to be part of.”

Nolan, from Poleglass, west Belfast, is the fiction editor of the Tangerine and his work has appeared in Winter Papers, the Stinging Fly, the Lifeboat and in The 32: An Anthology of Working Class Writing (Unbound). He has a PhD in creative writing from Queen’s University, Belfast.


Patrick Radden Keefe has won the £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction with his “revelatory” book on the rise and fall of the Sackler dynasty, Empire of Pain (Picador), which judges called a “future classic”.

Keefe is a staff writer at the New Yorker and author of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, which won the Orwell Prize for political writing in 2019.

Empire of Pain looks at three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by the opioid OxyContin.

Andrew Holgate, chair of the judges, said: “We were completely bowled over as a group of judges by Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain. By its moral rigour, its controlled fury, its exhaustive research, the skillful writing, the bravery it took to write it. Above all, though, by its sheer propulsive narrative energy. This is an exceptionally important story Keefe has mined in Empire of Pain, but what impressed us most was the skill with which he has told his jaw-dropping tale, and how immersive and unputdownable he has made the telling. This is journalism as outstanding literature, and what we have here is a future classic.”


Tramp Press is delighted to announce that it has reopened submissions. Please check out their website where they give details on how to submit. Sarah Davis-Goff, co-publisher at Tramp Press, advises that it's easy to get a contract with Tramp: "Be an outstanding writer of fiction or narrative non-fiction, and follow the submissions guidelines to a T!"

Tramp Press was launched by Lisa Coen and Davis-Goff in 2014. Its authors, who include Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Mona Eltahawy, Sara Baume, Mike McCormack, Sophie White and Jade Sharma, have won Irish Book Awards, the International Dublin Literary Award, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Rooney Prize, a Lannan Fellowship, the Davy Byrnes Award, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the Kate O’Brien Award.


The directors of art and literature magazine, The Moth, and its junior counterpart, The Caterpillar, have announced they will publish the company’s first children’s book in 2022. Rebecca O’Connor and Will Govan acquired UK and Ireland rights directly from author Claire Mulligan in a middle-grade novel entitled The Hunt for David Berman. The book will be published in paperback in May 2022.

The Hunt for David Berman, about a Kindertransport child who unwittingly has the Enigma codebook in hisds possession, is Mulligan’s debut novel, although she has published several children’s stories in The Caterpillar magazine and has written and recorded for RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany. In 2018 she won third place in the RTE Radio 1 Francis McManus Short Story Competition.

Walker Books is to publish a new picture book, Cloud Babies, written by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Chris Judge, in October 2022.

Cloud Babies is a warm and sensitively written story about managing illness and hardship, inspired by Chris Judge’s own family experience. He lifts images and places from his own life to cleverly blend the everyday world of the hospital with the limitless realm of children’s imaginations, exploring a stunning art style that blends photography with illustration.

Eoin Colfer said: “I have been an admirer of Chris’s work for years and I couldn’t be more excited that we get to create this book together. I know from experience that we are in the best of hands with Maria and the fabulous team at Walker and I can’t wait for Cloud Babies to become a real thing that parents and children can read together.”

Chris Judge said: “It was such a magic moment when Eoin contacted me about this book. My family and I have been through a life-changing experience over the last two years and I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful and special story to immerse myself in. I am a huge fan of Eoin’s so it is very exciting to get to collaborate with him, especially on such a precious book. The icing on the cake is that we get to work with the incredible team at Walker Books.”


Simon and Schuster Children’s Books has acquired Rock, Paper, Killers, the first in a line of YA thrillers by Alexia Mason, a new pseudonym for Irish crime writer Alex Barclay. Rachel Denwood, managing director, acquired world rights, all languages, in an exclusive submission from Eve White at Eve White Literary Agency.

When a group of Dublin teenagers arrive at a rural cliff-top college to cram for their final exams, their most pressing concern is the prospect of a month with no partying. Little do they know that one of them will never make it back home . . . Rock, Paper, Killers is a story of hidden rivalries, secret romance and shocking revelations, and the perfect read for fans of Karen M. McManus and Holly Jackson.

Simon & Schuster will publish as a lead title in paperback original, ebook and audio on February 17th, ,2022.

Dubray, Ireland’s leading dedicated bookseller, is creating 25 new jobs as the company opens stores in Cork and in Dublin.

Dubray began as a single shop in Bray in 1973 and the addition of new shops in Cork and Dundrum Shopping Centre in Dublin brings the group to 10 stores in Ireland, employing 90 people. The chain was bought by Eason last year.

Maria Dickenson, general manager, said: “We are delighted to be opening two new stores this Christmas, both in well-loved locations. While the Covid period has been challenging for bookshops, there is a huge appetite for reading in Ireland which in many ways was strengthened by lockdown. Our team are very excited to start recommending books to customers in both Cork and Dundrum Town Centre.”

This is Dubray’s first time in Cork and the new shop will boast 10,000 titles over two floors in a beautiful historic building on Patrick’s Street in the city centre. The shop, which is 2,500 sq ft will be located on 83-85 Patrick’s Street at the corner of Carey’s Lane. Dubray’s seventh Dublin store is on the second level in Dundrum Shopping Centre.


BIND, an innovative contemporary dance and poetry film celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Armagh Robinson Library, will receive its premiere screening at the Market Place Theatre Studio on November 25th at 8.30pm.

Taking place as part of the Armagh Georgian Weekend, BIND reunites poet Maria McManus, choreographer Eileen McClory and filmmaker Conan McIvor, who were part of the successful team behind the recent sell-out screenings of Epilogue at Belfast International Arts Festival. Tickets are free and can be booked online now.


Desmond Traynor has been nominated for the Laurence Sterne Prize at Beir Bua Press, for his essay The Most Natural Thing In The World. The essay will be published in pamphlet form next April. In the interim, the essay is currently accessible at the Cassandra Voices website.


Timothy O’Grady’s first book, Curious Journey: An oral history of Ireland’s unfinished revolution, co-authored with Kenneth Griffith, is to be republished next year. He is hoping to obtain photographs of all the interviewees, including Sean Kavanagh, Joseph Sweeney, John L O’Sullivan, Martin Walton, Sean Harling, Brighid Lyons Thornton, Tom Barry, David Neligan and Maire Comerford.

“The one that seems the toughest to find is Sean Harling,” the Irish-American author explaoioned. “He was in the pre-Rising Fianna. Countess Markievicz wrote a letter of recommendation for him to de Valera, for whom he worked. He did some administration work in the First Dáil. He took the republican side in the Civil War and was interned but later became an agent for the Special Branch against republicans. He was targeted for assassination but seems to have killed one of his assailants, was sent to America afterwards but returned to Ireland and worked in the Revenue Commission. He was married and had children. One was a daughter I met in Chicago in the early nineties. He lived in New Grange Road in Cabra in Dublin and died in 1977. I’m looking for photographs for inclusion in a new edition of Curious Journey, for which he was interviewed. I’d be very grateful for any leads on photographs of him or to any family members who might have them. I know he had a brother-in-law named Thomas Redican.”

The author can be contacted at