If I had known what fun it is “Writing Irish,” I would have started half a century ago.
Mighty bards and storytellers, but a different branch of the Gaels.
But I should have been infected young by all those great Irish authors I read in school — Swift, Moore, Shaw, Yeats, Joyce — who kept Literature classes from being dull.
And I should have taken clues from all those rowdy Irish newspapermen I worked with as a young journalist, who kept the newsroom alive with eloquence and laughter. It was never dull there, either. Language was music.
But always the slow learner, I was in my seventies and had written a dozen books before I ever came up with an Irishman for a protagonist. I created Paddy Quinn as a lowly Army camp errand boy in the Mexican War, in my novel Saint Patrick’s Battalion.
Irish immigrants were hated and abused in the United States in those days, and many Irish soldiers deserted the American Army to fight on the side of Catholic Mexico. The boy Quinn saw all that drama happening.
Paddy had learned to read, and he scribbled in a diary and a sketchbook, and evolved toward manhood in that war writing, and, therefore, thinking big. He was on the way to becoming a somebody instead of just a scorned servant.
And because he was of the bardic Irish race, he had certain characteristic strengths, talents, and weaknesses that made me feel young again. By the end of that novel, I was so hooked on writing Irish that young Quinn grew up to be a famous Civil War correspondent in my next novel, Fire in the Water.
It was issued last fall by this publisher — who happens to be, by the way, a cheery Irishman by the name of Doherty.
A Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to us all — with a tip o’ the hat to me own St. Andrew.
~ James Alexander Thom