Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 7

In the middle of the 18th century Ireland was still living in the shadow of the Penal Laws which had been enacted nearly 50 years earlier to exclude Catholics from public life. Prevented from owning more than 5% of their land, or owning a horse of higher value than five pounds, they were not allowed to join the professions, or the army, or navy; to open a school, or teach in one; to enter any trade connected with the printing of books or newspapers, or to marry outside their faith. With the country in financial and economic distress following a series of famines, emigrants were leaving in their thousands.   Amongst them were young men intent on joining the Irish Brigade, to support Catholic France in the fight against England.   The Moon is Red in April tells the story of one of these men, Richard O’Shaughnessy, who abandons his childhood sweetheart, Ellen […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 5

By Joy Martin Ulick de Burgh, the 14th Earl of Clanricarde in County Galway, had a second title and, as Baron Somerhill, an automatic seat in the British House of Lords in the early 19th century.   His marriage to the Honourable Harriet Canning, daughter of the British Prime Minister, George Canning, added to his prestige, leading to his appointment as British Ambassador to Russia. Handsome and charming, Ulick de Burgh is rumoured to have sired several illegitimate children. ULICK’S DAUGHTER is a novel based on the story of one of them. Eva Dillon is a woman driven by the urge to fulfil what she perceives as her destiny – to be acknowledged as ULICK’S DAUGHTER. As she says of herself: ‘I am not like other people: my life was planned out before I was born.’ Her ambition leads her to abandon her true love and to ruthlessly claw her way […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love and Envy: Episode 4

By Joy Martin In A WRONG TO SWEETEN and its sequel, A HERITAGE OF WRONG, the life of Milliora O’Brien is undermined by murder.   Yet she feels more threatened by the customs and beliefs of the countryside than by human fear and hatred. She is a woman from the town.   When nine figures wearing straw masks turn up at her wedding reception and whirl her into a dance, her reaction is to scream while everybody laughs at her.    The visitors are members of the Claghera, or ‘Straw Boys, and to the wedding guests and bridegroom they’re just part of the traditions which mark country life in Ireland, like the feasting at the meitheal, the all-important festival to celebrate the end of harvest, or the killing of ‘the barrow’, when the local slaughterer (the buisteir) plunged his knife into the heart of the fattest pig as the farmer and his family […]

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Richard Blake’s 5 Recommended Roman Historical Novels

Without sneering at it, I have no taste for military historical fiction. I will do battles in my own novels, but much prefer civilian intrigue. What I like above all, however, in historical fiction is a sense of moving in a different moral environment from our own. In all times and places, people have the same basic motivations. But the way these are manifested makes any competent recreation of the past a study in oddness. Fellini described his masterpiece Satyricon as “science fiction of the past.” That’s what I try to achieve when I write, and that’s what I like to read. Here is a listing of my five favourite Roman novels: 5. The Sword of Pleasure by Peter Green (1957) – Told in the first person by Sulla the Dictator, this shows you the rapid decay of the Roman Republic. You can smell the garlic and dirt of the […]

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Laws of the Spirit

My novel Laws of the Spirit grew quite organically from my years in the legal field. Although entirely fictional, the ideas behind it were inspired by the scenes played out every day in criminal courtrooms across the country. One of the major threads of the story is that the “bad guy”—that is, the undeniably guilty defendant—is not evil, and might even be deserving of mercy. As humans, none of us want to be defined by the worst thing we’ve ever done. And each of us has our own unique backstory. The law is like any other profession—some people are great, dedicated players in the justice system. Some aren’t. Some are flawed, but doing their best. In writing this book, I hoped to show some of that rich diversity, some of the problems, and some of the people who want to be part of the solution. Get in touch with me […]

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Bloody Reckoning by Rafe McGregor

While an off-duty military investigator is trying to save his ex-girlfriend from a ruthless drug baron, he learns that there is a serial killer at work in the British Army…   My first literary love is the hardboiled detective story, so it’s no surprise that my first contemporary novel is a hardboiled military mystery set in the British Army.  Bloody Reckoning was inspired by the combination of my own police experience with coming across Nelson DeMille’s The General’s Daughter a decade after its publication in 1992.   Although I had a long-standing interest in military history, I knew very little about the military police in general and military investigations in particular and began my research as soon as I’d finished the novel.  I quickly conceived of a three-part series, which would be set in the British, rather than United States, Armed Forces and would involve realistic set pieces rather than […]

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Scandals, Intrigues, Family Feuds, Murders, Hatred, Love & Envy        

Ireland in the 1880s. It wasn’t all bad.   The slums of Dublin were the worst in Europe.   In the country, evicted tenants were living alongside the roads and sometimes even in the trees. But the fortunate few, some of whom were Catholics, were enjoying a similar lifestyle to their upper middle class contemporaries in England, living in attractive houses, employing servants and sending their children to private schools. Sometimes they faced other torments: family feuds, usually over land, hatred, envy, even murder… A WRONG TO SWEETEN and its sequel A HERITAGE OF WRONG deal with the theme of inherited evil.   When the lives of two Limerick schoolfriends, Milliora Fitzgibbon and Rosaleen O’Flynn, are entwined with the those of the well-to-do O’Brien brothers, feckless Tom and ambitious Dermot, they soon find that envy can turn to madness and that love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, can breed side by side. It’s […]

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William Burton McCormick at ThrillerFest

William Burton McCormick, author of the historical novel Lenin’s Harem will be one of six members of the writers’ panel “MEDIEVEAL, VICTORIAN OR ICE AGE? Bringing History Alive” during Thrillerfest XII on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The fifty-minute discussion begins at 3:20 P.M with panel members revealing their techniques for researching and writing accurate and engrossing historical fiction that keeps readers turning pages. Audience participation is encouraged. Thrillerfest is the world’s largest conference for thriller enthusiasts with authors such as Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Steve Berry and Heather Graham in attendance. McCormick lived four years in Latvia and Russia to research and write Lenin’s Harem, meeting with historians, museum curators, and sifting through eye-witness accounts of the events depicted in the book. The novel follows the life of an aristocrat who tries to keep himself and his family safe […]

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A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson

Julia Ibbotson discusses the themes and inspirations behind her new book, A Shape on the Air.  Why do we experience that feeling of ‘deja vu’? How come we sometimes feel that an old house still bears the imprints of past inhabitants? I’m not talking about ‘ghosts’ or anything specific or corporeal, but what I have called in my latest novel  ‘shapes on the air’. The idea for A Shape on the Air had been brewing in my mind for a long time. I had been reading about, and mulling over,  the notion of time slip and especially the concept of ‘worm-holes’ and the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals into other dimensions of time and space, in effect quantum mechanics. It sounds fanciful and Dr Who-ish, and oddly I’m not a great fan of fantasy, but I felt that this was in fact a more ‘logical’ (in some ways!) and scientific explanation of […]

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