First Communion: A Collection Of Modern Irish Stories
By Jack Scoltock

Against the sobering background of decades long civil strife, ordinary citizens of Derry had little choice but to press on and hope for better times. It’s doubtful that any writer knows Derry’s recent history – from the vernacular of its undaunted citizens to the private toll of the war on their individual lives – better than author Jack Scoltock.

In his vivid new collection of short stories Scoltock recreates the red-letter days of a northern childhood -- going fishing, swimming, boating and lamping.

The shocking savagery of that last pursuit, using flashlights to lure hypnotized rabbits from their borrows only to beat their brains out, is vividly recalled in a story that contemplates how fragile the little flame of life actually is in us all.

Scoltock captures the hopes and dreams of working class northerners, still characters rarely seen in modern collections, and at all times he does this in the twinkling dialect of his own city. Here is a pen that records all of human nature but gravitates habitually toward the good.

In his collection of 42 new stories he has crafted an up to the minute portrait of a city and its people.
Barking Rain, $12.95.


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The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multiethnic City
By James R. Barrett

The history books only tell you the half the story, because the truth is that from the coffin ships to the rise and fall of JFK, the Irish certainly built America, but they also helped to shape its character.

In his remarkably insightful new study, historian James R. Barrett carefully examines the profound impact that Irish immigrants have had on virtually every aspect of American society.

From their grudging reception in the 19th century to their dramatic ascendancy in the 20th century, Barrett focuses on the period 1890 to 1930, when the Irish finally led the country in politics, trade unions, the theater, the professions and in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Then, as now, there was a tension inside the community between a progressive identification with other immigrant communities and a narrower parochial defensiveness that recalled the reception they had once received themselves. That internal tension continues to this day in the two main political parties and among the Irish Americans leaders who find themselves still squaring off in Washington.

The Irish were among the first to battle reductive notions about the worth of immigrants, and in the process they helped forge a larger multiethnic American identity, a remarkable turnaround.

Barnett’s book is the most insightful meditation on that transformation to have appeared in recent years.
Penguin, $29.95.

Britain And Ireland’s Best Wild Places
By Christopher Somerville

Sometimes a man (or woman) takes it into his head to break out of imprisoning routines and branch out with a new project.

That kind of resolution can often lead to a journey, as it did with author Christopher Somerville, who set himself the revivifying task of exploring the wild forgotten corners of Ireland and Britain for a year.

Gifted with a mordant eye and immense patience, Somerville turns out to be an ideal candidate for an epic journey around the Emerald Isle, taking us on the back roads to the back of beyond.

The thing about Ireland’s out-of-the-way places is that they have retained their untrammeled charm, and Somerville becomes our delighted tour guide, gleefully drawing our attention to ruined churches, abandoned cottages, hidden waterfalls and forgotten woods.

Check out all this overlooked wonder, he enthuses, remembering to note that generation after generation of war and economic crisis have had paid an unexpected dividend -- whole swathes of the country are still preserved in their pristine grandeur. This remarkable guide aims to help you rediscover them all.
Penguin, $22.

By Alan Glynn

Fans of Alan Glynn’s debut novel The Dark Fields, a fast paced thriller that was made into the box office smash Limitless starring Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, will know what to expect from Bloodlands, the Irish thriller writer’s latest.

Glynn excels at crafting multi-layered storylines and then filling them with an ever-increasing paranoic dread that will reel you in from the first page.

In Bloodlands we meet investigative journalist Jimmy Gilroy, who unravels a bizarre series of fatal or near fatal coincidences that all point to the same source and soon begin to threaten his life.

Glynn’s cinematic skill is evident as ever, and Bloodlands, which has already won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award, looks certain to transition from the page to the silver screen with the ease of his debut shocker. Lots of thriller can entertain you, but Glynn’s is that rare thing -- it also makes you think.
Picador, $16.

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