CAIN Web Service

Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books 1998

[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text: Cormac Kinsella ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following chapter has been contributed by the editor, with the permission of the publishers, Waterstone's Booksellers Ltd. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books 1998
edited by Cormac Kinsella (1998)
Published by: Waterstone's Booksellers Ltd. 1998
ISBN 1 902603 05 2 (Paperback)
£3.99 Paperback 314pp

Orders to:

Local bookshops, or
Waterstone's Booksellers Ltd.
Capital Court
Capital Interchange Way

This publication is copyright Waterstone's Booksellers Ltd. 1998 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the editor and publishers. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without express written permission. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books
Edited by Cormac Kinsella


      Gerald Dawe
      Resolution and Independence
Art & Architecture
Autobiography & Memoirs
      Nuala O'Faolain
      on Angela's Ashes
      Colm Toíbín
      on Ulysses by James Joyce
      Anne Enright
      writes about Flann O'Brien's novel The Third
      Policeman and what it means to her
      Paul Durcan
      looks at Francis Stuart's masterpiece.
Folklore & Mythology
History & Archaeology
      Roy Foster on FS.L. Lyons Culture and
      Anarchy in Ireland
Literary Criticism
Local History
      Ciaran Carson
      on the anonymous genius of folk songs
        Eavan Boland
       on Yeats's Collected Poems
Index by author
Useful addresses

Introduction By Cormac Kinsella

The Irish literary heritage is both huge and hugely diverse. The Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books is a representation of this diverse heritage and aims to reflect the best that is currently available in Irish writing. There has been no previous attempt by a bookseller to provide a guide to the different elements of Irish writing, one which provides, in an easy-to-use format, information on authors from Lady Gregory to Roddy Doyle, from Jonathan Swift to Patrick McCabe. The guide includes both fiction and non-fiction and, in sections such as poetry and travel, history and art, it aims to be a tool for use by readers whose tastes are as varied as the writing the guide contains. In short, the Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books is a wide-ranging introduction to the wealth of Irish writing available.

Basic information about the authors and their works has been provided as well as bibliographic information which will enable the reader to find books more easily. The guide also includes seven articles by established authors in which they reflect on favourite books in a relaxed but insightful fashion. Criteria for inclusion in the guide have been simple. Books should be by Irish writers and about Irish subject matter. Books included should also be readily available on the shelves of our shops or easily obtainable from the publisher.

The research for the Waterstone's Guide to Irish Books and the editorial process led me to books that were familiar and also to books that were new and exciting. I hope that anyone buying the guide will also be led to the old, the new and the exciting in the Irish literary heritage.

The prices quoted from English publishers will be subject to a price change in Irish branches due to the sterling difference.

Northern Ireland

General books on the North and the Troubles are plentiful. In The Narrow Ground: Aspects of Ulster 1609 - 1969 (Blackstaff Press pb £8.99 0856406007), A.T.Q. Stewart goes back into history to examine the often unconscious motivation which has led to such conflict between Catholic and Protestant people in the North. Stewart has also examined the difficult period 1912-1914 when the British Liberal government was under attack from the Conservative Party because of its determination to grant Home Rule in the North in The Ulster Crisis: Resistance to Home Rule 1912-1914 (Blackstaff pb £9.99 085640599X). This book also examines how Edward Carson was ready to defend Northern Ireland with an army of 100,000 men. Explaining Northern Ireland by McGarry & O'Leary (Blackwell pb £13500631183493) is a cogent and full analysis of the problems and resultant stereotypes in the North. Thomas Hennessy's History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996 (Gill & MacMillan pb £12.99 0717124002) discusses, in a very balanced fashion, the sequence of events in Northern Ireland from the 1920s to the present and provides a very useful overview of the political debate which has taken place. Northern Ireland since 1968 by Arthur Jeffrey (Blackwell pb £12.99 0631200843) is a concise overview of the Troubles since 1968. Although the last edition was published in 1980 Northern Ireland: The Orange State by Michael Farrell (Pluto Press pb £14.99 0861043006) remains one of the most cogent works on the historical and political background to the Troubles and its central argument that peace cannot be achieved unless there is a change in British Government policy has since been proved correct. Northern Ireland Politics by Aughey & Morrow (Longman pb £12.99 0582253462) demonstrates how many changes have taken place in the North despite the political intransigence in a discussion that spans the areas of history, ideas, representation, administration, politics and society. Irish-America & the Ulster Conflict 1968 - 1995 by Andrew J Wilson (Gill & MacMillan pb £14.30 0856405639) is a very good study of the role that the Irish community in America have played in the North. It begins by giving a brief overview of the background from the 1800s to 1968 and then goes into detailed analysis of how the Irish American community has raised money to pay for a large proportion of the IRA's weapons, how they have provided shelter for people escaping from justice and probably most importantly how they have kept up a very strong political pressure on the American government to keep Northern Ireland high on its agenda.

J. Bowyer Bell has written four very valuable books on Northern Ireland. His massive and comprehensive The Irish Troubles (Gill & MacMillan pb £14.99 0717122018) is one of the leading accounts of the last thirty years in the North. Back to the Future: The Protestants & A United Ireland (Poolbeg pb £6.99 1853716928) gives the Protestant point of view on this, the fundamental crux of the Troubles. And his In Dubious Battle (Poolbeg pb £7.99 1853712795) asked many of the unanswered questions about the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which left thirty three people dead. IRA: Tactics & Targets (Poolbeg pb £4.99 1853716030) is an analysis of the IRA's terrorist policy over the last thirty years which covers individual acts such as the murders of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Christopher Ewart-Biggs. Interpreting Northern Ireland by the late John Whyte (Oxford UP£14.95 0198273800) is based mainly on his teaching on the subject in University College, Dublin and is undoubtedly the best survey of research, interpretations and possible solutions to the Northern Irish problems. Erudite, shrewd and succinct, this book both summarises and challenges traditional and radical views on the North. The Troubles by Tim Pat Coogan (Arrow pb £9.99 009946571X) will undoubtedly become the standard one-volume work on the last thirty years in Northern Ireland. Over its 500 pages, the book gives the background to all of the main events in Northern Ireland up to and including the breakdown of the first IRA ceasefire in 1996. Combining his journalistic and biographical skills, Coogan also provides detailed portraits of all the political players involved, from both sides of the border.

Other books, both academic and general, look at different aspects of the North, its history and its politics, past and present. Two Lands on One Soil: Ulster Politics before Home Rule by Frank Wright (Gill & MacMillan hb £40.00 0717121798) very usefully mixes history, political science and sociology to examine political life before the 1880s and argues that colonial structures that were put in place then, are still enduring and divisive. Democracy Denied by Desmond Wilson (Mercier Press pb £8.99 1856351777) is a controversial book which argues that the British Government has purposely manipulated both Protestant and Catholic communities in the North for their own political and economic gain. Wilson, a diocesan priest in Ballymurphy, one of the poorest areas of Belfast, also argues that the Irish Government and the Catholic Church have done very little to help. John Brewer's excellent Crime in Ireland, 1945-95 (Oxford University Press hb £40.00 0198265700) is one of the very few criminological studies of Northern Ireland. Looking at the ways paramilitary violence has affected 'ordinary' crime over the last twenty five years, Brewer also provides statistical and comparative evidence of crime on Belfast and Dublin. Much of his research is also based on interviews with people from East and West Belfast, asking their opinion on paramilitary and British Army activity. Women Divided: Gender, Women & Politics in Northern Ireland (Routledge pb £14.99 0415137667). by R. Sales, discusses the role of women in a society shaped by very obvious sectarian and gender inequality and examines how women have fought for their own agenda within both Protestant and Catholic communities over the last thirty years. Dynamics of Conflict in Northern Ireland: Power, Conflict & Emancipation by Joseph Ruane (Cambridge pb £16.00 0521 56879X) is a comprehensive examination of the particular system of sectarian relationships which, the book argues, add to the complexity of the Northern Ireland troubles. Facets of the Conflict in Northern Ireland by Seamus Dunn (MacMillan pb £12.99 033364252X) argues that the termination of the violent conflict and the resultant political cooperation is only the start of the long-term reconstruction of a society. Clashing Symbols: A Report on the use of flags, Anthems & Other National Symbols in Northern Ireland by Lucy Bryson & Clem McCartney (Institute of Irish Studies pb £6.50 0853895384) is based on many interviews with various people in Northern Ireland and as a result is a fascinating and illuminating analysis of the roles played by National symbols. Edge of the Union: The Ulster Loyalist Political Vision by Steve Bruce (Oxford University Press pb £6.99 0198279760) is one of the few books that concentrates its examination on the viewpoint of Loyalist terrorists and the fanatical supporters of Ian Paisley. Peacemaking Strategies in Northern Ireland: Building Complementarity in Conflict Management by David Bloomfield (MacMillan hb £40.00 0333674324) skillfully analyses current peacemaking strategies and defines the two main approaches. The cultural approach seeks harmonization between the different cultures in the North and the structural approach looks to find and implement new structures of government and administration.

Since the late 1960s and the start of the Troubles, Derry has been one of the centres of conflict. It was in Derry that the first riots occurred and as a result the first place that British troops were sent. Niall O'Dochartalgh's book From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry & the Birth of the Irish Troubles (Cork University Press pb £15.95 1859181090) takes Derry as its focus, examining the years 1968 to 1972, from the Civil Rights marches to the height of the conflict in the early 1970s. He also looks at the difficult confrontation that occurred between Catholic and Protestant people in the city. The international and British news media comes under close scrutiny in Don't Mention the War: Northern Ireland, Propaganda & the Media by David Miller (Pluto Press pb £14.95 0745308368). Miller analyses the handling and management of information by the media which has led to much disproportionate reporting of the Troubles. David Miller with Bill Rolston has edited War & Words: Northern Ireland Media Reader (Beyond the Pale pb £12.95 1900960001) which collects the best of the journalistic writing about the North with essays by, among others, Paul Foot, Robert Fisk and Peter Taylor, all examining the media's reaction to the troubles. In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern Ireland by Fionnuala O'Connor (Blackstaff Press pb £8.95 0856405094) is a fascinating book based on in-depth interviews with many Catholics in the North and presents the Catholic point of view on topics such as the IRA, Great Britain, the Irish Republic and the Catholic Church. Between War & Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland by Paul Bew (Lawrence & Wishart pb £11.99 0853157715) points out the repeated failure of understanding between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland and how neither sides of the political and religious divide have a perspective which can achieve peace. Paul Bew has also written a very useful reference book. Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles 1968-1993 (Gill & MacMillan pb £9.99 0717120813) gives a day to day account of the political and criminal events over twenty five-years. The Sas in Ireland by Raymond Murray (Mercier Press pb £4.99 085342991X) presents strong evidence that the SAS operated a Shoot-to-Kill policy in Northern Ireland, while also providing a detailed history of their operations. Murray also describes the links that this unit had with Brstish Intelligence, M15 & MI6. The Shankill Butchers by Martin Dillon (Arrow pb £6.99 0099738104) chronicles the brutal life and times of a Protestant paramilitary gang in 1970s Belfast. Led by fanatical unionist Lenny Murphy, the Shankill Butchers were responsible for the death of thirty Catholics. Journalistic in approach, this book provides all the motives and details of these brutal killings and present a horrifying picture of the violent depths that have been reached in Northern Ireland's recent history. Martin Dillon's latest book, God & the Gun (Orion hb £17.99 0752810375) is the first of its kind to explore the inherent relationship between religion and violence in Northern Ireland. Interviewing both churchmen and terrorists as the basis for his research, Dillon asks all of his interviewees how they can reconcile Christian beliefs with the condoning of acts of violence.

There are a number of books available specifically on the IRA. Martin Dillon in his Twenty Five Years of Terror: The IRA's War against the British (Bantam Books pb £5.99 0553407732) has the only comprehensive account of the IRA's bombing campaign against the British both before and after the World War II. He discusses the IRA's flirtation with Nazism and how this, along with Irish Neutrality, influenced British policy from the late 1940s onwards. Dillon also gives accounts of the bombing atrocities perpetrated by the IRA in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, including Brighton, Warrington and London. The Politics of Illusion: A Political History of the IRA by Henry Patterson (Serif pb £14.99 1897959311) clearly sets down and explains the differences between the Provisional and Official IRA and the relationship of both to Sinn Fein. The book charts the progression of this republican movement from the 1920s to today and discusses the huge impact on Northern Ireland of militant nationalism mixed with left wing political views. Brendan O'Brien has written a Pocket History of the IRA (O'Brien Press pb £4.99 0862785111) which, although concise, gives a very comprehensive overview from 1916 to the collapse the ceasefire in 1996. O'Brien has written a more expansive book on the same subject, The Long War: The IRA & Sinn Féin from Armed Struggle to Peace Talks (O'Brien Press pb £9.99 0862784255) which details the rise of Gerry Adams to leadership of Sinn Fein as well as examining terrorist strategy and looking forward to prospects peace. The Provisional IRA by Patrick Bishop & Eamonn Mallie (Corgi £5.99 05521 3337X) is another very useful and informative book on the IRA. Mainly based careful and illuminating interviews with IRA members by Eamon Mallie, Patrick Bishop has written a detailed account of the IRA leadership and tactics. Killing Rage by Eamon Collins (Granta hb £15.99 1862070083) is remarkable in its honesty and in its aim to debunk the popular notion that the IRA is a professionally run organisation and shows both the squalid and insular emotions that lead people to carry out atrocities against their neighbours. Rebel Hearts by Kevin Toolis (Picador pb £6.99 0330346482) is a moving attempt by Toolis to examine paramilitary nationalism by interviewing people directly involved with the IRA as well as looking at his own republican feelings to try and understand his own 'rebel heart'. Interviewing different people involved with the IRA, he writes of the horrific violence which has affected and divided so many families. Peter Taylor's Provos: The Ira & Sinn Fein (Bloomsbury hb £16.99 074753392X) examines the IRA and its relationship to Sinn Fein over the last thirty years. Based on many interviews with both gunmen and politicians, it provides a very valuable overview of the IRA.

Nor Meekly Serve My Time: H-Block Struggle edited by Brian Campbell with Lawrence McKeown and Felim O'Hagin (Beyond the Pale pb £9.95 0281049335) is the inside story of the Republican prisoners who refused to be treated as criminals and insisted on being treated as political prisoners. In 1976, a new regime was brought into play for political prisoners in Long Kesh and the following five years of deprivations and brutality led to the 1981 hunger strike which is brilliantly described by David Beresford-Ellis in his Ten Men Dead: Story of the 1981 Hunger Strike (HarperCollins pb £5.99 0586065334) which is the most comprehensive account of the action which led to the deaths of ten Republican prisoners. During the Widgery tribunal on the killings of Bloody Sunday, over 500 personal accounts were given, of which only fifteen were used. On the 25th anniversary of this atrocity, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth edited by Don Mullan (Wolfhound Press pb £8.99 0863275869) was published. This book contains many of the eyewitness accounts which have never before been in print and contains some of the most moving personal testaments about the worst atrocity committed by the British Army in Northern Ireland. This, with Eamon McCann's detailed examination of the context of this atrocity, Bloody Sunday in Derry (Brandon Press pb £5.99 0863221394), is the best book available on the subject.

Some biographies of individuals on all sides of the troubles in the North are worth highlighting. Persecuting Zeal: The Life of Ian Paisley by Dennis Cooke (Brandon Press pb £9.99 0863222420) is the only full length biography of the religious and political leader. Cooke discusses Paisley's career from his ordination, through his involvement in the loyalist counter-demonstration to the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s, his founding of the Democratic Unionist Party in 1971 and his outspoken engagement with Ulster politics ever since. John Hume: A Biography by Paul Routledge (Harper Collins hb £20.00 0002556707) is the authorised biography, written with Hume's approval and cooperation. The book profiles the founder of the nationalist Social Democratic Party who many feel is the real hero to emerge from the years of troubles in Northern Ireland. Through his staunch principles of non-violence, which were laid down the 1960s when he was involved with the civil rights movement in Derry, he has gained great respect and gravitas with both sides of the political and paramilitary divide. Hume's personal thoughts on Northern Ireland have been published as John Hume: Personal Views (Town House pb £9.99 1860590241). Gordon Wilson: An Ordinary Hero by AIf McGreary (Harper Collins pb £6.99 0551030267) tells the story of Gordon Wilson the ordinary man who shot to fame after he openly forgave the IRA bombers who killed his daughter Marie in the Enniskillen Remembrance day bombing in 1987. Wilson quickly became a symbol for hope between the two communities in Northern Ireland, because of his untiring belief that there could be peace in Northern Ireland. Wilson went on to hold a seat in the Irish Senate. Phoenix: Policing the Shadows by Jack Holland & Susan Phoenix (Coronet pb £6.99 0340666358) is a biography of the late Ian Phoenix (head of Northern Ireland police counter-surveillance unit) by his wife and the journalist Jack Holland. Phoenix was killed in 1994 with twenty four of his colleagues when their helicopter crashed into Mull of Kintyre. The book is also hugely informative about the nature of covert police operations in Northern Ireland. Man of War: Man of Peace? Gerry Adams by David Sharrock (MacMillan hb £16.99 0333698835) is the unauthorised biography of the president of Sinn Féin, examining and questioning his role in the political conflict. It portrays the 'real' Gerry Adams as well as providing a history of the Troubles. Adams's own views are put forward in two books, his Selected Writings (Brandon Press pb £8.99 0863222331) which include his political writings, stories and memoirs and Free Ireland: Towards a Lasting Peace (Brandon pb £7.95 0863222072) in which his political views are put down clearly and concisely. Writings from Prison by Bobby Sands (Mercier Press pb £6.99 185635220X) contains the prison memoirs, poetry and stories of this MP who died on hunger strike in Long Kesh prison in 1981 while serving time for terrorist activity. Mainly written on toilet roll and smuggled out of the prison, these writings have left an astonishing inside view of the conditions in Long Kesh.

Unionist Politics & the Politics of Unionism Since the Anglo-Irish Agreement by Fergal Cochrane (Cork University Press pb £17.95 1859181392) is an essential book for anyone who wants an understanding of the Unionist frame of mind between November 1985 and July 1996. As well as analysing Unionist thought and political activity throughout the period, Cochrane also examines the demise of the political career of James Molyneaux and the rise to leadership of David Trimble. Martin Dillon has written a profile of loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone in his Stone Cold (Arrow pb £4.99 00992295lX), which describes the events of March 1988 when Stone went on a killing rampage at the funerals of the three IRA volunteers shot dead in Gibraltar by the SAS. At the funeral, Stone killed three people and injured at least fifty others before he was caught. As a direct result two British soldiers were stripped, battered and eventually shot by the angry mob of mourners. Stone has used his extensive interviews with Stone to write this brilliantly realised exploration and portrait of a cold-blooded killer. The UVF by Jim Cusack & Henry McDonald (Poolbeg pb £9.99 1853716871) and The Redhand: Protestant Paramilitaries by Steve Bruce (Oxford University Press pb £8.99 0192852566) are both based on interviews with people directly involved and provide very good details of methods, motives, recruitment and finance of this terrorist organisation. Fight for Peace by Eamon Mallie & David McKittrick (Mandarin pb £7.99 0749322616) clearly and concise presents the details of the peace process. The book's great value is that it comprehensively presents all the prime movers on both sides of the border and the Irish Sea and rigorously reports on all the debate that has taken place.

Pardon & Peace: A Reflection on the Making of Peace in Ireland by Nicholas Frayling (Sheldon pb £10.99 0951422952) is an appeal by the Anglican rector of Liverpool for peace in the North of Ireland. Frayling argues that the only way forward is a whole hearted repentance by Great Britain. Error of Judgement: The Truth about the Birmingham Bombings by Chris Mullins (Poolbeg pb £9.99 1853713651) is the best account of this grave injustice paid to the six men who were tried, found guilty and convicted of the Birmingham bombings in the 1970s. After sixteen years in prison, they were released when the judgement was overturned. Fifty Dead Men Walking: The Heroic True Story of a British Secret Agent Inside the IRA by Martin McGartland (Blake pb £6.99 1857822013) is the incredible true story of a man who spent four years as an informer to British Intelligence. After being found out, he escaped torture and death by jumping through a third storey window. The fifty men of the title refers to the number of people whose lives were saved as a direct result of the information supplied by McGartland. Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday Bombing by Denzil McDaniel (Wolfhound Press pb £8.99 0863276113) examines the significance of this 1987 bombing which left eleven people dead. The book is based on interviews with survivors, the bereaved and politicians.

Scorpions in a Bottle: Conflicting Cultures in Northern Ireland by John Darby (Minrig pb £11.99 1873194161) is avery interesting examination of the Northern Troubles focusing on the cultural, ethnic and resulting political differences. The book also examines the inequalities inherent in this culturally divided society. The Northern Ireland Peace Process: 1993-1996: A Chronology by Paul Bew & Gordon Gillespie (Serif pb £9.99 1897959281) brilliantly clarifies the process by presenting all the political discussion and agreement in a diary form. This is the only reference book of its kind. May the Lord in His Mercy be Kind to Belfast by Tony Parker (Harper Collins pb £7.99 0006382541) is one of the most fascinating contributions to the literature of Northern Ireland. Taking as his premise that the best way to understand the troubles is to get the views of the people living in the North, Parker has compiled a catalogue of interviews with ordinary people, churchmen and terrorists from every side of the community which are illuminating in their content. The RUC 1922-1997: A Force Under Fire by Chris Ryder (Mandarin pb £8.99 0749323795) is the only comprehensive book on the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which has fought terrorism in Northern Ireland with great dedication. For the 75th anniversary of the organisation, Ryder has updated his study which narrates the history of the force from the 1920s to the present day.

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :