Marisa McGlinchey answers thirteen questions in a Booker's Dozen.
TPQ: What are you currently reading?
MM: I’ve just finished Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing and I’m now reading Séamus Mallon’s recently released memoir A Shared Home Place as part of the research I’m doing for my next book on the SDLP. About ten years ago I interviewed Séamus who was a very colourful and witty interviewee and so I’ve been keen to get stuck into this. I’m also curious about the controversy around his proposed changes to 50% plus one for Irish unity, which he deals with towards the end of the book. Also sitting on my bedside table is The Big Wind by Beatrice Coogan which appealed to me because it combines politics, Irish republicanism and a bit of romance. I’m not far into it but I’m at the bit where Daniel O’Connell, ‘The Liberator’, has just arrived in town.
MM: There have been so many great ones but there are some that stand out including Walter Macken’s The Scorching Wind which is set during the Easter Rising in 1916 and its aftermath. The book tells the tragic story of two brothers who politically diverge on the treaty and take opposing sides in the civil war. The film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is partly based on it. I also like James Joyce’s Dubliners and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for a bit of escapism. One of my favourites is Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’ Urbervilles as I love a dark tragic romance!
TPQ: A must-read before you die?
MM: Until a few years ago the answer to this was Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, simply because it had been banned and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. But I picked that up in the famous Shakespeare shop in Paris. When I arrived home and my granny spotted it she blessed herself. Then I really had to read it! So that’s ticked off the list. Other than that James Joyce’s Ulysses. I keep meaning to pick this up and it has been on my list for years. Again, the fact that it was banned appeals to me. It has a notorious reputation and seems to strongly divide opinion and so I’m curious.
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
MM: Fact! Naturally I love anything political. I also have a particular passion for true crime. My book cases are filled with true crime books. I think they tell us a lot about society and human nature, delving into the psychology of individuals. In another life I might have been a criminal psychologist. But I do love fiction too, especially the classics.
TPQ: Favourite female author?
MM: This question reminds me of something that happened a few years ago. I love the classics and especially ones that deal with the position of women in society at particular periods in time. I once said to a male friend of mine that I love the writing of George Elliott as he really gets into the female psyche and understands women. I was promptly told ‘erm George Elliott is a woman’. Doh! So I’d probably say George Elliott.
TPQ: Favourite male author?
MM: For fiction probably Thomas Hardy. For fact probably J. Bowyer Bell. I love his style of writing and a particular favourite of mine is The Secret Army: The IRA. For True Crime I like books by Barry Cummins as he concentrates on Irish cases. In fact I’m at the stage where I can’t find any of his books that I haven’t read. And of course Martin Dillon, particularly his trilogy which includes The Shankill Butchers.
TPQ: First book you ever read?
MM: Probably a Roald Dahl book. Possibly The BFG or The Witches.
TPQ: Favourite childhood author?
MM: I absolutely loved Roald Dahl. I loved being transported into his world of whizz poppers and human beans. I think I read every book he wrote. I have vivid memories of reading The BFG which was a particular favourite of mine and so I really enjoyed going to see it in the cinema a few years ago when it was turned into a film. I also liked Enid Blyton and I was obsessed with the Goosebumps books. It got to the stage where my mum couldn’t find any that I hadn’t read. Even as a child I loved a good scary book.
TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?
MM: I don’t think there’s any book I’d refuse to read but I wouldn’t be keen on science fiction. I’ve never liked it at all!
TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?
MM: No I don’t think so. I’d probably give anything a try.
TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.
MM: Probably my own book Unfinished Business; The Politics Of ‘Dissident’ Irish Republicanism as it gives an insight into what occupies my mind a lot of the time. My former editor at Manchester University Press has publicly asked me to write a book on the background story of doing the republican book. He actually said it would be a thriller! It would probably provide a lot of insight into me, my experiences and what motivates me. But I strongly doubt I’ll ever write that book.
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
MM: I actually went into Waterstones in Belfast last week and bought my own book to post to an uncle of mine who lives in Province in France. I remember as a child when I was supposed to be in bed I’d creep back down the stairs and listen to the political discussions between him and my granny which partly inspired my early passion for the subject and so I wanted to send him a signed copy of my book.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
MM: The Brendan Hughes part of Voices From The Grave. I live in West Belfast and sometimes when I’m passing the streets of the Lower Falls I think about Hughes and others swiftly moving around that tapestry of back streets amidst British army patrols, gun battles and chaos. As shown in this book he led an extraordinary life and I would like to see that on screen.
⏭ Marisa McGlinchey is a West Belfast researcher at Coventry University.