Monday, April 7, 2014

Featured Author: Peter Murphy

About the book:

Born & Bred is the first novel in the Life & Times Trilogy, a cycle of three books that will chart the course of one star-crossed life. It is a work of vibrant imagination from a poetic novelist of the first order.

Danny Boyle was a born angel.

At least that’s what his granny used to say, and she should know – she raised him after his parents proved incapable. When she becomes ill, Danny is reunited with his parents but they do not get to live happily ever after, as the ghosts of the past haunt their days. And when the old woman dies, all of her secrets come to light and shatter everything Danny believes in.

In the turmoil of 1970’s Ireland, an alienated Danny gets into drugs and is involved in a gangland killing. Duped by the killers into leaving his prints on the gun, Danny needs all the help his friends and family can muster. Calling in favors from bishops and priests, police and paramilitaries, God and the devil, the living and the dead, they do all that they can. But even that might not be enough.

Praise for Peter Murphy:

“The best books are not forgotten because you can never stop thinking beyond the story. This is true of Lagan Love. Murphy is a natural storyteller. I look forward to reading more.” 

“Peter Murphy spins an exciting story of romance and the problems with it, making Lagan Love a unique novel with plenty of twists and turns underneath it all.” 
- Midwest Book Review

Interview with Peter Murphy

Peter, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I grew up in a house where books and writing were treasured. For a while I dabbled in poetry and music, but on becoming a father, I had to get a real job. That went well for twenty years until the company I worked for was bought up and I got cashed out. With my kids packed off to university, I decided it was time to finally sit down and learn to write.

What’s the story behind the title Born & Bred?

The working title was Oh, Danny Boyle! But after a year of struggling to make shape and meaning out of the growing number of pages, it morphed into a trilogy and the first book had to be about all that shaped and made my primary character, Danny. Born & Bred is the type of term that he would use for all that.  

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Not anymore. I miss the income, but I’m not sure if I could ever go back to doing anything else but write. 

How did you create the plot for this book?

I wanted to tell a story about a pious and innocent child who got blown off the path by the storms of the world around him. Initially, I thought the story would be best told, backwards. A hundred pages in, I realized the error of my ways. However, by then, I had figured out all that had to happen to lead back up to my one hundred pages.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” The opening line from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez.

How do you get to know your characters?

As mentioned above, I began late in their lives and gave them something critical to deal with. Those who say you learn the truth about people when they are in some form of crisis were proved right. In trying to explain why they were reacting as they did, I had to study them from the beginning. 

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Danny Boyle’s grandmother, Nora. At first, she was the most self-assured character I have written. Throughout her life she had done what had to be done and paid her penance in advance. A benign dictator in her own mind, she, too, had to learn to view things differently as Danny’s life begins to spiral down.

What would your main character say about you?

Probably something derogatory. Danny and I share some similarities but made very different life choices along the way, and sometimes that type of thing can cause animosities.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Of course I will say that none of them are, but a few are a bit reminiscent of people I met along the way.

Is your book based on real events?

Yes, in that the background of the story is made up of the very real events that occurred in Ireland during the 1960’s and 70’s. I remember the impact these events had on the people around me; the attacks on the Civil Rights marchers, Bloody Sunday, the Dublin bombings, as well as the social and legal changes that washed over the country, I wanted the characters to live through that as it had enormous impact on the growing-up of the main character.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Probably Fr. Patrick Reilly. He is a bookworm at heart and has a passion for antiquarian writings—a passion I share.

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

Giordano Bruno, Kurt Vonnegut, Amadeus Mozart, Eric Cantona, and Queen Elizabeth the first, just to see what sections they would browse in.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Nora’s funeral. I’ve been to many funerals in my life, and I prefer those that are about celebrating life rather than mourning death. In this scene I wanted to try to capture some of the flavour of the funerals I remember from childhood.

What song would you pick to go with Born & Bred?

"The Patriot Game"
by Dominic Behan. The line: ‘For the love of one’s country is a terrible thing,’ is one of the themes running through the book.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

The actor Gabriel Byrne from Miller’s Crossing and The Usual Suspects, among others. His soliloquy at the beginning of the movie Perrier’s Bounty strikes the exact tone that I think the book should be read in.

I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, but there are some writing techniques (or mistakes) that stand out to me when I read (e.g. when an author switches POV mid-scene). What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

My pet peeve is minutia for the sake of minutia. Yes by all means set the scene and bring us into it, but describing the varied colors of the hair on the back of a werewolf’s hand can get tedious.

Do you have a routine for writing?

Yes. I get up early, make coffee, check email, and social media sites, check the state of the world through the lens of television and, after wasting a few hours, edit what I wrote the previous evening. 

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

Evenings are my best time for writing new material.

Where’s home for you?

Toronto, Canada, for now, but I am hoping to move to Portugal next year. I don’t think I can do another winter.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?

The library in Trinity College, Dublin. It’s like a cathedral for books.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

Get grumpy. I have become obsessed by writing and am unhappy (read, mopey, sulky, petulant) when I can’t.

That's a great answer. If you could be any fictional character for one day, who would you be?

Alice—in Wonderland.

What’s your favorite candy bar? And don’t tell me you don’t have one!

I haven’t met a candy bar I don’t like, except those with coconut, but I have become a huge fan of Lindt dark.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Lisbon, Portugal, for the sun and the great contradictions of its history.

What are you working on now?

I am working in the last few chapters of the third book in the Life & Times trilogy of which Born & Bred is the first. I find the end of a book harder to write and the end of the third book is proving to be three times harder!

Excerpt from Born & Bred

On the night of Aug 10th, nineteen seventy-seven, Daniel Bartholomew Boyle made the biggest mistake of his young life, one that was to have far-reaching consequences for him and those around him. He might have argued that the course of his life had already been determined by happenings that occurred before he was born but, poor Catholic that he was, riddled with guilt and shame, he believed that he, and he alone, was responsible. He had been dodging the inevitable since Scully got lifted but he knew it was only a matter of time before it caught up with him. Perhaps that was why he paused in front of the old cinema in Terenure after weeks of skulking in the shadows. Perhaps that was why he waited in the drizzle as the passing car turned back and pulled up beside him.

“Get in the car, Boyle.”

Danny wanted to make an excuse – to say that he was waiting for someone – but he knew better.

And it wouldn’t do to keep them waiting. They weren’t the patient sort, twitchy and nervous, and single-minded without a shred of compassion. He looked around but the streets were empty. There was no one to help him now, standing like a target in front of the art deco facade of the Classic.

The cinema had been closed for over a year, its light and projectors darkened, and now lingered in hope of new purpose. He had spent hours in there with Deirdre, exploring each other in the dark while watching the midnight film, stoned out of their minds, back when they first started doing the stuff. He used to do a lot of his dealing there, too, around the back where no one ever looked.

“Come on, Boyle. We haven’t got all f*%#in’ night.”

Danny’s bowels fluttered as he stooped to look inside the wet black car. Anthony Flanagan was sitting in the passenger’s seat, alongside a driver Danny had seen around. He was called “The Driller” and they said he was from Derry and was lying low in Dublin. They said he was an expert at knee-capping and had learned his trade from the best. Danny had no choice; things would only get worse if he didn’t go along with them.

“How are ya?” He tested the mood as he settled into the back seat beside a cowered and battered Scully. He had known Scully since he used to hang around the Dandelion Market. He was still at school then and spent his Saturday afternoons there, down the narrow covered lane that ran from Stephen’s Green into the Wonderland where the hip of Dublin could come together to imitate what was going on in the rest of the world – but in a particularly Dublin way.

Dave, the busker, always took the time to nod to him as he passed. Dave was black and played Dylan in a Hendrix way. He always wore an afghan coat and his guitar was covered with peace symbols. Danny would drop a few coins as he passed and moved on between the stalls as Dylan gave way to Horslips, Rory Gallagher, and Thin Lizzy.

The stalls were stacked with albums and tapes, josh sticks and tie-dyed t-shirts with messages like “Peace” and “Love,” pictures of green plants and yellow Happy Faces along with posters of Che, whose father’s people had come from Galway.

The stalls were run by Hippies from such far-out places as Blackrock and Sandyford, students from Belfield and Trinity, and a select few from Churchtown. They were all so aloof as they tried to mask their involvement in commercialism under a veneer of cool. Danny knew most of them by sight, and some by name. On occasion he’d watch over their stalls when they had to get lunch or relieve themselves. He was becoming a part of the scene.


“Hey Boyle!”

Danny had seen Scully around before but they had never spoken. Scully, everyone said, was the guy to see about hash and acid, and, on occasion, some opium.

“You go to school in Churchtown?”

Danny just nodded, not wanting to seem over-awed.

“Wanna make some bread?”

“Sure. What do I have to do?”

“Just deliver some stuff to a friend. He’ll meet up with you around the school and no one will know – if you’re cool.”

Danny thought about it for a moment but he couldn’t say no. He had been at the edge of everything that happened for so long. Now he was getting a chance to be connected – to be one of those guys that everybody spoke about in whispers. Sure it was a bit risky but he could use the money and, besides, no one would ever suspect him. Most people felt sorry for him and the rest thought he was a bit of a spaz.

“Could be a regular gig – if you don’t f*#k it up,” Scully smiled a shifty smile and melted back into the crowd, checking over each shoulder as he went.


As they drove off, Scully didn’t answer and just looked down at his hands. His fingers were bloody and distorted like they had been torn away from whatever he had been clinging onto.

Anto turned around and smiled as the street lights caught in the diamond beads on the windshield behind him. “We’re just f*%#in’ fine, Boyle. We’re taking Scully out for a little spin in the mountains.”

His cigarette dangled from his thin lips and the smoke wisped away ambiguously. He reached back and grabbed a handful of Scully’s hair, lifting his bruised and bloodied face. “Scully hasn’t been feeling too good lately and we thought that a bit of fresh air might sort him out, ya know?”

“Cool,” Danny agreed, trying to stay calm, trying not to let his fear show – Anto fed off it. He briefly considered asking them to drop him off when they got to Rathfarnham but there was no point. He knew what was about to go down. Scully had been busted a few weeks before and, after a few days in custody, had been released.

It was how the cops set them up. They lifted them and held them until they broke and spilled all that they knew. Then they let them back out while they waited for their court date. If they survived until then – well and good. And if they didn’t – it saved everybody a lot of time and bother.

Danny sat back and watched Rathfarnham Road glide by in the night. They crossed the Dodder and headed up the hill towards the quiet, tree-lined streets that he had grown up in. As they passed near his house he thought about it: if the car slowed enough he could risk it – just like they did in the pictures. He could jump out and roll away. He could be up and running before they got the car turned around and by then he would be cutting through the back gardens and could easily lose them.

“You live around here, don’t ya, Boyle?” Anto spoke to the windshield but Danny got the message. “And your girlfriend – she lives down that way?”

Danny thought about correcting him. He hadn’t seen Deirdre since the incident in the church but there was no point. They’d use anybody and anything to get to him. He was better off just going along with them for now.

He briefly thought about asking God to save him but there was no point in that, either. They had given up on each other a long time ago. He turned his head away as they approached the church where he had been confirmed into the Faith, so long ago and far away now.

About the author:

Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City.

Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold.’ He also played football (soccer) in secret!

After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.

Murphy financed his education by working summers on the building sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn.

Murphy also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world. But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.

He has no plans to make plans for the future and is happy to let things unfold as they do anyway.

Connect with Peter:
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