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Troubles book earns author Paul McVeigh festival debut

By Claire McNeilly

Published 08/02/2016

Paul McVeigh
Paul McVeigh

A Northern Ireland author has been chosen as the star of a reading festival in England.

Paul McVeigh’s debut novel The Good Son - which is set during the start of the Troubles - has earned him the accolade of Brighton City Reads 2016 author.

The Belfast-born wordsmith, who has lived in the English seaside resort town for four years, said he was thrilled that his book will be read and discussed at events across the city.

“I’m over the moon to have been chosen; I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“When I moved to Brighton a few years ago, I was completely broke, I didn’t have a job and I was sleeping on a friend’s floor so one of the first things I did was volunteer for City Reads to celebrate books and get to know my new city.

“Who could believe that just a few years later my book would be chosen and my adopted city would adopt me right back?”

He added: “The book wasn’t successful the first time round so I re-wrote it and it was published last year. I’m absolutely delighted at being named City Reads 2016 author - even more excited than I was when I finally got my novel published!”

The Good Son traces the story of 10-year-old Mickey Donnelly as he tries to protect his mother and sister from the Troubles and from his father, in the Ardoyne district of Belfast.

But even after a re-write - which saw him make a lot of changes to the original “Northern Irish” copy - it wasn’t easy for the 47-year-old to get his tome into the bookshops.

“It was very difficult to get a book about the Troubles published; people think there’s nothing new to hear,” the he said.

“Publishers kept asking me to write a different book, but I wanted to be a voice from Northern Ireland - and I fought hard to keep the vernacular and the dialect.

“I wanted to talk about humanity. I wanted to tell a story that could be set in any war zone. And I also wanted to write about poverty.”

Sarah Hutchings, artistic director of City Reads, said choosing one book for a whole city to read and celebrate “brings people together”.

She said Mr McVeigh’s book was the “perfect choice” - particularly as 2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, a rebellion that led to the eventual signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty and the creation of Northern Ireland.

She added: “I defy anyone not to fall in love with its protagonist Mickey Donnelly. He’s clever, naive and hilariously funny. I hope you love it as much as we do at City Reads.”

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Christopher Hamilton-Emery, marketing and publicity director at Salt Publishing, which published Mr McVeigh’s book, said it was a tragicomic classic in the making.

“Using the voice of a 10-year-old Belfast boy in the midst of the Troubles to explore a brutal landscape with charm, comedy and just the odd touch of darkness,” he said.

“It’s a book about wild dreams, your idiot brother and your crazy Ma.”

Paul said he was “thrilled” that The Good Son will be part of the 50th Anniversary of the Brighton Festival.

An audio book is already out, French and German translations are due in the next couple of months, and the north Belfast man is currently in serious talks with Universal Studios about turning his story into a film.

Belfast Telegraph

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