From The City of Strangers:
Mícheal Mac Liammóir laughed.
‘A long time, Sergeant.’
‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ replied Stefan.
‘Ah yes, and other things.’ The dead were the other things, and for a moment their silence gave the dead their due. ‘Are you still in Dublin?’
‘I’m in Baltinglass. I have been for four years.’
‘And the woman, there was a woman, I’m sure I remember.’
‘It’s a good memory then.’
'A boon as an actor,’ smiled Mac Liammóir, ‘a curse as a human being. But the two occupations have very little in common of course. However, I do recall her with you that evening. She sticks in my mind.’
‘She’s stuck in mine too, Mr Mac Liammóir.’
‘I see, but not in your life.’
‘She does send me a Hanukkah card every Christmas.
Mac Liammóir laughed again.
‘Humour always sticks, more than good looks. But it’s a long time to carry a torch at your age, well, at any age where men are concerned.’
‘Not really a torch, maybe a penny candle,’ smiled Stefan.
From The City of Shadows:
The tram to Adelaide Road was another part of Tom’s day in Dublin; sitting upstairs, looking at the streets and the people, was its own entertainment. As they walked past the terraced houses to the synagogue it started to rain. Hannah was waiting on the steps of the big red and white brick building.
'This is Tom. Tom, this is Hannah
‘Hello.’ Tom looked slightly sheepish; he wasn’t used to new people.
Hannah smiled, sensing his awkwardness.
‘It’s lovely to meet you Tom. Are you having a good day?’
‘Yes. We’ve been to Clery’s.’
‘Looking at toys? Well, you would be just now, wouldn’t you?’
Tom’s expression was very serious. ‘Were you at Clery’s at all?’
‘Yes, lots. I can’t remember the last time though.’
‘Did you ever see the bike?’
‘I don’t think I did, no.’
‘It’s in the window, right by the clock. It’s a tricycle.’
‘Will I have a look next time I’m up there?’
Tom thought she should. She glanced at Stefan and winked. She already knew about the tricycle. Her eyes seemed very bright as Stefan looked at her. Tom’s nervousness had suddenly gone and he was smiling. He liked her. The rain was falling harder now. Hannah took Tom’s hand.
‘Come on, you’ll both be soaked,’ she laughed. ‘We all will!’
She hurried up the steps with Tom. Stefan followed, running. The rain was beating down. As they entered, he instinctively reached to take his hat off. Hannah touched his arm, smiling, pushing it back on his head.
‘It’s the other way round. Just leave it on!’
Tom looked at the dark interior. It was full of unfamiliar things, but it was enough like a church to feel familiar all the same. It smelt like one too.
‘Is it a church, Daddy?’
‘Yes, a Jewish church.’
Tom watched as several children walked past, wet from the rain.
'I’m sorry, I forgot you were having the day off.’ Hannah spoke more quietly. ‘I hope I didn’t mess it up. You should have ignored me!’
'It’s fine.’ He felt she seemed slightly more awkward now. Perhaps it was just being in the synagogue, perhaps it was the sense that they were still somehow standing on the bridge between what was personal and what was professional in their relationship. More children hurried past them. Tom was looking at the dark interior more closely now, the rows of pews and the high gallery above, but his eyes kept coming back to the children, his own age and older, now closely packed in front of the Torah Ark, by a branched candelabrum, laughing as the elderly rabbi told then the Hanukah story.
‘You can go and listen,’ said Hannah gently.
Tom looked up at Stefan doubtfully.
‘Come on.’ She took his hand again and walked him towards the other children. Stefan followed. He could see Tom’s doubts had already gone.
‘This is Hanukkah,’ she continued. ‘It’s about a bad, bad king and the people who kicked him out and sent him packing. We light candles to remember that.’ She caught the rabbi’s eye, and pushed Tom gently forward.
‘And what’s your name?’ asked the rabbi.
Tom looked back at his father for reassurance. Stefan nodded.
‘It’s Tom, Father.’
The other children giggled. Tom didn’t understand why, but it felt welcoming and good-humoured enough, so he just smiled back at them.
‘All right, Tom. First the battle, then the miracle. Well, if God’s going to take the trouble to give us a miracle he expects us to put some work in too. That’s the battle. I think it’s fair, don’t you? Now, we have a wicked king, a very wicked king, more wicked than you could ever imagine. Antiochus was his name.’ The others hissed and booed. ‘And we have a hero, Judah the Maccabee, fighting the evil king, to save Jerusalem. He was a brave man and his soldiers were brave, but there were only a few of them, and at first Antiochus chased them all into the hills with his great army.’
'Like Michael Dwyer and Sam MacAllister,’ said Tom. ‘They hid in the mountains behind our farm, when they were fighting the redcoats.’
‘Yes, it was just like that, Tom. And like Michael Dwyer, Judah and his men had no weapons, no food, no shelter. In Jerusalem the wicked king’s soldiers were eating the people out of house and home and putting up statues of the Greek gods in the Temple of the Lord.’ More hisses and boos; Tom joined in. ‘Everyone thought the war was over and Antiochus had won!’
Hannah and Stefan had walked a little way back towards the doors.
‘He’s like you,’ she said quietly.
‘Is that a good thing?’
‘I wouldn’t say it’s so bad.’
It went like this...
Irish Eyes Unsmiling
War thriller draws on real-life characters
The City of Shadows/ Michael Russell/Avon
During the Second World War, Ireland was officially neutral. But, shockingly, its proximity to the British mainland had made it an attractive pre-war base for Nazi Party officials, some of whom found a ready ear for hatred of the Jews among the priestocracy of the Irish Free State.
In Michael Russell’s debut novel, he has taken this promising cauldron and mixed it with the story of a Jewish woman courier for the Palestinian Zionists of pre-state Israel.
Russell’s resourceful and likeable hero, Detective Stefan Gillespie, is an archetypal outsider: a Protestant among Catholics, a widower among the Dublin smug-marrieds. It is 1934 and the casual racism against Protestants and Jews alike ought not to shock the 21st-century reader, but it does.
Hannah Rosen has come to Dublin to find out what happened to her friend Susan, a Jewish woman who disappeared after a disastrous love affair with a Catholic priest. Gillespie, meanwhile, is being threatened with the removal of his five-year-old son by a vituperative priest apparently worried about the child’s eternal soul.
Reading this book with the knowledge of the remorseless child sex abuse perpetrated by some of Ireland’s clergy, adds a perhaps unintended dimension.
In action moving from Dublin to Danzig, Gillespie and Rosen evade priests and Nazis alike. Russell has drawn on real-life Irish characters whose decent behaviour in the face of the impending Holocaust has been sadly lost over the years. This book has triumphantly revived their reputation.