Let it be said first that It May Be Forever: An Irish Rebel on the American Frontier is an excellent, very enjoyable book which would win the highest rating if we did that kind of thing at SPR. The problem is that is resists classification. Is it a history, a non-fiction novel, a biography, or historical fiction? It works best as the latter, but one does not normally find photographs and other illustrations in such text, nor a bibliography. A glossary of terms, sometimes, but any fictional text that fails to generate reader understanding of what these mean organically is incomplete and distracting.
The protagonist here is Michael Quinn, an ancestor of the author, and his entire biography and that of some of his family encompasses the narrative. Quinn grew up hard in Ireland and England, immigrated to America, was drawn into the Fenian movement, later took part in the abortive post-Civil War Fenian invasion of Canada, and took his parole as a prisoner not back home to the girl he loved, but out West to seek his fortune. He entered the overland freight business at the lowest level, as a bullwhacker, organized his own company, and prospered, but his girl, to no one’s surprise but his, did not wait for him but married his brother instead. He did not take this well, and never returned home, losing all contact with his family and leading a lonely life that made him rich but ultimately unsatisfied .
It is a fascinating tale and the depth of the author’s research is evident, although he avoids the rookie trap of becoming hostage to it and boring the reader. The writing is first rate. I am not sure that the photographs and other documentation are really needed, but that may simply reflect my personal tastes. I like to read without interruption and I found them distracting rather than a value enhancement. In terms of the story itself, the blow-by-blow account of Quinn’s childhood could have been compressed or perhaps even eliminated entirely without any real violence to the main story, but what’s done is done.
Anyone who enjoys a good read will enjoy this book.
That this book is still being sent out for reviews four years after first publication illustrates a big difference between self-publishing and the mainstream. Any book from a big publisher that is not a huge best-seller has been seen in two or three editions in that time, down to mass-market paperback, while this one is still seeking it’s audience through reviews and word-of-mouth. Part of the problem is simple competition. Hundreds of books are received by the rapidly shrinking number of publications that still originate book reviews and only a few actually make the cut. Anything ‘self-published” is discarded or ignored regardless of merit. The paradigm of publishing is changing and this is one of the things that we need to fix. Self-publishing is a literary ghetto that need to break out into the mainstream.
And we’re working on that.
Visit the author’s site.