The Dead Republic 2010
At the end of Oh, Play That Thing, the second volume of Roddy Doyle’s trilogy about Henry Smart, Henry, his leg severed in an accident with a railway boxcar, crawls into the Utah desert to die – only to be discovered by John Ford, who’s there shooting his latest Western. Ford recognises a fellow Irish rebel and determines to turn Henry’s story – a boy volunteer at the GPO in 1916, a hitman for Michael Collins, a republican legend – into a film. He appoints him ‘IRA consultant’ on his new production, The Quiet Man.
The Dead Republic opens in 1951. Henry is returning to Ireland for the first time since his escape in 1922. With him are the stars of Ford’s film, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and the famous director himself, ‘Pappy’, who in a series of intense, highly charged meetings has tried to suck the soul out of Henry and turn it into Hollywood gold-dust.
Ten years later Henry is in Dublin, working in Ratheen as a school caretaker, nicknamed ‘Hoppy Henry’ by the boys on account of his wooden leg. When he is caught in a bomb blast, that wooden leg gets left behind. He finds himself a hero: the old IRA veteran who’s lost his leg to a UVF bomb. Wheeled out by the Provos, Henry is to find he will have other uses too, when the peace process begins in deadly secrecy…
In three brilliant novels, A Star Called Henry, Oh, Play That Thing and The Dead Republic, Roddy Doyle has told the whole history of Ireland in the twentieth century. And in the person of his hero, he has created one of the great characters of modern fiction.