The Last Storyteller

By Frank Delaney

(Random House, $26, 400 pages)

Who is this author?

Born in Tipperary and now dividing his time between homes in New York and Kent, CT, Frank Delaney has a large following of readers entranced by his best-selling historical novels set in Ireland. He often appears at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, where he will speak Saturday, March 11, at 2 p.m., and he frequently takes part in programs presented by the Litchfield County Writers Project.

But he’s more than simply a novelist. Delaney has had a successful career as a broadcaster in the United Kingdom and created “The Celts,” a BBC TV series on Celtic history that first brought attention to the Irish musician and singer Enya. He immigrated to the United States in 2002. On his website,, he currently is writing a podcast series called Re:Joyce that explains and expounds on James Joyce’s classic and challenging novel, “Ulysses,” examining its text line by line.

How much has Ireland inspired his writing? Here’s what he told a Barnes & Noble interviewer a while back:

“For a startling period of my life I reported the Troubles in Ireland for the BBC. I lived in Dublin and was called out to all sorts of incidents that, if taken together, add up to a war — bombings, assassinations, riots, shootings, robberies, jailbreaks, kidnappings, and sieges. It was a 24/7 life, lived on the road, or so it felt, with never a still moment, never knowing what was going to happen next. I’ve touched on it in a novel called “Desire & Pursuit,” but the vast portion of the experience is still in there, somewhere in my unconscious mind; and I expect it will emerge one day.”

Emerge it did, in such novels as “Ireland,” “Shannon,” “Tipperary,” “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show,”  “The Matchmaker of Kenmare” and now, “The Last Storyteller.”

What is this book about?

“The Last Storyteller” is about two subjects that reliably make a novel riveting: love and war. It is the mid-1950s, and the book’s main character, Ben MacCarthy, has unwittingly gotten caught up in gun-running for the Irish Republican Army in its bitter battles with England. But what really motivates Ben is his fierce desire to be reunited with his former wife, an actress named Venetia Kelly, who is now married to another man. This novel is the last in the Ben and Venetia trilogy, giving readers the answers as to whether these star-crossed lovers finally achieve happiness together.

Why you’ll like it:

Delaney, if not the last storyteller, is certainly a born storyteller. NPR has called him “the most eloquent man in the world,” which is hardly faint praise. Having been a judge of the prestigious Booker Prize competition in England and having interviewed some 3,500 other writers for the BBC, Delaney knows what makes a compelling book: lyrical writing, romance, intrigue, dangerous pursuits. You will find all of those things in this book.

What others are saying:

“Frank Delaney…returns to his beloved Emerald Isles in this absorbing tale about a man who attempts to overcome a troubled past to win back the only woman he has ever really loved. An epic story about romance, reform, and the IRA,” says the Barnes & Noble review.

“Ben learns how his employment gathering folktales for the Irish state’s archives prepares him for his calling. Late in this saga, he hears from his mentor: “Mythology is the emotional history of a society, the historical record.” Delaney, a skilled teller of tales (“Legends of the Celts” is a fine collection), brings a few ancient ones into this novel’s pages. Ben finds how the stories of Malachy McCool and Emer the blacksmith’s daughter and then Finn, Diarmuid, and Grainne foreshadow his own encounters and predicaments,” say the website Blogtrotter.

When is it available?

Copies are now on the shelves at the Downtown, Campfield and Ropkins branches of the Hartford Public Library.

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