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Jeanette Baker Dishes About Her IRISH LADY
Irish Lady was born when I inadvertently drove into the city of Londonderry ("Derry" if you're Catholic) during the breakdown of the 1994 ceasefire in Ireland. Overturned vehicles, burning buildings, mass destruction and roving groups of rioters were everywhere. Terrified for my life, I obeyed the young man who had motioned me over to the curb. He told me my rented car was being confiscated and asked me to step outside. I explained that even though my license plates were Irish, I was an American and wanted nothing more than to leave the city. He smiled, wished me luck and waved me on. I wasn't bothered again until I reached Newry, where a burning lorry was blocking the motorway into town. A British army officer pointed a gun in my window and asked what my business was in Newry. Again, I explained my situation and surrendered my passport. Again, he waved me past the lorry and up over the sidewalk after admonishing me to be careful. It was there at the checkpoint at Newry that the seeds of a novel took root.
Ulster, the ancient name of the original nine counties of Northern Ireland, is where Irish history and Irish legend come together. In 1607, Ulster was the last Catholic enclave to sur-render to Elizabeth Tudor. The heroes of Ireland-Emain Macha, Deirdre of the Sorrows, King Connor, The Warriors of the Red Branch, Cuchulain, Red Hugh O'Neill, Rory O'Donnell-are also the heroes of Ulster. And it is in Ulster, the six counties that are still ruled from England, that the war for independence rages on today, waged, depending on your perspective, by terrorists or freedom fighters.
In 1994, my imagination was caught after visiting my family in Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Because the cease-fire in the North had been in effect for more than a year, I had decided to visit this land where true Irish culture was born. Unlike Dublin, which has belonged to the Vikings, the Normans, the English and finally the Irish in 1921, Ulster was all Irish until the importation of Protestants from Scotland and England after the Battle of Kinsale and the Flight of the Catholic Earls in 1607.
Hence, we have the nationalist natives, the conquered Catholics, versus the landholding loyalists, the conquering Protestants. The results of this attempted merging of two cultures, two "races," have been tragic. For a novelist, the narratives are unlimited.
Naturally, I called upon these conflicts for Irish Lady. Meghann McCarthy, who escaped the Belfast slums after the murder of her parents during the riots of Bloody Sunday, is a brilliant London barrister. Michael Devlin, the boy she never forgot, has become a leading nationalist and member of the Irish Republican Army, accused of killing the leading candidate for prime minister of England. Meghann is compelled to return to Belfast to defend Michael, the representative of everything she fears and despises. Her defense is hopeless until, through a series of visions and dreams, she finds herself embroiled in the world of her 16th-century ancestor, Nuala O'Donnell, and the sunset of Irish Ulster.
Write to Jeanette Baker c/o Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books, 1230 Sixth Ave., Ny, NY 10020.
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