Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Deadly Shot - Dan's Diary - The War of Independence 1920-22 by Patricia Murphy

I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by author Patricia Murphy who tells us...

ELF:  What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre(s) you like to write in?

Putting the story into History
by Patricia Murphy

I enjoy the challenge of putting the “story” into history for young readers. It’s not just facts and dead people but a living, breathing thing handed down from one generation to the next.  Knowing the past allows us to make sense of who we are. And it is the power of narrative that makes history compelling.

When I was little, my grandmother Bridie used to tell me about her childhood in 1920’s in Ireland. As a child, she worked behind the counter in her aunt’s huxter shop. It sold twists of tea in brown paper, penny sweets, smoked fish kept in boxes and broken biscuits from Jacobs biscuit factory. It was in Whiskey Row a row of whitewashed terraced cottages in a fishing village called Ringsend, not far from Dublin’s city center. A place of characters – sailors and fishermen. Her mother was a fishmonger who sold fish from a barrow like Molly Malone in the well-known song. In the backroom, her aunt read the tea leaves for people’s fortunes. My grandmother was a vivid storyteller, and I could almost hear the hum of conversation and see the paraffin lamp guttering in the corner as the green half-door swung open and another customer came in to find what fate held in store.

I listened with wonder when my grandfather told me colorful tales of belonging the militarist Fianna boy scouts who supported the rebels during Ireland’s War of Independence by running messages and acting as lookouts. Years later when I came to write about Ireland’s bloody guerrilla war for freedom, I remembered my grandparents stories and wove them into the narrative. My grandfather directly inspired the character of Dan in Deadly Shot – the football genius who gets pulled into the struggle.

But the events themselves are just the starting point. A lot of stories and details get lost in the passage of time. Or just survive in shards or glimpses – a child in a photograph, an old medal or a mention in someone else’s diary. History by itself won’t always tell you what it was like to live through turbulent times. Particularly if it concerns ordinary people, women, and minorities. That’s where the novelist comes in, using the imagination to conjure up another world and flesh out the facts.

Children are often hidden from history. So writing about their lives in the past for children today lets you shine a light into dark places.  But you have to look for the children in key historical events. At first glance, they’re absent or shadowy figures in the background. They aren’t making treaties or leading countries. But the more you look, the more you will see. Flitting in and out of other people’s narratives like ghosts. Or writing their memories down as adults. Powerful and poignant testimonies such as Anne Frank’s Diary are rare. But here and there you can find clues – a letter, an eye-witness account, a newspaper report. Then the novelist can join the dots. 

So all these elements come together, memories, research, the feel of the period. And then it sparks into life. The characters take over, and I weave the plot around true events. I try to stick to the facts for the main narrative and take the characters on a journey through the historical events. But I also feel free to invent, once it is plausible. For history is full of gaps and sources are often contradictory. There is more than one point of view. So it’s a balancing act, this blending of fact and fiction. Then it really comes alive in the hands of the reader. A chance for the child of today to go on a journey with a child from long ago.


by Patricia Murphy


GENRE: children's historical fiction/Middle Grade



Football mad, twelve- year- old Dan is a trusted messenger for Ireland’s rebel leader, Michael Collins. He promises his cousin Molly to never fire a gun, but after the dramatic events of “Bloody Sunday” in Croke Park, he is pulled deeper into the struggle. Hunted by a vengeful Intelligence Officer, Molly and Dan are forced to flee Dublin. But unknown to Dan, he holds the key to a deadly plot. And his enemy will stop at nothing to track him down. On the run, they meet Flying Columns and narrowly escape death But as Cork burns can Dan continue to outrun his enemy?



 “Has Father been arrested for smuggling arms?” I asked.

“Your father would never do that,” she said. “Do you not remember why he jumped ship when he was young? It wasn’t just for adventure. His father got him a commission in the Royal Navy but he refused to take arms. He hates violence.”

I rubbed my knuckles that were feeling raw now from the rapid changes of cold and heat.

“I can only tell you what it’s like to live,” said my mother. “Feeling pain inside isn’t a good feeling. But it’s part of life. Sometimes you think you are broken but you are being broken open to new things, to grow.”

“Some of the lads say they don’t feel anything when they pull the trigger. Others have nightmares, feel blood in their mouths,” I said.

“If you cannot feel pain, it makes it easier to inflict it. Dan, you are not a killer. It’s not in your nature,” she said.

“I’m too weak,” I said.

She held my face in her hands, her eyes searching into my soul. I looked deep into her eyes full of love.

“No, Dan, you are too strong. You feel other people’s pain. That is strength. May God preserve and keep you so.” She embraced me tight. “We cannot go round it. We must live through it. The only way we know how. Respecting other’s humanity and dignity no matter who they are.”

Links to buy Deadly Shot – Dan’s Diary


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Patricia Murphy is an award-winning children’s author and Producer/Director of documentaries. Her most recent novel is Deadly Shot - Dan's War of Independence 1920-22. Previous works include the critically acclaimed The Easter Rising 1916 - Molly's Diary, described as “brilliantly imagined”, “beautifully written and compelling” and “ fantastic at bringing history alive for children”. She is also the author of Chingles trilogy. She was the winner of the Poolbeg “Write a Bestseller for Children” Competition 2004.

She is also an award-winning Producer/Director of primetime documentaries for BBC and Channel 4. These include Children of Helen House on the Oxford children’s hospice for BBC. She created and filmed the launch programmes of Born to Be Different the Channel 4 flagship series following six children with disabilities through the 21st century. Other films include Behind the Crime about criminals and Raised by the State on growing up in care. She has also made Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4.

Links to buy Molly’s Diary



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The tour dates can be found here


  1. Replies
    1. It cannot be defined. It has no boundaries or borders. Love can only be felt, shared and expressed.

    2. I enjoyed the author's answer and would also be curious what your answer would be, Mai? Thanks for popping by!

  2. Thanks for hosting me Reading Addict!

    1. You are very welcome, Patricia. My apologies, I have been ill and very far behind on greeting my guests. I hope the tour is going well and I compliment you on that striking cover! I appreciate you coming by and interacting with my visitors!

    2. Thank you so much. Just catching up with comments. I hope you are feeling better. No fun being ill near Christmas. x

  3. Sounds like a great read, thanks for sharing and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

    1. Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, Eva! Thanks for dropping in!

  4. Replies
    1. I read everything from popular and literary fiction to history, books on politics, diet and nutrition. I've just started "A Spool of Blue Thread" by Ann Tyler and I'm also reading "Gut" by Giulia Enders about that much underrated organ! I really enjoyed the Elena Ferrante Neopolitan novels. I'm also reading a lot of books about the civil war in Ireland in 1922 for my next book.
      Thanks for lovely question!

    2. Hmm..."Gut" essential organ that we all take for granted, lol. Thanks for taking the time to visit and ask a question, Becky!

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Victoria - I appreciate you stopping by

    2. Great to see you, Victoria! Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

  6. I always love hearing stories from my parents generation and before. It makes history come alive.

    1. You should write them down! If only to hand on to future generations. Stories are as much part of our DNA as brown eyes or liking raspberries. They are precious links in the chain between generations.
      Thanks for sharing, Mary.

    2. Definitely, Mary. There is nothing like being able to see a time through someone else's eyes. Thank you for dropping by!