Winner of the 2006 Sullivan Prize, The Irish Martyr is a collection of ten stories by Russell Working, an award-winning fiction writer, Chicago Tribune reporter, and former foreign correspondent. With an impressive imaginative reach, Working peoples his stories with unforgettable characters, giving flesh and bone to issues in the headlines.
Ranging widely in voice and place, these stories explore the emotional repercussions of fragile humans caught in often harsh situations beyond their control. That we respond to their pathos and humor, resignation and anger, testifies to Working’s skill as a chronicler of fictive lives that all too clearly resonate with our world.
In the Pushcart Prize–winning title story, we meet an Egyptian girl obsessed with an armed Irishman who moves next door to her family’s Sinai beach house. In “Help,” a man reflects on his career spent receiving multimillion-dollar payments from deposed generals and presidents, while “Perjury” considers what happens when a boy in a Pacific Northwest town is summoned to testify in the trial of his alcoholic father. A North Korean woman flees her homeland, allowing herself to be sold as a wife to a Chinese farmer in “Dear Leader.” “Slava” describes how the Chechen war touches the life of a Russian doctor in the Pacific seaport of Vladivostok.
“The Irish Martyr is a powerful, brave, and dangerous book that takes us to the borderlands where religion and geopolitics rip apart the lives of ordinary people. These are stories about torture, decapitation, rape, kidnapping, and trafficking in women and babies. They are about men and women caught in the meat-grinder of history, caught between trying to survive as human beings and the vicious tools of dogma, ideology, and greed. Russell Working knows the dark corners of the world, he knows the personal underside of the news stories we have become all too accustomed to seeing on our TV screens. He writes straight from the heart, with a moral indignation that is palpable.”—Douglas Glover, author of Elle and The Enamoured Knight
“Ranging over more of the world and more extreme experience than his readers are likely to know, former foreign correspondent Russell Working sets private dramas against historical events and geopolitical dilemmas. China, the Middle East, Russia, North Korea and other distant places are the settings for Working’s American explorations of love, loyalty, suffering both individual and social, and change. In his tour de force, “The World in the First Year of the Wire,” Working juxtaposes the cataclysms of World War I and other scenes of far-flung conflict with small-town American life in such a way that all the world’s woes and weirdness seem now to set the public terms of experience, replacing earlier expectations of news about the next street over. This is Working’s way of showing how public terms change what people actually do in private life. The Irish Martyr is a remarkable response to what is human everywhere."—Reginald Gibbons, author of Sweetbitter
“Is there any life that Russell Working cannot imagine? In these powerful, haunting stories, he explores the private lives of Egyptian adolescent girls, a North Korean woman sold to a Chinese farmer, a Russian doctor whose child has been stolen—victims of every time and place, always with singular compassion. Outrage for the world’s lost and needy fuels The Irish Martyr, and intelligence and deep love imbue every sentence. This book looks at hard truths, and they will linger in the thoughts of its readers.” —Erin McGraw, author of The Good Life
“If Flannery O’Connor had lived to read The Irish Martyr, she would have written Russell Working a letter of appreciation. These stories are instructive and fascinating.” —David Huddle, author of The Story of a Million Years and La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl
“In The Irish Martyr, Russell Working bravely navigates a labyrinthine maze of politics and culture to bring us a searing look at our troubled world. Slava, the long final story in the collection, is a particularly moving account of ethnic hatred and the terrible violence it spawns. If you’re not moved by this story, you should have your heart checked to make sure you still have one.” —Ed Falco, author of Acid and In the Park of Culture
“Human trafficking, terrorism, prison abuse—the stories on the nightly news make their appearance in these ten works. . . . Political and current, Working’s stories know few geographic boundaries and, like parachutes, are at their best wide open and floating. . . .” — Chicago Tribune
“This is a terrific collection of short stories. Working knows how to write in an interesting way about topics that grab the reader emotionally. He has a great sense of human life, including misery and problems that people face everyday. . . .” — Multicultural Review
“The Irish Martyr is an engaging collection of Russell Working’s most intriguing short stories. As a catching insight into Working and his muse’s product, The Irish Martyr is collectively an almost invasively detailed and descriptive presentation of style and story unique to this author. Working’s greatest release of short stories yet, The Irish Martyr is enthusiastically recommended reading especially for those who have yet to discover the ever engaging literary creative and storytelling style of Russell Working.” — The Midwest Book Review
“In his ten soulful stories, the author dives headfirst into the murky waters of his characters’ damaged but unforgettable lives . . . . With a style that is both poetic and raw, Working gives us characters from different nations, different realities, yet each is so fully realized and universal that it’s as if we are sharing their lives—and their hardships—for a brief time.” — St. Anthony Messenger
Winner of the 2006 Richard Sullivan Prize in Short FictionIncluded in University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries for 2007 by the American Library Association