The Devil’s Due
Forced to abandon his name, his country and the woman he loves, Frank Kelleher vows to one day return. But what awaits him when he does?
Guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, IRA soldier Frank Kelleher flees through the streets of war-torn Ireland with both the British and the Irish Republican Army trying to put a bullet in his head. He makes his way to America under an assumed name and with a forged passport, as the war in Ireland rages on. Settling in a new land, he finds he can’t let go of his past. Haunted by the fiancée he was forced to leave behind, by the deaths of three friends at his own hand, and by the country he was forced to abandon, Frank struggles to make his way in 1920s New York.
As much as he can’t let go of Ireland, he finds that Ireland can’t let go of him—and his past has a way of finding him, thousands of miles and an ocean away. He dreams of going home, but knows that it could get him killed. Then an anonymous letter brings news about his fiancée Kathleen and he realizes that he no longer has a choice. A cease-fire is declared and Frank sails home with dreams of finding Kathleen, putting his past behind him, and starting a new life.
When he arrives, he learns that the Ireland he was hoping to find—a united people finally free—was only a dream. With British soldiers withdrawing, long-standing feuds resurface, and Ireland is pushed to the brink of civil war. As tensions mount, he also learns that his sins will not be easily forgiven, and that he and Kathleen will never be safe until he clears his name.
If the looming war doesn’t kill him, trying to right the wrongs of his past just might.
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In 1919, after seven hundred years of British oppression, a slumbering rage awakened as the Irish people rose up to claim their freedom and their land. Poorly trained, vastly outnumbered and severely short on guns and ammunition, a relatively small force nonetheless brought the battle to British forces in cities like Dublin and Limerick and Cork and on the lonely roads and fields in between. As the fighting raged, Frank Kelleher and Kathleen Coffey—a young couple from Limerick with plans for the future—were torn apart. This is Frank’s tale: his fall from grace, his dreams and his quest for redemption.
If you are interested in learning more of the historical context for the story, please see the Author’s Note in the back of the book. I’ve also provided several maps to help the reader get a better sense of time and place as well as a Historical Cheat Sheet to fill in some of the blanks.
I hope you enjoy the pages that follow.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I currently live in Michigan, my home more or less for the last 19 years. But, to paraphrase Paul McCartney, my journey to this point has been a long and winding road.
As a young child, one of my most vivid memories is moving every few years to a new town, to a new house, as my father climbed the corporate ladder. Little did I realize at the time that my own life would follow a similar path.
By rights, I could call myself a southern boy, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I was born in Georgia and a few years later, we moved to Louisiana. My early childhood years were during the 1960s, a turbulent time for America dominated by the struggle for racial equality and the Civil Rights movement; the growing threat of the Soviet Union, both in the race to the moon and in the race to bear arms; civil unrest and riots in Watts and Newark, and later, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; and by the war raging in South East Asia.
The decade was marred by the growing body count in Vietnam and by the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother, Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King. The British invaded, Beatle Mania swept the nation and while we listened to Rock and Roll, we watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. With the exception of the moon landing, it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned of many of the events that had occurred during what I had viewed as my carefree childhood years.
Still, the events of the 1960s, in many subtle ways, would have an effect on me.
By the end of the decade, my father’s job took us to Pennsylvania and as the 1970s began, we relocated again, this time to New Jersey. The turbulence continued with the still-unexplained shooting of innocent students at Kent State, the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of a president, and the final withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. All three would weigh heavily on the nation for years to come. Oil embargoes left us waiting on long gas lines, the Beatles broke up and Elvis, after a long public struggle to escape his personal demons, finally did.
Life moved on and, even in the midst of a rash of kidnappings and hijackings, technology leapt forward with the introduction of microprocessors and computer chips, VCRs and floppy disks, and the start-up of something Bill Gates called Microsoft. As the decade ended, a peanut farmer from my birth state became president and his only notable accomplishment was brokering a peace accord between Israeli and Egypt. Meanwhile, students in neighboring Iran stormed the US embassy and took Americans hostage.
Despite having moved so many times as a young child, most of my childhood was spent in the Garden State, less than an hour from New York City. My life consisted of Little League baseball in the spring, Pee Wee football in the fall, summers at the town pool and winters sleigh riding. On Thanksgiving Day, we stood on 34th Street in Manhattan and watched the parade in front of Macy’s. On July 4th, we watched the fireworks over the East River.
Outside of school, life was trouble free and I spent many hours biking around town, hiking, playing in the streams near our house and building forts in the woods. In high school, my athletic pursuits switched to soccer and ice hockey. Long gone was my thick, southern accent.
I attended college in New York during the 1980’s, which began somewhat prophetically when a group of kids my own age defeated the seemingly unstoppable Olympic Ice Hockey Team from the former Soviet Union, ending their twenty-year Gold Medal streak. Suddenly, there was a renewed pride in America ending the collective funk from Vietnam, Nixon’s disgraced presidency and the stagflation of the Carter years.
For me, nothing exemplified America’s renewed strength better than President Ronald Reagan, who shortly after he took office, defied an assassin’s bullet and, despite being seriously wounded, walked into the hospital unassisted. Reagan survived and, several years later, challenged the Soviet Union again, not to hockey this time, rather to tear down a wall in Berlin. By the end of the decade, the wall, symbolic of the Iron Curtain, did fall, and with it, one by one, the communist governments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as well.
As I began a career in accounting and finance, writing was far from my mind. Although I had written a short story or two in both high school and college, earning praise and publication in school anthologies, I never thought of myself as a writer. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to wonder whether something was missing from my life.
I met my wife shortly after college. Strangely enough, we had attended the same school but it wasn’t until a Halloween party several years later that we finally met. We married and not only worked full time in our respective careers, but we both attended Grad school at night as well. Starting a family was put off, but kids soon joined us and while my wife doted on them, I continued my journey up the corporate ladder.
Our journey took us from New York to Michigan to Illinois, then back to Michigan again. One day, after we had been in our house for about a year, my youngest, in his third house in four years, asked if it was time to move again. Little did he or I know at the time, but, several years later, we did, this time to Mexico.
We lived in an old colonial city several hours north of Mexico City where we met many fantastic people and enjoyed the country and the culture in a way that a tourist never could. Although Mexico was, and still is, embroiled in a war with drug cartels, and security has become a growing concern, it was a wonderful experience for me, my wife and my three children. Three years later we were back in Michigan again and, by this time, I was a senior executive for a Fortune 500 company.
I was living the American dream: wonderful wife, great kids, nice house, rewarding career. Still, when I thought about my life, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something I needed to do, a creative urge I needed to explore. In my chosen field, accounting and finance, bouts of creativity are usually followed by a prison sentence. I don’t look good in prison stripes, or so I kept telling myself, so one day, I decided it was time to do something different. With the support of my family, I began writing.
It has been a long, rambling journey full of many unexpected twists and turns while the broader events of the world seemed to unfold on their own around me. I’m sure that all of these experiences have influenced my writing in one way or another, somehow making their way from the dark recesses of my brain to the pages of my books.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
My latest book is titled The Devil’s Due, and is based on family legend for my grandfather, who served in the Irish Republican Army in the early 1920s. Growing up, I heard stories of how he had been forced to flee Ireland below a false passport because both the British and his own comrades in the IRA had put bounties on his head. Like most legends, I suspect that this one grew over time and with each retelling, especially when my Irish uncles were drinking! A few years aago, I spent some time in Limerick and Dublin, meeting with researchers, going through the Military Archives, and of course having a pint or two of Guinness. I learned that my grandfather had indeed served in the Irish Republican Army during the War for Independence. After the war, after the British withdrawal, he joined the new intendent Irish nation’s army—the Free State Army, where he served for another eight or nine years. One day, though, he did somewhat hastily resign his position and hopped on a boat to Boston. Why he suddenly left, I never knew, but that was probably the genesis of the legend. Still, the legend stuck with me and I always thought that it would make a great story line for a thriller!
How do you create your characters?
It may sound odd to say this but the characters and the plot itself, seem to develop and evolve over time and in ways that I never imagined when I first sat down and started typing. More than once, I’ve found myself reflecting on something a character just did and thinking that I hadn’t envisioned that the character would do something like that when I first created him or her a dozen chapters earlier. Sometimes, a minor character who I created for one scene comes back to play a much more prominent role later on. The characters and the plot seem to go in directions that only they can choose and often I’m left following along.
The lead character in my latest book, Frank Kelleher, is a combination of many different people, some real, some not, that I’ve met throughout my life: my grandfather, my Irish uncles, fictional as well as real characters in other books and movies. Physically, he looks nothing like my grandfather—my grandfather was tall and thin, where Frank is short. But Frank’s passion for Ireland and his sense of right and wrong come from my grandfather.
Most of my characters have strong convictions about one thing or another and I think that’s important. It’s what drives them to do what they do and often is what leads to the conflict inherent in a thriller novel. I also think that all characters, even the good guys, the heroes, need to have flaws. No one is perfect and often times the lead character is wrestling with his own personal demons, whatever they are, while he is trying to right some wrong. This makes the character more real, more three dimensional.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
When I was 12 or 13, I remember seeing an ad that said something like, “Get Paid to Write Children’s Books.” I was intrigued and actually wrote a few things but I never did submit them. A few years later, I wrote a short story for a high school English assignment. My story was well received and was published in a school anthology. In college, I wrote another short story, again for a literature class, and it too was well received and published in a school anthology.
But after graduating, I guess I did the expected thing and followed a more traditional career path. I met my wife a few years later and we got married. A few years after that, we started a family. Frankly, between career and family, I forgot all about writing for a while.
It wasn’t until several years ago that I finally muscled up enough courage to make a drastic change in my life: to give up my corporate career, to spend more time with my family and to pursue my dream of being a writer.
There’s something cathartic about writing. Writing is a journey and the journey has its own rewards. It’s really cool to start with a blank page and watch as the story unfolds, sometimes taking twists and turns I never expected.
As a writer, I’m finally getting a chance to be creative, something I was not really able to do during my more traditional life.
You know, I wish I could find some of my early writings! That would be really cool!
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I have an office in my house and, for the most part, I’m able to work in solitude. Once I start writing, I prefer several hours without interruptions—no phone calls, no emails, nothing to break the creative process. The challenge for me is that I also have a business—several partners and I launched a better-for-you food company a few years ago and we have been growing and expanding. That takes up a fair amount of my time during the day so often I’m writing in the early mornings, in the evenings or on weekends. But my partners and I all work from our homes and we’re small enough right now that I do find the occasional day or two where I can focus on writing without dropping the ball on the business side.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
My ideas come from a variety of sources. I’ll see a news account of something and think, wow, that would make a great plot! Or I’ll read another book or watch a movie and that will trigger a thought for a potential plot twist or angle that is unique. The book I just released, as I mentioned, came from a family legend. While not completely true, I always thought it would make for a really great book!
I also have a few early readers—folks who help me by reviewing my initial drafts and providing their input and guidance. Several have shared their thoughts for potential plots and I add them to my list of ideas to explore.
The challenge is that not all ideas pan out. I actually began a book several years ago and when I was about a quarter of the way done with the first draft, I sat back and thought, gee, I don’t like where this book is going. It was getting into some dark subjects—child abduction—and I was interviewing police officers and judges who deal with this stuff every day. It was developing into the type of book that James Patterson might write. I do enjoy Patterson—it’s fiction—but researching real cases, real kids who’ve been abducted, was very depressing.
What do you like to read?
I love thriller and suspense novels—medical thrillers, legal thrillers, historical thrillers, political thrillers—particularly ones that are full of intrigue, and ones that are fast-paced, with lots of action & adventure. My taste in movies is the same. Intrigue, suspense and action & adventure—I’ll take that any day! When I read or watch movies, I want to escape and to live vicariously through the characters, even if only for a short while. I want to root for the good guy and hate the bad guy. For me, trying to bring this type of experience to readers is a huge thrill. I can only hope readers are able to experience this with my books!
But my reading list is somewhat eclectic. I recently finished book three of the Game of Thrones series. I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series and every once and a while I’ll pick up a sci-fi novel or read something by Jodi Picoult.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
The advice I heard most often when I started writing was to write every day, for as long as you can, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. While I’ll admit that I don’t always follow that advice, like any skill, writing takes practice and you will become better over time. The second thing is to read everything you can within your genre or chosen field. Learn how different writers approach their craft and along the way you’ll learn what an intriguing protagonist, a compelling plot, or engaging dialogue look and sound like. It’s also good to network with other writers. We tend to think alike and, even if it’s to commiserate on the rapid changes taking place within the publishing industry, writers tend to be very supportive of each other. At the same time, I would learn as much as I could about publishing, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing. Most importantly: get feedback. Find a handful of people who will give you objective advice about your writing. You can’t get better unless you know where you need to improve. Finally, hang on to the dream! Perseverance is as much a part of being a writer as a computer and a dictionary are!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes. I truly appreciate all those who support indie authors: people like Denise at the Pen and Muse, the many other bloggers and the many readers who support our endeavors. Without you, many of us would not be doing what we do today. Thank you!