More About the Author
William Brennan was born and raised in an Irish neighborhood in the shoe factory city of Brockton, MA as the Industrial Revolution was abating in New England. As a result, his first three novels are an examination of the Irish American experience during the first half of the twentieth century. These these novels are populated by characters that are composites of those roaming the streets outside his windows in the Tip section of Brockton.
While these novels are set in such locales as Boston, Washington, the fictional town of Millbank, MA, and even France, only after writing for years did what Brennan was about as an author begin to become clear to him: relating the experiences of life in Irish American ghettoes as the Industrial Revolution was coming to its close, and not until he was almost finished with the third book, Murphy's War, did it become obvious to him that he had written a trilogy based on his old neighborhood in Brockton which was called The Tip. Only then did he label these three novels, A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick, Au Revoir L'Acadie and Murphy's War, his Tipperary Trilogy.
In the midst of writing his fourth novel, Charity For All, which does not depend on characters from the old neighborhood, he came to see the nature of his life's interest, the examination of the role of the individual in the society that he or she exists, was a topic worth devoting his remaining energy and drive. While Charity continues the saga of the integration of immigrants in America, the assimilation is so successful that the Irish characters are mostly just supporting actors in the story. This novel was inspired by actual events in Massachusetts and was completed long before the scandal at Penn State University; it is shocking in its examination of how community leaders in both cases acted when confronted by crimes of this nature.
Brennan's first novel, A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick, is recommended for those interested in the Sacco and Vanzetti case and working class ethnic life in the first half of the twentieth century. Most books on the subject are about the infamous trial of Sacco and Vanzetti and their guilt or innocence. Brennan' work places the case in its broader social and historical setting and received excellent reviews for its treatment of the economy and ethnic life in the first half of the twentieth century.
In talking about his work, Brennan said, "My writing career began with A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick in which I attempted to look at the Sacco and Vanzetti case from the point of view of working class Irish and Italians.
"Were it not for the case, I would never have become a novelist. When I was a youth of perhaps twelve, I witnessed a near violent confrontation between two middle aged friends in my neighborhood. The men were ready to fight over the guilt or innocence of two men I'd never heard of, Sacco and Vanzetti. In the end, one man foreclosed all further argument by saying he'd been in Braintree on the day of the robbery and killings and saw them. "They did it!"
Brennan continued, "The confrontation amazed me and, despite the passage of nearly half a century, it never left my mind, and I was compelled to do research on the case and to write the novel. The book condemns the legal system but does not attempt to address the roles of the accused in the crime. It was my conclusion that the wrath of the paranoid establishment of Massachusetts had been directed at the workers of the Commonwealth to assure that the disease of anarchy was nipped in the bud and did not infect the first and second generation immigrants who were essential to the economy.
Writing the book was a joy, as I was able to set the case among all of the great events of that tumultuous era. The novel and all the rest of my work stemmed from a street corner argument."
Brennan recently completed his fifth novel, Gray Hearts and Greenbacks. It is his first book written about events outside of Massachusetts and examines a case of massive fraud against the U.S. government.
In Gray Hearts, Army Corps of Engineers employee Tommy Phelan is entrapped into becoming a member of a gang committing fraud against the government. Phelan's journey of self discovery leads him to understand that he is not much better than those running the criminal venture.
As the story unfolds, Phelan comes under the influence of a mentor, a decadent dilettante member of the gang,and becomes convinced that he can navigate the dangerous rapids before him, including avoiding prison and thriving as a criminally enriched but now honorable member of society. The novel provides insight into the terrible economic recession from which we are only now recovering. Above all it provides an opening into the hearts and minds of individuals attempting to find the way through today's moral thickets without the benefit of the certainty of earlier periods of human history.
All five of Brennan's novels are available in the Kindle store for under two dollars each. Give them a look; most people find them very worthy reading.
Bill is hard at work on a historical novel inspired by Rev. Theodore Parker and other members of the Transcendentalist movement that illuminates the continuing influence of the American Renaissance.
While unwilling to do bookstore signings, if the schedule permits, Brennan is happy to participate free of charge in book club discussions via speaker phone from his home.