Who is on the plum tree?
For St. Patrick’s Day, we welcome Wayne Zurl to our pages to celebrate the launch of A Leprechaun’s Lament. I also asked Wayne, on this special occasion, to write something about Ireland, as the title of his book lends itself to the subject of little people in funny hats.
A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975.
Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half.
After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style.
By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains.
What Sam Jenkins says about this adventure (prelude):
I think about the little guy often. Murray McGuire looked like a leprechaun. He played darts like a pub champion and drank stout like a soccer star. If you worked for the city of Prospect and found problems with a piece of office equipment, Murray would work tirelessly to remedy your troubles. But after I interviewed him for thirty minutes, I could have cheerfully strangled the little bastard.
Thanks to Murray, I’ll always look over my shoulder with a modicum of trepidation. I have dreams about a beautiful redhead I could do without. And I remember an incident best forgotten every time I see a turkey buzzard.
For days, I thought of Murray as the man who didn’t exist.
Amazon link: amzn.to/yvRmCB
And for this special occasion…Wayne wrote about his adventures in Ireland. I couldn’t resist interspersing my own comments with Wayne’s, seeing as it is a subject I know a little about.
‘A Yanks Opinion of The Emerald Isle’
We had been to Scotland and England thirteen times when I decided living another year without seeing Ireland might be impossible.
I don’t like organized tours. In fact, I don’t like anything organized unless I make the rules. So, booking a trip and sharing a coach with a bunch of sixty-year-old Americans looking for their Celtic roots was out of the question. (N, Ugh! Now where did I leave them? Wasn’t there a granny there somewhere?) When we travel I drive and it doesn’t matter on which side of the road I do it. (N: doesn’t matter to them either!)
After landing at Shannon Airport and picking up a rental car, we left Limerick (N: Best thing to do with Limerick) and headed toward Cork. An organization I belonged to (for reasons that will soon become obvious, it shall remain nameless and be spared unspeakable embarrassment) offered accommodations at a price that attracted the Scottish side of me. They described their place as, “A Quaint and lovely townhouse nestled back in a private mews.” (N: And I know exactly what Wayne means…nothing like the irish proclivity to ‘big it up’ whilst not realising the century has changed!) Photos in the brochure they sent made the duplex apartment look like one of the more desirable properties in the country. But when we walked in, I assumed the pictures in the brochure had been taken in 1925, not 2005. I had seen more appealing tenement flophouses. We left, of course.
Our next stop was the closest national police station where I found the duty detective sergeant and threw myself at his mercy. (N: Good move!) Local cops always have connections (N: especially in Ireland) and he led us to a B&B operated by a retired policeman’s wife. (N: Probably his mammy. The first guest house was really a ruse to get you to go to the second one!) The old guesthouse was glorious and breakfast the next morning was our first introduction to good Irish food.
For years now I’ve been saying I have never been to a country where we found better meals. No,Wayne doesn’t eat junk food, especially while traveling. I tell New Yorkers to forget the misconception that Irish cuisine is limited to corned beef and cabbage. (N: No! Bacon and Cabbage) During a time when English pub grub was strictly fried fish and mushy peas, Irish chefs were attending schools learning how to best prepare locally obtained seafood and veggies. (N: Now the local seafood is second to none! especially the oysters.)
So,Cork was a success (N: Cork thinks so). We toured the Jameson distillery and learned lots about Irish whisky (N: Other than what it tastes like? Hope you tried the single malt!) A short trip down to Kinsale gave us a good look at the south coast. (N: I lived there for a while….very pretty, full of English!) And of course, I needed to see Blarney Castle, but refused to kiss the stone because of what that helpful Sergeant told me naughty teenagers do after hours. (N: Not just naught teenagers).
Our next stop was a farmhouse B&B just outside Killarney. A week in the southwest corner of the country took us again through beautiful coastal villages like Bantry, Kenmare, (N: Lived in Kenmare too…boasts one of my favourite esoteric traditional Irish music pubs in which I sang many a lament.) and Derrymore, And of course more seafood. Then to the famous jaunting carts of the Killarney National Park, the Dingle Peninsula, (N: Hope you met the local dolphin) and my introduction to Smithwick’s Ale. (N: Bit sweet for my taste!)
From Killarney, we drove north through Tralee and Ennis (N: Where I am from, gorgeous little town), to the Cliffs of Moher, (N: pictured above, some of the most beautiful coast-line anywhere, in my humble opinion all along the Burren) to Limerick and Bunratty Castle and FolkPark, then into Galway—just in time for the annual oyster festival. (N: I knew you would get to the oysters eventually. You must have driven through Gort!)
Driving in Ireland is fun—especially for an aging sports car fan. It’s different than Great Britain and the reason becomes apparent as you’re twisting your way over the countless country lanes that connect all those picturesque villages. (N: As long as a tractor isn’t coming the other way at a rate of knots, or someone else in a sport’s car driving down those tiny boreens at huge speed. When Ireland switched over to EU laws, the local County Councillors had to decide on speed limits for various bits and types of roads. Michael, the Fine Gael councillor said, “Sure, that’s a fast bit of road, let’s make it 70, but that’s where ye have to slow down for McAfferty’s cows, so make it 40!” “Go on away out of that,” said the Fianna Fail representative, “I have to get past McAfferty’s house as fast as I can before those bloody cows are set loose on us. Put it back to 70!”)
The Romans never conquered Ireland and never introduced straight roads. (N: Now why was that I wonder?) Of course there are modern roadways, but nothing like the US Interstate highways or British M roads where speed is the object and there’s little opportunity to enjoy the ride and get your share of banging the gearbox. (N: Or the fun of wrecking your shock absorbers. Whatever turns you on!)
Two thousand photos later, we sat on a plane flying back to the US.
Next time: The northwest and north, and after that Dublin and the southeast.