Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Christopher Klein's "When the Irish Invaded Canada"

Christopher Klein is the author of four books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom and Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero.

Klein applied the “Page 99 Test” to When the Irish Invaded Canada and reported the following:
When the Irish Invaded Canada is the true story of how a band of refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger fought on both sides of the Civil War and undertook one of the most fantastical missions in military history—to hold the British colony of Canada hostage and ransom it for Ireland’s independence. The self-proclaimed Irish Republican Army attacked Canada not just once, but five times between 1866 and 1871.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler alert to let you know the IRA’s best-laid plans did not come to fruition. However, they did have some stunning successes, and perhaps their high-water mark came on June 2, 1866, outside the small Ontario village of Ridgeway, 20 miles south of Niagara Falls. In the Battle of Ridgeway, which is depicted in the colorized lithograph on the front cover of the book, Colonel John O’Neill led an Irish army to a victory over forces from the British Empire for the first time since 1745.

Page 99 of When the Irish Invaded Canada drops the reader in the middle of the firefight. The most fun I had in writing my last book, Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, was in describing the bare-knuckled boxing bouts held during the Gilded Age. Fight scenes naturally lend themselves to the use of action verbs, which makes the prose flow freely and jabs the reader in ways that expository passages simply can’t.

So with the Battle of Ridgeway, I enjoyed the chance to write another fight scene, albeit one with far deadlier consequences:
They dashed from stump to stump, throwing them¬selves flat on the ground still wet with morning dew as a deluge of bullets struck the stumps and rattled the orchards, sending a shower of apple blossoms down upon the heads of the Canadians. Once the Fenians had emptied their single shots and worked to reload, the Canadians rose to fire their repeating rifles. The Canadian skirmish¬ers advanced so far in front of their main body that they began taking on gunshots from both the front and the rear.
Page 99 also details how O’Neill, who was thrust by fate into a commanding role at the Battle of Ridgeway, proved himself to be a talented military tactician. O’Neill is the thread that stitches the narrative together. He is “radicalized” by the horrors of the Great Hunger and thought it his purpose in life to lead an Irish army on the battlefield against the British. When he gets his chance at Ridgeway, he takes full advantage of it, and I’m glad to see him in the starring role on page 99.
Visit Christopher Klein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue