Merrion Press acquires Dirty Linen, a memoir from Irish Times’ Books Editor Martin Doyle
“I have lived through what Martin lived through, and while we shouldered coffins in different ways, the profound connection of that shared experience presents an opportunity for a very positive collaboration between our Press and an Irish literary professional at the very top of his game.”—Conor Graham, Merrion Press
Merrion Press has acquired the highly sought-after title Dirty Linen from The Irish Times’ Books Editor Martin Doyle, which it will publish in October 2023.
Publisher Conor Graham secured UK and Commonwealth rights for the book, beating off competition from several Irish and international competitors.
At once memoir, social history, reportage and cultural study, Dirty Linen examines the physical and psychological impact of conflict, chronicling the lives lost and the long tail of trauma.
The perfect match
Agent Marianne Gunn-O’Connor said that from the moment she started reading Doyle’s searing account of the Troubles, she knew she wanted to represent him.
“Martin’s presence throughout this beautifully written memoir is really commanding and heartfelt. His affection for the people and place make it a compelling and emotional read as he witnessed at first hand how the constant stress and anguish of the Troubles tore a hole in his community.
“We both loved Conor’s vision and passion for Dirty Linen but how he personally connected with these moving stories made him and Merrion Press the perfect match.”
A moving portrait
Building on two acclaimed essays published in The Irish Times, Dirty Linen: A Personal History of Northern Ireland, a memoir, and A Ghost Estate and an Empty Grave, the harrowing story of one family’s horrific ordeal during the Troubles, Doyle talks to friends and relatives of Troubles victims, as well as survivors of bomb attacks, to create a moving, intimate portrait of a community.
He also reflects on the impact of the Troubles on his own life and that of his community, as they struggled to live normal lives.
The linen thread
Doyle grew up by the river Bann in rural County Down, in the heartland of the once-dominant linen industry. But what was once the Linen Triangle became notorious during the Troubles as the Murder Triangle.
Pulling on that linen thread, Doyle links the modern Troubles, which claimed more than 20 lives in his immediate neighbourhood, to the violence and sectarianism that surrounded Partition locally, all the way back via the expulsion of linen workers in the late 18th century to a disputed atrocity in the parish during the 1641 Rebellion.
A profound connection
Conor Graham has steadily grown Merrion Press into one of Ireland’s major publishing players, with best-selling titles including Burned, the exposé of the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal by Sam McBride, and the hugely successful Old Ireland In Colour books.
Graham is thrilled, despite huge interest from other houses, to have secured Doyle’s signature: “I’ve been building a list of modern Troubles stories and memoirs for almost a decade now, with a few significant titles and authors published to date. When I first spoke with Martin about his vision and scope for his story and the extraordinary events in his home parish of Tullylish and the broader neighbourhood, I knew I had to work with him. It wasn’t really an option not to.
“I have lived through what Martin lived through, and while we shouldered coffins in different ways, the profound connection of that shared experience presents an opportunity for a very positive collaboration between our Press and an Irish literary professional at the very top of his game.”
A ridge of common ground
Martin Doyle has worked for three decades as a journalist in Ireland and Britain. He was Editor of The Irish Post in London before spending five years with The Times in London. He joined The Irish Times in 2007 and has been Books Editor there since 2018.
Doyle said: “The Troubles were a blight on all our lives and the spores are sadly still in the air. Memories of lost loved ones can be both precious and painful, like walking barefoot on diamonds. But it is by sharing our stories that we build a ridge of common ground from which good things can grow.
“Conor Graham, a Northerner like myself, has developed an impressive list of significant titles by Northern authors, such as Sam McBride, Colin Bateman, Gerald Dawe, Brian Rowan, Eimear O’Callaghan and Malachi O’Doherty. I am delighted to be working with him on Dirty Linen and feel that my story is in safe hands.”