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10 Works 182 Members 9 Reviews

About the Author

Tom Phelan's first novel, In the Seasons of Daisies, was published to acclaim when he was fifty, prompting one reviewer to write, "The most obvious question posed by a novelistic debut with as much resounding vigour as this is: Where has Mr. Phelan been?" Since then, Phelan has written the novels show more Iscariot, Derrycloney, The Canal Bridge, Nailer, and Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told. He lives with his wife in New York. show less


Works by Tom Phelan

The Canal Bridge (2005) 21 copies
Iscariot (1995) 8 copies
Nailer (2011) 7 copies
A Solitary Drum (2022) 3 copies
Derrycloney (1999) 1 copy
Beyond Any Reason (2020) 1 copy


Common Knowledge



I loved Tom Phelan's memoir and also his novel, THE CANAL BRIDGE. And this one, NAILER, was good too, but, in my estimation, it went on just a bit too long. And its central premise, the criminal abuse of young boys in Irish Industrial Schools for Boys by the Christian Brothers who ran the places, was hammered in way too hard. The phrase, "beating a dead horse," came to mind repeatedly as I was reading. That said, as a police procedural whodunit, it was pretty damn good. And there were several well-defined characters involved too - two detectives and two journalist-reporters. And one of the cops is an ex-priest, giving him an additional dimension as they pursue a killer who is systematically torturing and murdering those Brothers who, thirty years before, had sexually abused boys (and even murdered one) in the Dachadoo industrial school. About three quarters through the book, we learn who the killer is, but then there is an unsuspected surprise twist at the ending of the story. Wait for it.

I enjoyed the story, but a good editor might have excised up to a hundred pages of this finely detailed, if somewhat redundant story of abuse, hate, revenge murder and retribution. Lots of authentic Irish dialect and slang in the dialogue here, something Phelan excels at. I liked this book enough to try yet another Phelan's novel, if I can only find the time.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir , BOOKLOVER
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TimBazzett | May 4, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It took many attempts to read ‘Solitary Drum’. Initially, I was invested. The first chapter had me engrossed and excited to see what happened next. It was short lived when I realised how brief each chapter was and how they jumped between plot lines that didn’t make sense until much later in the book. Too many shallow characters, too many vague sub-plots, and gaping holes of information necessary for continuity of the story. It meant returning to previous chapters and reacquainting myself with characters and events. ‘Solitary Drum’ was not a novel to relax with, nor one suitable for development as a series if left as it is. There are only three characters that remain memorable from the novel and it’s a shame they weren’t explored further. It had so much potential to become a fantastic novel and with a thorough rewrite and edit could become a great read. The positive outlook, if this is done, would be the opportunity to continue the first book into a series. The author has left enough loose ends for this to occur. ‘Solitary Drum’ is still a diamond in the rough that needs extensive work to become a serious contender as a standalone novel or the first in a series.… (more)
Mariasatterley | Apr 28, 2023 |
I have yet another new favorite author. First I read Tom Phelan's memoir, WE WERE RICH AND WE DIDN'T KNOW IT, which I loved, so now I've read one of his several novels. THE CANAL BRIDGE tells the story of three childhood friends in a small midlands town in Ireland. The two boys, Con and Matt, grow up and join the British army, hoping to see the world. Then the Great War breaks out and they are suddenly thrust into the mud, blood and horrors of trench warfare in France and Belgium as stretcher bearers. Kitty, the girl left behind, in love with Matt, can only wait. Meanwhile, the Easter Sunday debacle in Dublin between Irish revolutionaries and English soldiers complicates the lives of Irish soldiers serving in the British military. Matt makes it back, but Con does not, for reasons Matt must try to live with. It's tragic and complicated. Post-war events are even moreso. This is a big, beautifully written coming of age story, a love story times two, and it also delves deeply into the awfulness of war, PTSD, and the infamous "Troubles" in Ireland. These are characters you won't soon forget. What a writer this Tom Phelan is. My very highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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TimBazzett | 1 other review | Apr 6, 2023 |
Tom Phelan's WE WERE RICH AND DIDN'T KNOW IT: A MEMOIR OF MY IRISH BOYHOOD was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Born in 1940, Phelan was raised on a small farm in County Laois in a time when the Catholic Church influence was near absolute. Although marked for the priesthood practically from birth, Phelan gives us an intimate and detailed look into his first fourteen years, working the farm with his father and siblings, witnessing the breeding and birthing of cattle, horses and pigs, turkey eggs hatched in a kitchen cupboard, illiterate bachelor farmer neighbors, drunk uncles, crusty parish priests, learning his catechism, altar boy days, and, finally, leaving home for the seminary. All of these things are presented in the format of short vignettes, often only a few pages long, but bristling with life. The Phelan homeplace was heated by a turf-burning hearth, lacked running water and electricity, but their family life was rich and infused with faith and respect.

Having been raised next door to my grandparents' small farm where I did my part in working in the fields and garden, hoeing and chopping weeds, haying and husking corn, looking after the chickens and more - AND being part of a large Catholic family where Saturday night baths and Sunday best clothes were de rigeur - there was much here that I could relate to, although our living conditions were far more comfortable than the Phelans' were. The author's description of his first visit to the seminary and meeting the rector, and his subsequent leaving home and the pain of missing family and homesickness also rang very true, for I spent my ninth grade year in a boarding school minor seminary, before dropping out and returning home to a normal high school. Phelan, however, stayed the course and was ordained a priest at twenty-five, only to leave the priesthood after eleven years. Why he left is not examined here, aside from saying he was "totally disillusioned." He now lives in New York and has written several novels. (I am currently reading one of them, THE CANAL BRIDGE.)

Tom Phelan is a wonderful writer. I loved this book. My very highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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TimBazzett | 2 other reviews | Mar 30, 2023 |

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