Mark Mulholland is not from the USA or Canada or the UK or even Australia or anywhere snazzy like that. Mark, through no fault of his own, was born and raised in Ireland. However, when only a snapper, as luck would have it, he underwent a stroke of genius and left schooling to linger around a second-hand bookstore where he explored books by their cover or title or by some indefinable inclination. The whole world was to be found in that bookshop, he says, and everything a boy needed to learn could be learned there. He has been educated in this way ever since.
Mark has a thing about the God thing and so writes on what he gathers around belief, behaviour, bias, purpose, good, bad, light, charge, gravity, death, all the goofy stuff, and he comes at these questions from odd angles. Because what Mark eventually figured out is that nobody really knows anything, so he might as well have a go at it.
Mark is the author of the acclaimed novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing published in Melbourne, London, Hamburg, and New York.
Twenty-Two of Mark's shorter stories
have been published in the USA, Canada, Scotland, Australia, England, France, India, and Ireland.
'We are all a gathering. In each of us there is a multitude. To be human is to be a confusion of many.'
A Mad And Wonderful Thing (Novel)
Johnny Donnelly is a curious boy. In his dark greatcoat and blue scarf he walks his own sure path. He observes life as if viewing from higher ground. He meets the beautiful golden haired Cora Flannery and the boy and girl share an intense and poetic love for each other and for the land that they were born into - the historic earth of Ireland. But, unknown to the girl, the boy is a rebel, a fighter, and he is a killer for cause.With a cast including a boy who is an apostle for the philosophies of Plato and Mary Poppins and yet kills for country, a girl who believes that the gateway to the land of eternal youth is a hill on the edge of town, a caretaker who appears repeatedly in his green overalls and dispenses droplets of commentary but who has been dead for years, and a teacher who takes a boy aside and brings him to battle, A Mad and Wonderful Thing is an adventure in the pursuit of purpose, a hunt for why we do the things we do. It is the story of the search for reason through one boy's war for nation.In an uncomplicated style and with deceptive simplicity A Mad and Wonderful Thing is an exploration of the complex conception of identity, the forging of who we are, what is right and what is wrong, the choices we make, and the ultimate cost of choice; a quest for universal truths played out on the green hills of Ireland.In a passionate work combining tender and brutal drama - a braiding of love and war - A Mad and Wonderful Thing is the story of man’s love for homeland and it is the story of man’s love for woman. It is the story of boys.
A Mad and Wonderful Thing Reviews
'An extraordinary book; it confronts political and moral choices with a harsh brutality, but is, as well, a great love story.’
Mark Rubbo, Readings Monthly
'This is a fascinating and profound book – a story of love and brutality and tenderness and death – in which the tone and title are at odds with the subject, and the central character clashes with the heart. It is a book which stays.’
The Irish News, Northern Ireland
'Romance is the mad and wonderful thing that gives the novel its name, but it's not the emotion that drives the plot ... Mulholland's prose has all the elan of fine conversation after a couple of pints ... the final act is marvellous'
Michelle Griffin, Canberra Times
'Remarkable, it in some way insisted itself upon me. It's an emotional, shocking, gorgeous read, rooted in such painful reality, I just had to read it. And I'm grateful, so grateful to Mark Mulholland for writing such a magnetic and lyrical read.'
JON SNOW, Newscaster, Channel 4 News, UK.
'In this heartbreaking love letter to Ireland, the young and tortured Johnny Donnelly must reckon the two drastically different world he lives in: the one of books and poetry and the beautiful Cora Flannery, and the one where he shoots British soldiers for the Irish Republican Army. A gripping tale of love, loyalty, and redemption, A Mad and Wonderful Thing will sweep readers off of their couch and set them squarely in the middle of The Irish Troubles of the 1990s.'
Bustle, New York, USA
'Reading my first 2014 book and it is a cracker; A Mad and Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland. Another gem fron Henry at Scribe.'
Jon Page, Pages & Pages Booksellers
'Mulholland has certainly read this (war) canon. He opens his book with Hemingway’s quotation about the criminality of war, and his novel explores what happens when someone thinks they can kill with a clean conscience. Mulholland grew up with it, but he does not celebrate the revenge motive. He’s sides Heaney, who felt its lure, the pull of tribal kinship, the seduction of communal violence. Anyone who read Chris Kyle’s American Sniper should read A Mad and Wonderful Thing. Taken alone, Kyle’s memoir is poison. Combined with the Irish novel, it’s medicine. Mulholland reminds us that we need to answer the big questions.'
Glebe Street Hacks, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
'A Mad and Wonderful Thing is a declaration of love to Ireland. But not cheesy transfigured, but painful and desperate. Mulholland's novel is extremely diverse and as complex as each one of us.'
Die Blaue Banane, Germany
'The final act . . . is marvellous as Johnny faces the brutal calculas of his moral code. Here we also see echoes of McGahern's marvellous work Amongst Women as Mulholland fashions his own grim IRA chieftain and settles his own account of the cost. . . . thrilling, appalling, and marvellously resolved.’
The Age, Melbourne
‘Super.' 'Love it’
Sheila O’Reilly. Dulwich Books. UK. Leading independent bookseller. "the model for future independent bookselling" The Guardian
‘Remember that phrase from Jerry McGuire '"You had me at hello"? Well this book did that. Intense and unashamedly romantic . Written with playful, light, and poetic language ... it tackles the great moral paradox of its central character with deftness and sensitivity. A sparkling debut that celebrates the vitality, resilience, and humanity of Ireland.’
CAROLINE BAUM, Booktopia - Australia's largest bookseller.
'Our Book of the Month'
'A Mad and Wonderful Thing inspires a sense of pure delight. ... Despite some dark themes, this riveting novel manages to be one of the great uplifting reads of the year.'
Great Escape Books
'The real central character in this book is Ireland. Mulholland apparently effortlessly conjures up the country through its history, myths and legends, and its landscape . . . . Mulholland has a great gift for the vernacular, and the novel is both evocative and lyrically written.'
The Daily Mail, UK
'I thought it excellent. Deeply satisfying and moving. I also think that sufficient time has passed since the Good Friday Agreement to, at last, have a novel that goes inside the head of one of the 'Troubles' protagonists and hear the pros and cons of conflict (to take up arms or not) told in an original and exciting way. All Mark's hard work has paid off. Ireland has a new and exciting voice.’
LIAM NEESON, Actor
'Highlights modern Ireland in all her graces and faults . . . . grounded in the realities of recent Irish history.'
The Wild Geese
'Our Book of the Month.'
Blackwell's, London, UK
'This novel explores the moral paradox that makes a gifted young man chose terrorism as a way of life. The lyrical charm of the Irish vernacular and romanticism of the writing lifts it from the usual searing, relentless nature of war stories.'
‘An impressive and yet unsettling read. ... Like nothing you have read before. ... It is a major achievement.’
The Dundalk Argus, Ireland
'The storyline of this markedly ambitious first novel is one to reckon with ... and there is much to admire therein ... “the futility of action if it is measured against time ... what tribal claims we make, ultimately don’t make sense” is a hugely persuasive argument — and not without heart, like the novel itself.’
The Sunday Times, UK and Ireland
'A great read. I enjoyed this book very much.'
JEREMY IRONS, Actor
‘Mulholland’s debut novel, A Mad and Wonderful Thing, has plenty to say. The novel is narrated by a young man named Johnny Donnelly. Johnny is charming, funny and eloquent. He is also an IRA sniper. Part fable, part thriller, A Mad and Wonderful Thing can be read as a modern take on the story of Cú Chulainn.’
The Irish Times
‘I salute Mark Mulholland for writing this thought provoking, brave and well written book and I look forward to his next publication. In a year when the market is overwhelmed with war related books, mainly about WW1, Mulholland’s book explores another dimension in the nature of war.’
RENÉE LEEN-HUISH, Tinteán
‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing feels like ENYA with a spiked nose ring ... beautifully written.'
‘Beneath the passion, wit, and poetry of A Mad and Wonderful Thing is an undertow of tragedy. This is a world where our moral certainties are challenged, where gentle domesticity and sudden violence disrupt our expectations.’
‘Broaches a heavy theme .’
The Living Butterfly
'A thoroughly engaging novel ... weaving Irish folklore and history into a landscape where the lines are blurred between home and war, the threat of violence always being around the corner doesn't diminish the shock and heartbreak.'
Sarah Deasy, Avid Reader/Sunday Mail, Brisbane
'Real pathos, underlying the Irish charm and wit, permeates the book as Mulholland brings to life Ireland's bitter strife-torn history. And he proves to be an extremely gifted storyteller to boot.'
Elaine Fry, The Weekend West, Perth
'Mark Mulholland’s debut novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing is not perfect, but it comes close ... the tale is funny, fascinating, devastating and heart-warming and left me longing for whatever comes next from Mulholland’s pen.'
Clare Boyd-Macrae , Fabulous Reads
'A passionate and heart-wrenching debut novel. Johnny Donnelly dominates the book in a brilliant way. Mulholland uses Donnelly to carry out a conversation about the ‘Irish Problem.’ But there is a good deal of humour.'
Absolutely Magazine, UK
‘This is a first novel and it clearly demonstrates that Mark Mulholland fulfils another one of those Irish stereotypes — he really knows how to tell a story.’
Clare Donaldson, New Books
'A Mad and Wonderful Thing is Mark Mulholland's terrific first novel. Johnny Donnelly, our charismatic hero, is a young man of many parts: a carpenter, a self-taught philosopher, and a cultural nationalist of the first order. Mulholland has pulled off that most difficult of literary quinellas: a serious story, entertainly told.'
The New Zealand Listener
‘A lyrical, poetic, and passionate tale ...'
Sydney Morning Herald / Canberra Times
‘Johnny Donnelly is a romantic and a rhetorician ... it's easy to be swept along ... Mulholland has Roddy Doyle's gift of vernacular ... you'll be there with him to the bitter end.’
Herald Sun / Gold Coast Bulletin / Townsville Bulletin / The Weekend Post, Cairns
‘I really enjoyed reading this ... An amazing narrator, he's charming and funny, realistic, patriotic, and wistful. Ultimately this is a redemption story and a story about life - just how mad and difficult and surprising, heartbreaking, impossible, and wonderful it can be. The language is descriptive and flows beautifully making it a really lovely read that has surprising twists and high drama.’
The Co-op Bookseller
'Lovely lyrical writing - you can hear the Irish intonation and turn of phrase as you read it. A Greek tragedy from the first page. A good read and a good book club discussion.'
‘A debut novel from that clever Aussie publisher - Scribe. In turns elegiac and disturbing. Pulls off that trick of making you sympathise with a character who does some truly awful things. Has a genuine OMG moment. One to watch.’
May Contain Nuts
'Probably one of the best books I have ever read.'
'A fabulous, wonderful tour of Ireland. A passionate and heart-wrenching story about an IRA sniper and his beloved homeland. Faintly disturbing.’
'Awesome debut novel.’
'An unexpected pleasure. Well written, engaging, with constant twists and turns.’
Australasian Journal of Irish Studies
'The book rides a wonderful mixture of emotions, sometimes you can feel on top of the world and others be sniffling at the sadness and injustice of life. Johnny Donnelly is a character who has more layers than an onion. A mad and wonderful thing. Sounds the best of both worlds, doesn’t it? Something exciting, something to get your heart both racing and singing… This term can be used to summarise the protagonist in A Mad and Wonderful Thing, Johnny Donnelly – he’s full of wonderful ideas, love and kindness but he also hears and does some things that could be rightfully termed as completely mad. A solid debut by Mark Mulholland and a fantastically complex character created in Johnny Donnelly.’
Sam Still Reading
'Johnny Donnelly is one of those captivating fictional characters you come across in Irish literature.'
Mayo County Library, Ireland
‘What defines a man? Is it the overall shape of his life, or the individual moments? The insignificant kindnesses or the significant cruelties? A study of character, both of the individual and country, A Mad and Wonderful Thing traces the life of Johnny Donnelly, a charismatic and philosophical young man ... but (who) is also involved with the IRA. It is a wonderful novel.’
The Book Show, 4zzz FM, Brisbane
'This is a novel about love and commitment...to another person, an ideal and a homeland. Written in the tradition of Irish mysticism and with self-deprecating humour and insight, the story tells us about Johnny's double life as a secret IRA sniper and a decent, intelligent member of a small community. Rich in the ancient myths and imbued with a deep love of the Irish countryside, the book taught me a lot about one of the world's longest enduring civil conflicts and those who fight in it.'
Sue - Drink Tea and Read Books
'This is an amazing book. The central character, Johnny, is a charismatic, funny, intelligent young man who also happens to be a sniper, killing on behalf of Ireland against the English. The story intersperses his family and romantic life with his alter killing life. Johnny discusses ancient Irish stories, sayings, politics, the settlement of Ireland and who it genuinely belongs to, not in a dry way, but thought provoking so that the reader can see this is a complex issue with a myriad of viewpoints. The author cleverly introduces a close friend of Johhny, a father like mentor who has passed on, who appears throughout the story and has conversations but maybe this is Johnny's conscience? This is a debut book by Mark, what a stunner! Brilliantly written, the characters are life like. My book of the year.'
Stephanie from Goodreads
'Johnny Donnelly is the thinking man’s paramilitary. He sees himself as a latterday Cuchulain, achieving glory by taking on the fight of his ancestors. He is angry – with reason – at the British occupation of the six counties and believes it his duty as an Irishman to fight the oppressors. That he lives in Dundalk, just a stone’s throw from Teamhair, the epicentre of Irish legends, just adds to the weight on his shoulders.
So, a combination of personal slight, the frustration at the senselessness of the Hunger Strikes, and the gentle encouragement of a schoolteacher sees Johnny set his personal life aside to join the struggle.
But as an intellectual, Johnny struggles to reconcile his own involvement in an organisation full of bullies, thugs and racketeers. He struggles to cope with the lack of engagement of his southern compatriots. He struggles to deal with the lack of recognition that should come to a hero.
Johnny is the South Armagh sniper. He is a professional in an army of amateurs. Each hit is prepared, calculated, mapped out in minute detail. The squeeze of the trigger and the gentle bloom of red are just details in each operation that was weeks in the planning, and hours in the fleeing. Johnny’s targets are carefully chosen, each making simple procedural errors to seal his fate.
Johnny is also a magnetic attraction to the ladies. Everywhere he goes, every evening, every day, Johnny gets lucky. But as a gentleman, as a thinker, Johnny uses his charm judiciously. He has complex emotions and a burning love for Cora. Johnny is a decent man.
A Mad and Wonderful thing is a poignant novel charting the disillusion of a true Irish rebel caught between wanting victory but enjoying the fight. As a love story, it has a shining beauty – the love of Cora and the love of Ireland. But both of these loves are ultimately unrequited leaving Johnny as a disillusioned, lonely man travelling the length and breadth of Ireland in a futile attempt to gain self-knowledge. Rather than Cuchulain, we find a latterday Leopold Bloom, wandering in constant search of endorsement and affection from those who are not fit to polish his shoes.
The language is marvellous. The title, when it appears in the text, is unexpected and subsequently becomes haunting and moving. The locations – bleak hilltops, forests, the bare stone pavement of The Burren – all come alive. The people feel real, understated, human. Sometimes there seems to be just a bit too much navel gazing and philosophizing, but it adds to a complex picture in which paramilitary involvement was as much about boredom and loneliness as it ever was about exciting operations. That we are able to relate to Johnny on a human level whilst also loathing the fear and suffering he imposed on others (and himself), is a sign of a delicate, intelligent novel that doesn’t seek to impose a political slant or lead to a trite conclusion.'
The Short Stories
Twenty-Two pieces of Mark's shorter work have been published in territories that include the USA, Canada, Scotland, Australia, England, France, India, and Ireland.
‘Golightly and the Crazy Fool ' first published in Backstory Journal, Melbourne, Australia. (A literary publication of the University of Swinburne) Thank you to Dr Wendy J Dunn Managing Editor Backstory Journal for so warmly and receptively accepting the piece, to Backstory Senior Editor Marnie Reid for her great work, to Claire Smith for her work on editing copy, and to the university peer readers for their very positive commentary.
Literary journal reviewer Tom Meagher says: ‘Mark Mulholland takes me right back to the sounds, sights and often interesting smells of my hometown of Dublin with Golightly and the Crazy Fool where he explores loss, the transformative nature of human encounter, aging, the nature of time and space, and the smooth vocals of Roger Whittaker!’
'Moonlight at Saint Helena Park’ first published in Abstract Magazine Contemporary Expressions in the good old USA. Fair play to Editor and Art Director JL Jacobs.
‘Jennifer’ first published in Deceiving Light an anthology of short-listed stories from the Dorset Fiction Award, UK.
‘Four Kids and a Mortgage’ first published and short-listed for the Solution UK Short Story Prize. Fair play to Alex Silverman and fellow judges.
The judges said: ‘What we particularly liked about Mark’s story is how he looks at the concept of ‘home’ beyond that of a physical, bricks and mortar structure. He shows us how a sense of home and belonging can be found in simple pleasures: routines and rituals, favourite foods and, of course, love and companionship. Some lovely lyrical writing with the Irish voice and great use of symbolism in this story.’
'Sandals For Summer' first published in Glassworks Literary Magazine, Issue 18, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA.
'The Cloths of Heaven' first published in October Hill Magazine, New York City, USA. Thank you to Short-Story Editor Selin Tekgurler and Assistant Short-Story Editor Katilynne Berg for their kind and astute work on the piece.
'Broken Grain' first published in Genre: Urban Arts Magazine, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
'Black Rock' first published in COG Literary Magazine (Issue 13), Cogswell College, San Jose, California, USA.
Thank you to Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and Alana Boctor
(Editor and Student Editor-in-Chief, COG) for their generous and wonderful work with the piece. They have great talent and skill.
Story here: https://www.cogzine.com/copy-of-f-master-1
'The Butcher's Hook' first published in StylusLit Journal, Queensland, Australia. Issue 6. Thank you to Prose Editor Andrew Leggett for his kind work on the piece. And thank you to poetry editor and publisher Rosanna Licari.
Story here: http://styluslit.com/fiction/the-butchers-hook/
'The Gathering' first published in Crossways Literary Magazine, Cork, Ireland.
'Devils Will Come' first published in Chaleur Literary Magazine, Madison, New Jersey, USA.
'The Devil Rides Métro Line 4' first published in The Fiction Pool literary magazine, Taunton, in the good old United Kingdom. Fair play editor Jo Simmonds.
'One Fainting Robin' first published in The Bangalore Review (Literature & Arts Magazine), Bangalore, India.
'Monsieur Micheau’ first published in Blue Lake Review, Rochester, New York, USA. Fair play Mitchell Waldman, Fiction Editor.
‘The Devil’s Hand’ first published in Dime Show Review, Folsom, California, USA. Fair play Kae Sable, Editor in Chief.
'A Grey Sky Low Over Dark Water' first published in The Menteur, Paris, France. Issue 2019. (A Literary and Arts Magazine from the Paris School of Arts and Culture, Rue de Chevreuse, and affiliated to the University of Kent)
Thank you to Fiction Editor Hajar Woodland for the acceptance and kind work on the piece, and thank you to fellow Menteur editors Sinéad and Heather.
Story here: https://thementeur.com
'The Braided Cord' first published in Duck Lake Journal, Volume 2, Ocean Shores, Washington, USA.
Thank you to Editor ED Jay.
Journal here :
'Dino Toast' first published in the Spadina Literary Review, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Edition 32)
Thank you to Editor Ian Allaby for his brave acceptance and kind work on the piece.
'The God Particle' first published (forthcoming) in Pennsylvania English - Issue 40.2, Pennsylvania, in the good old USA.
'Tsunami' first published (forthcoming) in Glasgow Review of Books, Scotland.
'A Grey Slanted Evening' first published (forthcoming) in Passager Journal, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
'Millie and Me' first published (forthcoming) in Abstract Magazine Contemporary Expressions, USA.
"Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion."
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