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I lived in a small town in Ireland for six years and when I returned to the States in October of 1998 I started to read some of the letters a friend had saved, letters I had written to her during my stay in Ireland. On my fortieth birthday I sat down and began to write a book about the town and some of the characters I met there. It turned out to be what I suppose you'd call a romantic comedy, and I think people will fall as much in love with this little town and its warm, friendly, crazy, wonderful residents as I did.
Here's a quick synopsis and little peek at the prologue. Thanks for being interested, and if you know any editors, put in a good word for me, would ya?









Synopsis



When thirty-three year old Samantha left Las Vegas for Ireland she thought she was running away from home, little did she know that’s where she was running to.

Six years later she’s become like part of the furniture in Killarmon, which some call the world’s largest open-air lunatic asylum. Her life has finally settled down after far too much excitement– such as being tortured by the Wicked Witch and falling hard for the local heartbreaker. She’s got a job in the town laundry, a cozy flat, her faithful Jack Russell, Beavis… everything she wants. She’s also got a cute younger neighbor, Danny Murphy. One night on a chilly beach, after he’s had a few pints too many, he kisses her.

Her nice, quiet life could be gone forever.








Prologue



When I left for Ireland I thought I was running away from home. Little did I know that’s where I was running to. Pain and loss had driven me to leave everything familiar in hopes of closing down my heart for good, but Killarmon had other plans for me.
I was thirty-three, going on a hundred.


***

I stepped off the bus from Dublin on a crisp and sunny October day—the day before Halloween. Everything I had to my name for the next six months was stuffed into two large suitcases. The bus driver plonked my luggage down on the sidewalk.

“Can you tell me where the Seaview Hotel is, please?” I asked him. He grumbled something unintelligible and pointed up the street, then swung himself back onto the bus and promptly forgot I was alive. So much for Irish warmth and hospitality. For crying out loud, the country’s whole advertising campaign was based on their friendly people, so where the hell were they? From the minute my plane had touched down at the Dublin airport—grumpy customs people, a grumpy cabby, grumpy passengers and now this grumpy prick of a bus driver. Maybe they only had to be nice to you during the tourist season. I sighed, strapped the two cases to my little trolley and started the climb up the hill they call Main Street, in the direction my bus driver friend had pointed me.

I was in Ireland for a six-month break from reality. In the last few years I’d lost a few boyfriends, all of whom I was undoubtedly better off without, and two parents, who I was most certainly not better off without. I couldn’t feel anymore. I couldn’t care, so I decided to run away to a place where there was no one I had to pretend to care about. My best friend had told me all about his misspent youth in a small Irish coastal town, and I thought that would be as good a place as any to lose what was left of my mind.

Killarmon is squashed into the hillside on the Southeastern coast, close enough to Dublin to be a bedroom community, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a sleepy little village. Still, the town was busier than I would have expected for an off-season weekday afternoon, even a bright warm one like this, and there was almost a traffic jam on the narrow main street. I gawked like a geeky tourist at the startling combination of old and new. Old buildings, new businesses. A modern computer store next to a butcher’s with sides of pork hanging in the window. Old men in tweed caps who looked like they’d stepped out of a James Joyce novel, kids with pierced noses and spiky hair. But everything, even the modern parts, looked so…foreign. Funny enough. The shops along Main Street were painted in bright colors—green and yellow and red and marine blue, even pink. The cars all looked too small and were on the wrong side of the road. The street signs all had two names on them, English and Irish. After spending most of my life in a place where everyone else vacationed—Las Vegas—I finally knew what it felt like to be a tourist. I was surprised that I only got a few odd looks, but most people just smiled and said ‘Hiya’ as I passed. Until I came across Chrissy.

She came pelting across the street at me when I was about halfway to the Seaview; a tiny figure decked out in a snappy pink dress and cardigan ensemble, with violet colored hair and wearing more makeup than Barbara Cartland.

“Hiya!” she screeched. “I’m Chrissy Canovan. You’re a visitor here, aren’t ya?” Her voice sounded like someone braking hard, but still running over the cat.

“Yes, I’m…”

“I knowed the minute I saw youz, that there girl isn’t from Killarmon, although you have a bit of the Doyles about ya, so ya do. Not the Doyles from up Church Hill, the ones from out the Convent Road. You’re not belongin’ to them atall, are ya? Yer hair’s a lovely shade a red, what color did it used to be?” I was starting to wonder if I was still on the plane, having a nap and dreaming all of this. “That there’s me butcher, Leonard’s. He does lovely sausages, so he does. You haven’t missed many meals, have ya? You’re very healthy lookin’. Quarn short, though, God love ya.” I just pulled my trolley up the road, wondering when I was going to wake up. “Me daughter’s studyin’ to be a solicitor so she is, she’s in her second year at university!” Since Chrissy looked about ninety, I figured that either her daughter was quite a surprise (more like a miracle), was a very mature student, or—the most likely scenario—Chrissy’s memory was stuck somewhere in the 1960s. “Look at the way these bastards drive, isn’t it a fuckin’ disgrace.” Holy cow. I had never heard anyone’s grandma use that word before. I had landed on the other side of the rainbow, in Bizarro-Oz.

When we reached the top of Main Street and were standing in front of the Seaview Hotel she was still chatting away and it seemed rude to just leave her, but I didn’t want her to be my new best friend either. “Well,” I said to her, jumping into the fray, “this is where I was headed. Thanks very much for the conversation.”

“No problem, no problem atall,” she assured me. “Say—ya wouldn’t have a foiver you could give me a lend of, wouldya?” Good God. She was hitting me up for a handout.

Lucky for me I was rescued just then. A tall, thin man with gray hair and a carrot red moustache came bursting out the front door of the hotel. “Hey Chrissy—howrya this fine afternoon?” he hollered at her.

“Grand, Leo, just grand.” She poked her thumb at me. “Yer one’s a Doyle come over from America!” she shouted back, giving me instant relatives. I started to protest but she added, “She’s goin’ ta give me a foiver!”
“Now Chrissy,” Leo said, “you don’t be tormentin’ the tourists for money—you know you don’t need any more drink anyway. Go on home with you now.”

Chrissy, disgusted with both of us, made a face and darted off across Main Street, right in front of the garbage truck which had just pulled away from the curb. The poor driver screeched to a halt and one of the men on the crew shouted at her, “Goddam it Chrissy! You’re goin’ to give someone a cardiac!”

“Fuck off, ya humpy bastards!” She stormed off in search of easier prey.

The driver leaned out the window and shook his head. “Bloody mad old bitch, she’s goin’ to get someone kilt, so she is. Better not be me.”

“Thanks be to Jaysus she doesn’t drive any more,” the Shouter said. I had a good look at the crew and thought that if our garbage men back home had looked like a couple of these, women would have been delivering their trash out to the curb personally, even at four in the morning. Especially at four in the morning. In black lace nighties.

“Don’t let yer woman scare you, love—she’s really harmless, unless you’re a bottle of Jamison’s whiskey.” This one was a dark-haired boy who couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old and looked like he belonged in a soft drink ad. Our eyes met and he grinned at me, and I knew then why women all over the world kept falling for Irishmen. With a smile like that you’d almost forget that most of them were as useless as lipstick on a pig. “Careful there that you don’t catch a fly,” he told me.

I hadn’t realized that I was standing like an idiot with my mouth hanging open until noticed Leo was grinning at me too. “I’m Leo, I own this grand palace what you’re standin’ in front of. And you must be the Yank we’ve been waitin’ for.”

“What was your first clue, Leo,” the driver laughed. “The big pile of cases, the green anorak, or the gobsmacked look on her face?”

“So—are you?” Mr. Dark-Hair-Cute-Grin-Jailbait asked me. Huh?

“Am I what?”

“The Yank Leo’s been waitin’ for?”

“I…guess I am.” Unless there were droves of other Americans coming to stay for six months in the dead of winter.

“Samantha Somethinorother, is it?” Leo asked

“Yes, that’s right. I’m Samantha. Sam.” I knew I sounded like some badly programmed robot but I couldn’t get anything more intelligent to come out of my mouth at the moment. Jet lag maybe? Yeah, that was it, the jet lag.

“Samantha Sam? That must be quarn easy to remember,” deadpanned another garbage man. This one was older, but still cute. Lived-in cute.

“Janovitz, Sam Janovitz.”

“What part of Ireland is that name from?” Leo grinned at me.

“The Polish part,” I answered, giving him a look.

“Well Sam, welcome to Killarmon, I hope you have a nice holiday,” Jailbait said.

“Thanks.”

“Are you all on your own then?” Almost pathetically so, as a matter of fact.

“Um, yes.”

“You should come out to the pub tonight, there’s great craic to be had here at the Seaview of a weekend,” Leo said.

“You know—craic. C-R-A-I-C,” said Jailbait. “Atmosphere, good times. Fun?” I knew what craic was, dammit—hadn’t I read every guidebook I could get my hands on? “Don’t you ever have fun over in America?”

“No,” I retorted, suddenly irritated at being made fun of. “That’s why we all spend ridiculous amounts of money to come over here for two weeks a year.” They all laughed, and he gave me a touché look.

“Well, come on in, love, we’ve got your room all ready for you,” Leo said. Then he stopped and glanced up at a large statue that dominated the square at the top of the street—a noble looking fellow with one arm raised to the heavens, who also happened to be sporting a pair of gaudy striped boxer shorts on his head. “Would ya ever look at that? Poor old Billy Byrne died for his country and some bollox has gone and put a knickers on his head. It’s a fuckin’ disgrace.”

“Musta been after the football match,” another of the garbage men said. “How’d they get up there anyway without breakin’ their eejit necks?”

“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies, mate,” Jailbait said with a wink.

“Wonder if they’re ever goin’ to replace the poor auld fucker’s pike?” I squinted at Billy and saw that his upraised hand was indeed wrapped around some invisible object, making it almost look like he was trying to give a toast but someone had stolen his glass while he wasn’t looking.

“Sure, there’s another tax rise for ya if they did,” laughed Leo.

The garbage men laughed with him, then moved on up the road. Jailbait turned just as they were rounding a corner and shouted, “If I see you out, I’ll let you buy me a pint, Samantha Sam.”

Okay, this was not at all the way I had pictured Ireland. Despite Jon’s hair-raising tales, back home in Vegas, when I was devouring travel books and watching The Quiet Man for about the twentieth time, I thought I would spend my six months having tea in quaint little teashops and taking rejuvenating strolls down country lanes, maybe quietly discussing literature over a Guinness in front of the peat fire in an atmospheric pub, even though I couldn’t stand Guinness. Now I was starting to think that plan was blown to hell. And yet, there was something almost…comforting about it all. Suddenly I didn’t feel as out of place as I had for most of my life. Weird. Maybe it was the jet lag.

Leo grabbed my trolley and yanked it up the steps through the front door of the hotel. I decided that I wasn’t going to wake up after all, that, Bizarro World though it was, this was what was going to pass for my real life, at least for the immediate future, so I followed him into the lobby. Just inside the door I ran smack into a small wiry man in a leather jacket and Doc Marten boots. He had every hair shaved from his head. Well, I thought, here’s another interesting twist.

“Wahey!” the skinhead guy said, taking hold of my shoulders. “Who’s this now?” And he smiled at me. Another big shit-eating aren’t-I-adorable grin, even smarmier than Jailbait’s, and I thought then that the skinned head was probably a fashion affectation, not a political statement.

“I’m Sam,” I answered him. “I’m a tourist. Does it show?” He laughed, and leaned against the doorway, arms folded across his chest.

A man in cook’s whites came through a door in the far wall. “Leo! That fucker Dike Duffy has got himself into the kitchen again! I’m goin’ to skull him with a fryin’ pan!”

“Ah bugger it, the little bastard. I’ll be right back love, just hang on here for a bit. Mind her a minute there, will ya Robbie?” He followed the cook, leaving me alone with Bald Biker Man.

My new babysitter gave me the once-over. “So are you a Yank then? Here on holiday?”

“Yeah. Well—sort of. I’m staying for a few months.” He was still looking at me like I was a used car he was thinking about test driving.

“How the hell did you happen to pick a little shite-hole like Killarmon?” “I had a friend who used to visit here a lot.”

“Ah, sure, I’ll bet she made it sound like fuckin’ Brigadoon, didn’t she? I think you’ve an awful shock comin’, love.”

I decided not to tell him that my friend was a he, and he’d actually made it sound a lot more like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What I did say was, “Brigadoon’s in Scotland, isn’t it?”

“So you’re goin’ to be livin’ here, then?”

“For a while. I’m going to be renting an apartment on Main Street, but it isn’t ready yet.”

“And have you ever lived in Ireland before?”

“Nope. Never been here before, period.”

“Full stop,” he said.

“What?” The jet lag was getting worse, nothing was making any sense now.

“We’d say ‘full stop’, instead of ‘period.’ You’ll need to learn the language. Let me ask you this—would you know what I meant if I said the words ‘ESB meter’?”

I shook my head.

“Immersion heater?”

Another shake.

“Television license?” Did he say television license? What the hell was that for? Were they that hard to operate over here? “You’ve a quarn lot to learn, my little Yankee friend.” He grinned at me again, with those impossibly even white teeth. They looked like they could bite through an iron rod.

“Maybe I need a good teacher, then.” Oh man, who said that? It certainly couldn’t have been me.

“And I’m just the man for it,” he answered. He stared right into my eyes for several seconds which for some reason didn’t become uncomfortable, and I thought I could see something lurking deep in those eyes. Then I recognized it. It was Trouble. My old best friend. “I think you’re going to be great craic, Sam,” he said. “By the way, I’m Robbie. I’ve a farm up on the mountain just above town. You’ll have to come up sometime.” A farm? Jesus, if this guy was a farmer, I was afraid to think what the juvenile delinquents looked like.

“Um, sure, that would be nice. Thanks.”

“Well, darlin’—welcome to Killarmon, also known as the world’s largest open-air insane asylum. I hope you’ll enjoy your holiday.”

At that point, I thought there was a very good chance that I would enjoy parts of it quite a lot. For a little while, anyway.


Four to six weeks, if past relationships were anything to go by.




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