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Dundalk man Mark secures international release for debut novel

Mark Mulholland, who is well known in Dundalk for his association with The Spirit Store and The Beer Keeper

Mark Mulholland, who is well known in Dundalk for his association with The Spirit Store and The Beer Keeper

A new novel set in Dundalk is set for an international release.

Award-winning Australian publisher Scribe Publications in Melbourne will launch the novel – A Mad and Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland – on March 3rd before it is published in London in May.

The Australian cover for Mark's debut book 'A Mad and Wonderful Thing'

The Australian cover for Mark’s debut book ‘A Mad and Wonderful Thing’

Dundalk-native Mark was the co-founder of The Spirit Store and former owner of The Beer Keeper (now The Bar Tender) in Park Street.

He has lived in France for the past 10 years but still used his hometown as a setting for his debut novel.

Set amongst the streetscape and hinterland of Dundalk, A Mad and Wonderful Thing is a story about cause, about why we do the things we do, about motivations and conflicts, about choices and costs.

The work is provoking debate and diverse reactions: pre-publicity releases have divided opinions and reviews.

“And that’s a good thing,” Mark says.

“My greatest fear was that no one would like it. Despite any pretension, there would have been a kind of humiliation in that. And my next greatest fear, oddly enough, was that everyone would like it, or, as they say in Ireland, call it ‘grand.’ Nothing of merit gets universal approval. Well, as it turns out, I had nothing to fear there.”

Australian book reviewer Elizabeth Harrington says: “I loved this book, but I think it will divide opinions. A Mad and Wonderful Thing is an unusual but wonderful read. I enjoyed it very much, and it will stay with me. Some, perhaps, won’t get it. Some will. That’s the beauty of literature.”

Sheila O’Reilly of Dulwich Books, the UK’s leading independent bookseller, says of the novel: ‘Super,’ ‘Wonderful,’ and ‘Love it.’

The novel has made the influential The Hoopla Hottest Books List for 2014.

And Faber & Faber, who are managing international sales, like the novel so much they are preparing a European launch in Shakespeare and Company in Paris, a place renowned in Irish literature as the original publisher and promoter of Ulysses by James Joyce. Shakespeare and Company is also associated with the early careers of Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, and F Scott Fitzgerald.

‘This is an unexpected, and somewhat intimidating, adventure for me,” Mark says.

The Australian Sunday Life magazine, with a readership of over one million, is carrying a major feature on the novel on Sunday 2nd March, the day before publication; and the influential Readings Monthly journal publishes a review and an interview with Mark in their March issue.
A Mad and Wonderful Thing was a long time in the making, Mark says.

“It needed to be to tell this tale in the round. It was years of work, and quiet living. But first novels, in any case, take time, and much of it was learning and finding my way. And, in the end, all it took to get a publishing deal was hard work, persistence, sacrifice, blood, and exile.”

And Mark adds, ‘That the work was acquired by such a renowned and respected publisher/editor as Henry Rosenbloom is simply a great thing to have happened. Henry has over forty years experience in the business and has an international reputation for publishing literature of quality and importance. Scribe — a multi-award winning publisher — is very selective about what it publishes and is well known, too, for producing beautiful work. I believe, together, we have produced something special. Time will tell. But from here, all things are possible.”

Excitement and anticipation is building Down Under as the novel attracts increasing attention in the build up to launch. Scribe is highly regarded in literary circles and has won the Australian Small Publisher of the Year in 2011, 2010, 2008, and 2006.

With a cast including a boy who is an apostle for the philosophies of 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 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,” Mark says, “the story of boys.”


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