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A tall tale from Sullivan old boy Kevin Smith

 

A tall tale from Sullivan old boy Kevin Smith


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Set against the backdrop of the First World War and the Easter Rising, it involves three young Trinity College friends on a foolhardy quest to the Arctic in search of the lost skeleton of an Irish giant.

‘Also along for the ride are a Suffragette, a bad-tempered Scottish sailor, and a very unattractive dog,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t go smoothly.’

One of the main characters in the novel is based on Kevin’s grandfather, who was in Dublin in 1916 studying to become a Presbyterian minister when the Rising broke out.

‘With the centenary looming I became curious about what he might have experienced at that time but, tragically, all his diaries went missing when he died, so this book was partly an attempt to create an alternative history for him,’ he says.

‘The Voyage of the Dolphin’ has been described as ‘P.G.Wodehouse meets Ernest Shackleton’ but it also pays homage to adventure stories by Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, and even Enid Blyton – ‘books that trigger the imagination when we’re young’.

Kevin, who worked in Belfast newspapers after studying English & Philosophy at Queen’s University, and later spent ten years as a Reuters correspondent in eastern Europe and Dublin, paid tribute to his English teacher at Sullivan.

‘Jenny Gibson was a great encouragement back then. She pushed me to write for my own pleasure, beyond the curriculum, and eventually it became a habit,’ he says. ‘She has a lot to answer for!’

‘Jammy Dodger’, Kevin’s first novel, a dark comedy set in late 1980s Belfast, drew much praise from critics and was nominated for the 2013 Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction.

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