THE VIEW FROM SHANTY ROAD
Joseph P. Blanchette
The Irish influence on Boston is well known but Irish immigrants during the 19th century didn’t confine their activities in Massachusetts to the state’s largest city. The newcomers spread out far and wide and their skills and energy fired the growth and prosperity of towns all through Massachusetts and the Northeast. In his book, subtitled "An Irish Immigrant’s Look at Life in an Irish Mill Town, 1875-1938," Blanchette combines his writing with that of his great-grandfather, Peter Cassidy, a poet and songwriter known in his adopted hometown of Lawrence, Mass. as "The Shanty Pond Poet." Cassidy was not only a writer but a journalist and composer of songs. His work opens the page on a pivotal period in the story of the Irish in this country and his great-grandson draws the necessary link with the present. Shanty Pond Press, 350 No. Pasture Lane, Charlotte, VT 05445 (toll-free  853-2459 or email@example.com). 220 pp. $24.95.
THE IRISH-AMERICAN PUB QUIZ
The gift of the gab will take you only so far. The Irish have always enjoyed challenging each other in speech and a spinoff from that trait is a phenomenon that has become known as the Irish Pub Quiz. This is the Irish-American version. It even has a question asking which Irish-American newspaper "claims" to be the largest circulating one in the U.S. McAtasney is a careful quizmaster because he hedged the question. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. 160 pp. $9.95.
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LONG EXPECTANT COMES AT LAST
Cathal McConnell has three brothers who are journalists. Cathal, from Ballinaleck, Co. Fermanagh, decided to make a truly honest living and became a musician. This was a sensible move, particularly in the wake of his winning the All-Ireland championship in both flute and tin whistle. McConnell was a co-founder back in 1967 of the leading traditional group "The Boys of the Lough" and in the intervening years has also carved himself a fine reputation as an individual performer. In this CD, released by Compass Records, McConnell, joined by a clatter of well-known musicians and singers, devotes 14 of 19 tracks to his native Fermanagh and Ulster. Compass Records (firstname.lastname@example.org).
FORK IN THE ROAD
The Hamills, like the McConnells, are an Ulster-rooted family with a gift for words. Denis Hamill is a journalist and author of some renown in New York, but in his latest novel, Hamill sets his characters a hundred miles down the road in Dublin from his parents’ native city of Belfast. This is a love story, which one reviewer also described as " . . . a new genre: the slapstick tragedy." Pocket Books. 480 pp. $23.95.