I’ve been a newspaperman for over 40 years – the last 25 at The New York Times. My interest in Irish rebel gunmen in America dates back to the 1970 Sean Connery film “The Molly Maguires” – my mother came from a long line of Irish-American coal miners, and grew up in the Pennsylvania township where the Molly Maguires were born. (Early in my research on my first first book, The Sons of Molly Maguire, I was trying to determine whether one ancestor might have ordered an attack on another ancestor.)
A fleeting comment in a review of The Sons of Molly Maguire led me to the amazing story of the IRA ambush of “Cruxy” O’Connor at Central Park in 1922.
I like historical research because it feels like investigative journalism (with a longer time frame) and because there are few things quite as thrilling as solving old mysteries.
I grew up outside Philadelphia in Ridley Park, Pa., one of the most heavily Irish towns in the United States, and graduated from Georgetown University. Before getting into the newspaper business, I worked as a printing pressman, sheet metal mechanic, union organizer, and congressional campaign aide. I now live outside New York City with my family, two cats, and about 500 books.