The History of Magpies

By: Desmond Hogan

Publication Date: 31 May 2017


Here are twelve scintillating fresh tales by one Desmond Hogan, of Ireland’s leading writers, who has extended and redefined the tradition of the Irish short story with inimitable verbal force. Embedded in Hogan’s uniquely glancing poetic style, they form capsule character studies and micro-histories of society’s underbelly, variously located in the streets and back alleys of Edinburgh, London, Zagreb, Cork, Dublin, and in the small rural townscape provinces: Kerry to Limerick, Kinsale, Athlone and beyond, each refracted in compressed jewels of painterly prose that explodes in kaleidoscopic bursts of colour and imagery.

These stories are vividly peopled by young homosexuals, Travellers and priests, borstal boys and joyriders, prisoners on remand, hostel dwellers, drinkers and addicts, artisans and the unemployed, and treat their marginalized lives with celebratory dispassion. The story titles alone speak for their milieu: ‘The Big River,’ ‘Café Remember,’ ‘Through the Town,’ “Brimstone Butterfly,’ ’Thornback Ray,’ ‘The Spindle Tree,’ ‘The Metlar,’ ‘Walking Through Truth Land,’ and ‘Famine Rain.’ Here is a writer at the top of his game, Desmond Hogan, documenting an Ireland where few have dared to tread.

‘I’ve lived in this place for three years after returning from England. There was an echo in the landscape at night that no one had patience with, a voice trying to tell you something, trying to tell a story.’ – From ‘The ‘Metlar’


Desmond Hogan was born in Ballinasloe, East Galway, in December 1950. He has published five novels: The Ikon Maker (1976),The Leaves on Grey (1980), A Curious Street (1984), A New Shirt (1986) and A Farewell to Prague (1995), as well as four books of stories: The Diamonds at the Bottom of the Sea (1979), Children of Lir (1981), The Mourning Thief (1987) and Lebanon Lodge (1988), published in the USA in 1989 under the title A Link with the River. His travel writings, The Edge of the City, appeared in 1993. In 1971 he won the Hennessy Award, and in 1977 the Rooney Prize for Literature. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1980 and was awarded a DAAD Fellowship in Berlin in 1991. In 1989 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Alabama, and in 1997 taught at the University of California, San Diego.

Review in The Irish Times.


Also available as an ebook

1 review for The History of Magpies

  1. Lilliput Press

    The immodest purpose of the true prose stylist is to build a cathedral in words. Clause by clause, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, the eaves are raised and the vaults are ceilinged, the pinnacles leap and the gargoyles howl, the nave is opened out. All of this must be hewn from the rough stones of the stylist’s wordhoard. Desmond Hogan in this book is writing at a very high pitch of ambition—he is trying to build the cathedral. The project is immense. – The Stinging Fly

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 216 × 316 mm


Publication Date

31 May 2017

Page Count


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