John Maher’s first home was in the workhouse outside the town where he now lives, in rural Ireland. In the pantry of the old dispensary where he lived with his parents, Tommies from the War of Independence has inscribed their names and regimental affiliations. It is this sort of mundane reality set against major events that interests him as a writer. Little lives upended by larger events. Along the way, living in London and Dublin, he has been a teacher, lectured in Middle Eastern Studies (Dublin and London), published four novels and a collection of short stories, and won several literary awards.
His novel, The Luck Penny (2007), set between Victorian London, post-famine Ireland and an imagined, academic Middle East, draws on his own studies and experiences and was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5. His doctoral thesis (SOAS), was published as Reactive Nationalism in the Irish, Israeli and Palestinian Novel (2012). He has taught in King’s College, London, as guest lecturer and visiting research fellow.
He was won the Francis McManus short story award with RTE and the PJ O’Connor Radio Play Award. Along with a number of bursaries, he has also won the Arts Council of Ireland’s highest award, the Lar Cassidy Memorial Award. He has had residencies at, among others, the prestigious McDowell Colony, New Hampshire.
Emerging, from time to time, to engage with other worlds, from his bogside dacha, he is currently completing a bio thriller which draws heavily on his own personal and academic encounters with the Middle East. It all started, many years ago, with a casual, chilling conversation in a slummy apartment, in Cairo. He fervently hopes the book is a work of fiction.