One fine September morning 95 years ago, a small boy strolled across a bridge over the River Blackwater leading into a small town in rural Ireland. Suddenly, all hell broke loose around him as he was caught in the middle of one of the very first cross-fires between the Irish Volunteers and the British army. That boy was my father-in-law, Paddy Ryan. He told me all about this shoot out when I took him a good bottle of Irish whiskey and asked him what it was like to grow up during the struggle for Irish independence. A few years earlier, while hiding under a table in his uncle’s pub, he had also observed Michael Collins (or rather his boots) during a secret meeting. Collins was, in all probability, recruiting for the Easter rising.

As a family therapist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society, I already knew that all of us have secrets, and some of us have secret lives. Paddy certainly had both – my wife later discovered that he (and therefore she) had been using a false name for most of his (and her) life! His secret life was fascinating, but also typical of his generation, who experienced the war of independence, the great depression and world war two. The story of his life inspired me so much that that I blended it with other true stories into a novel that celebrates the lives of the children of Irish independence.

“Crossing the Water” has been described as ‘a masterpiece’ by Professor Alan Carr (University College, Dublin) and the public reviews on Amazon UK and US are equally positive (average score of 4.5 out of 5). The UK Amazon link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0992848539 and there is a virtual inspection copy at http://makripress.com/our-titles/crossing-the-water/inspection-copy/ .

As a way of celebrating Paddy’s unique life, the 95th anniversary of the dawning of the struggle for Irish Independence, and my life in psychology, the Kindle version of this book is now available.




I was lucky enough to be interviewed recently about ‘Crossing the Water’ by Stephen Patrick Clare, the editor of Celtic Life International, a major North American magazine. His questions helped me to define what had inspired the book (see ‘interviews‘ on this website for a transcript).

My generation (and that of my children, and hopefully their children) are very lucky, living in times of relative peace, prosperity and stability. But right through my life, I have had jaw-dropping moments listening to what the two generations before me went through to make our world what it is. They were all modest, often reluctant to tell you what they’d been through in their childhood, through the great depression, and the Second World War. They would tell their stories in a matter-of fact way, as if it was nothing, and you’d be thinking, my God… so, a whole series of jaw-dropping moments inspired “Crossing the Water”.  And all of them are true stories, some from my family and other true stories taken from oral histories of those times.

From a British and North American perspective, that ‘special generation’ is the one whose sacrifice kept us free in World War Two. From an Irish perspective, that generation were children at the time that Ireland won the War of Independence. The tragedy for Ireland was that so many of that generation were lost, forced to leave their homeland in the aftermath of the civil war and what followed. Imagining the details of life for that generation was at times very moving and left me overwhelmed with respect for what they had endured.

So the book is an elegy to that special and lost generation; I like to think of it as action-packed Irish version of Midnight’s Children…


The biggest puzzle for a new author is deceptively simple; how do you get the public to read your book, especially if you are publishing with an unknown ‘indie’ publishing house? A simple puzzle? No way. Better to give a chimpanzee a Rubik’s cube and start your stop-watch…

As I thought this one over I found it useful to imagine a conversation between fictional characters; in my case, between Edmund Blackadder and his medieval whipping-boy and servant Baldrick. “Well, Baldrick, help me out here.”

To which Baldrick gives his stock reply…   “I have a cunning plan, sire…”

“And are you confident of success, Baldrick?”

“Not immediately, sire, you may have to wait a while…”

“And exactly how long will I have to wait, Baldrick: until the introduction of universal secondary education?”

“That will help, sire. But mainly you’ll have to wait for the evidence.”

“Evidence, Baldrick, evidence? What evidence, precisely?”

“Evidence that your book is worth reading, sire.”

At which point, Blackadder picks up Baldrick by his throat, and demands, “Then what?”

Punctuated by choking noises, the reply is “You have to use that evidence to challenge people to read your book. Ask them, who wants to discover a great read? Given the evidence in favour of the book, what have they got to lose by having a look at it?”


Expert and media reviews

Professor Alan Carr, University College Dublin:  “A coming of age novel with a difference… what makes this an exceptionally memorable novel is his empathy for his characters and his thoughtful storytelling … a masterpiece.”

Anita Atkinson, Editor, The Weardale Gazette:  “The advertising blurb cannot do it justice. This is the most gripping and memorable story I have read…I thoroughly recommend it to everyone.”

Chris Lloyd, the Northern Echo:  “…weaves a dramatic story from his wife’s family, about the strange secrets of life during the Irish troubles, with other exciting tales from the second world war era…”

John Foster, BBC Radio Tees:  “…an amazing book… a fascinating story”

Elizabeth Taylor, Librarian: A great read for book groups.”

Public reviews on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com: As a reader, I trust the average score and the content of public reviews as much as than the critics. The average public amazon rating combining 32 reviews from UK and US sites is over 4.6 out of 5, which is quite exceptional. The numbers are small, of course, but as a stats expert I’d argue that is quite enough for a reliable sample.    

Reading groups: The book has also been given approval and praise by reading groups in the UK and the USA, with libraries in UK & Ireland buying bulk orders.

Media recognition: There have been six articles connected with the book in regional UK newspapers, an interview on BBC local radio, and an article in a Peshawar (Pakistan) newspaper (where part of the story is set). The author has recently been interviewed by Celtic Life international, a major North American magazine for Irish and Scottish émigrés. The range of material on this site hopefully speaks for itself.

My own history as an author: Deep down I was always drawn to story-telling. Psychology made me better at seeing the world through other peoples’ eyes, at understanding odd personalities, and describing the ups and downs of relationships. Writing non-fiction gave me the skills you need for a long novel. In therapy I helped other people to tell their own stories and then used other stories to help them see themselves and their worlds in a different way. Stories are very influential; the best way to de-glorify war for young people is to make a class read ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ or watch the opening half hour of ‘Saving Private Ryan’.     

The publisher: This new publishing company has established itself as a supplier to the main UK book wholesalers and also to Booknest of Sligo, in Ireland. 

So, what have YOU got to lose by having a look at it? 

‘Crossing the water’ crosses the big water

Well, it’s happened, The ship that sailed some time ago when I sat down to write the story of the Irish ‘children of independence’ has passed the statue of liberty and arrived in port. The book is now officially on sale in America (and virtually worldwide) thanks to Amazon. Love them or hate them, these titanic multinational companies have certainly changed our lives.

Mind you, the last time I had a book published in America (when I was a psychologist) it didn’t go well. After publicising the book by speaking at two international conferences, the publisher was hit by one of the first financial crises just as the book came out. There was a small print run  in the US but distribution became difficult and it proved very difficult to get hold of, especially in Europe. So I spent some time apologising over the phone to irritated professors from various European cities. It then took several years to get the rights back from the publisher – he had relocated to Florida, and eventually filed for bankruptcy. No, I’m not making this up. And second hand copies are offered at a crazy price on amazon because of their rarity…

Times are very different now. One or two copies of the UK edition had already found their way across, presumably bought by tourists who had crossed the water and taken it home, then put reviews on the US site. Thanks to those wonderful people, whoever you are.

US paperback link

US kindle link

What other people say about ‘Crossing the Water…’

Professor Alan Carr, University College Dublin: “A coming of age novel with a difference… ‘Crossing the Water’ begins against the backdrop of the Irish civil war when two boys are caught in an incident which will change their lives forever. They take different paths, but their lives remain linked in distinctive ways as a tale of friendship and conflict, loyalty and emigration, love and war unfolds. The novel spans three continents (Europe, America and India) and three decades (1919-1946) during which the central characters and their families experience the joys of life but also struggle with the realities of separation, trauma and loss. Ian’s background as a clinical psychologist informs his descriptions of both the problems that befall his characters and their resilience and coping methods. However, what makes this an exceptionally memorable novel is his empathy for his characters and his thoughtful storytelling … a masterpiece.”

Chris LLoyd, the Northern Echo: “weaves a dramatic story from his wife’s family, about the murderous machinations and strange secrets of life during the Irish troubles, with other exciting tales from the second world war era…

Anita Atkinson, Editor, The Weardale Gazette: “The most gripping and memorable story I have read…I thoroughly recommend it to everyone…

John Foster, BBC Radio Tees: “An amazing book… a fascinating story

Elizabeth Taylor, Librarian: “Describes the journey of two Irish lads from the trouble torn Ireland of the 1920s to the end of the Second World War; plus, the decisions they must make in loyalty and love. A great read for book groups.