Announcing the Brian Moore at 100 Read-along for 2021!

During 2021, I am delighted to be joining forces with the official Brian Moore at 100 team and the brilliant author Jan Carson to celebrate the work of one of Northern Ireland’s finest writers, Brian Moore, in his centenary year.

Belfast-born Brian Moore (1921 – 1999) is probably best known outside Ireland as the author of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, one of the few of his books still in print. He was described in the LA Times as “one of the few genuine masters of the contemporary novel” , was Graeme Greene’s favourite contemporary writer and wrote 26 novels over the space of 50 years. Writing in a variety of diverse genres he lived most of his adult life in Canada and the U.S. and his first four books were banned in his native Ireland.

He was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1975 and the inaugural Sunday Express Book of the Year award in 1987, and he was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times (in 1976, 1987 and 1990). Moore also wrote screenplays, including an outline for Hitchcock’s 1966 classic Torn Curtain and several of his books were made into films.

It’s quite astounding that a writer of such calibre, who had incredible critical and public success during his life should now be effectively out of print. In 2021, the centenary of Moore’s birth, the Brian Moore at 100 project aims to critically appraise, and thus revive scholarly and public interest in the work of this neglected and important writer.

Photo credit: DRB Images

I am delighted to be hosting this year long read-along of Brian Moore’s work. I will be reading one of his books each month and will discuss it in the last week of that month. Here are the 12 books we have selected as a great introduction to the work of this more versatile and under-appreciated of writers.

JanuaryLies of Silence (1999)
FebruaryThe Feast of Lupercal (1957)
MarchFergus (1970)
AprilThe Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne(1955)
MayThe Doctor’s Wife (1976)
JuneNo Other Life (1993)
JulyCold Heaven (1983)
AugustThe Temptation of Eileen Hughes (1981)
SeptemberThe Emperor of Icecream (1965)
OctoberThe Dear Departed: Short Stories (2020)
NovemberCatholics (1972)
DecemberThe Magician’s Wife (1997)

Throughout the year I will also be reading and reviewing Patricia Craig’s wonderful biography of Brian Moore, exploring his work writing for cinema, watching the film adaptations of his books and will be welcoming some special guests to the blog, including Turnpike Books, who have just published Moore’s Selected Stories.

I would love it if some of you could read-along with me, but I am aware it won’t be easy given that so much of Moore’s work is out of print. The Dear Departed and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne are still in print, while The Magician’s Wife, Catholics, Lies of Silence, No Other Life and The Doctor’s Wife are all available as eBooks.

Some brilliant bloggers have already reviewed The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne including Jacqui, Ali, Karen, Naomi, Kim at Reading Matters has reviewed Lies of Silence and Guy has reviewed The Feast of Lupercal, as has Jonathan. Brian Moore has also been championed by John Self over at Asylum who has reviewed 10 of his novels and by Lizzy who has also reviewed 10!

Most of his novels are still available from online second-hand sellers. I’d also love to hear from some of my Canadian bookish friends on how Moore is considered in his adopted country.

I do hope some of you can join me in the celebration of one of Ireland’s finest writers.

About Brian Moore

Belfast and Beyond: 1921-1948
Brian Moore was born in August 1921 into a middle-class Catholic family, the fourth of nine children, at Clifton Street in Belfast. An alumnus of St. Malachy’s College – thinly veiled as Ardath College in Moore’s second novel, The Feast of Lupercal (1957) – his weakness at mathematics thwarted efforts to matriculate at Queen’s University. In September 1940, he joined the Air Raid Precautions as a warden, a role that inspired the third of his “Belfast Trilogy” of novels, The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1965).

Moore was peripatetic during the years 1943 to 1948: after securing a job with the British Ministry of War Transport, he was posted to Algiers, Naples, Toulon and Marseilles; after the war, he was sent to Warsaw by his new employer, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. In January 1948, he followed his lover, Margaret Swanson, to her home country: Canada.

Montreal: 1948-1959
The relationship didn’t last but Moore stayed in Canada. He moved to Montreal and secured a position as proofreader, and eventually reporter, at the Montreal Gazette. By the early 1950s, Moore had begun selling fiction to the Montreal-based Weekend magazine. His first story, “Sassenach,” was published in the Canadian periodical Northern Review in 1951. He also supplemented his reporter’s income by publishing pulp novels for Harlequin Books: two of them, Wreath for a Redhead and The Executioners, appeared under his own name in 1951. (He left the Gazette in 1952). He eventually published five more pulp novels under the pseudonyms Bernard Mara and Michael Bryan (1954-57).

Moore married Jacqueline Sirois (née Scully) in February 1951 and the couple had a son, Michael, who was born not long after Moore became a Canadian citizen in November 1953. Around the same time, he was completing his first “literary” novel, Judith Hearne, set primarily in a boarding house on Camden Street in Belfast. After several rejections, he eventually placed it with André Deutsch in London, who brought it out in May 1955. He followed up with another Belfast-set novel, The Feast of Lupercal (1957).

New York * Belfast/London * New York: 1959-1965
In May 1959, Moore took up a Guggenheim Fellowship – which required him to live in the U.S. for a year – and never returned to Canada to live. (During the last years of his life, he and his wife spent summers at their holiday home near Port Medway in Nova Scotia). The Luck of Ginger Coffey, his only novel set entirely in Canada, came out in 1960 and was followed up by his New York-set An Answer from Limbo (1962). Moore’s first four (mainstream) novels were banned in Ireland.

California: 1965-1991
In the autumn of 1964, Moore left Jackie for Jean Russell (née Denney), whom he married in 1967. In March 1965, the couple relocated to Hollywood, where Moore was contracted to work on a film outline, which became Torn Curtain (1966), with Alfred Hitchcock. The Emperor of Ice-Cream came out later that year.

Brian and Jean in Malibu

The couple lived in California for the rest of Moore’s life: from 1966, this was in a house in Malibu, still occupied by Jean after Moore’s death, that burned down during the Woolsey fire in late 2018. During that time, Moore published fourteen more novels, including The Great Victorian Collection (1975), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Booker-shortlisted The Doctor’s Wife (1976), The Colour of Blood (1987) and Lies of Silence (1990). He taught creative writing at UCLA from 1973 to 1990 and was awarded an honourary degree from Queen’s University, Belfast in 1987.

Brian Moore died in 1999.

Brian Moore 100 Irish Literature Northern Exposure

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

85 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’m always impressed by your enthusiastic and detailed projects! Moore is almost completely unfamiliar to me, though I have heard of Judith Hearne. My public library has a copy of that, while the university library has most of his others, so I will certainly try at least one next year and will try to coincide with your schedule.


  2. What a marvelous project! I’m absolutely the worst at participating in reading challenges, but having read a couple of his books long ago I’d like to try to pick up another next year. He’s certainly an author that deserves championing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so upset now as I had all these books before I downsized and had to get rid of a lot, among them many of Brian’s. All I retained was the Judith Hearne, No Other Silence and Lies of Silence, so at least I have three on my shelves for the reading in 2021. Now. all I need is time for although Covid has kept me indoors I seem to have filled the time easily, and no extra reading hours were vouchsafed me. So, roll on January but I have Gabriel Byrne’s book, a Carl Hiassen and a Hakan Nesser to finish before I can pick up a Brian Moore. What a luxurious time I’m about to have!


    • Quite a few of mine are my late Daddy’s – he was a massive Moore fan (another reason I’m delighted to be hosting this one!). It’s so hard to keep books isn’t it? We are drowning in them at our house and I’m going to have to think of getting rid of some…


  4. What a fun project! And I enjoyed reading all about Brian Moore’s life. (I’ve read it before but he was so busy I can never keep it all straight.)
    I don’t know how the rest of Canada feels about him, but from what I have known about him, he’s considered a beloved Canadian writer. In fact, I was surprised when I first learned how few of his years he actually spent here. The best thing, though, is that he had a cottage in Port Medway – it’s beautiful there!
    I know I have a couple more of his books somewhere – I think one of them is Ginger Coffey, which would be fun to finally read!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve never heard of Brian Moore how can that be when he was so prolific and successful? and how can it be that so much of his work is out of print? incredible. Thank you for this introduction, I’ll be adding him to my reading next year and look forward to following your read-along!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane! He’s probably one of the most sucessful writers to come out of NI and yet he’s been largely forgotten. Judith Hearne is a modern classic, but so are so many of his other books. I do hope more readers discover him in his centenary year.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What an interesting project! Brian Moore is one of those wonderfully neglected writers whom I’ve always meant to get around to; this sounds like my chance! I have Judith Hearne, Catholics and the NYRB Classics edition of Moore’s Mangan Inheritance. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze one in, although I notice that Mangan isn’t on your schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I also thought Brian Moore was “just” Canadian until you opened my eyes. I’ve read Black Robe and I think it was assigned reading for some students here (not me, I just picked it up in a used bookstore.) It’s been many years since I read it, but I think it may be viewed as problematic today in terms of his depiction of Indigenous people. Getting some factual stuff wrong, and depicting them as “savages” etc which was probably pretty common at the time and persists today among white writers depicting Indigenous people in fiction. So I might just leave that one alone and try something else.

    Quite a few of these are available from my library, or maybe I’ll shell out for The Lonely Passion, as it comes in a nice New Canadian Library edition. I better make a note on my calendar!


  8. It is truly shocking to learn that he’s mostly out of print now! I’ve never read him but I will absolutely be joining you in reading The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne this year, at least to start with.


  9. I had not seen this until today. I was already planning to read Black Robe in January (for the Canadian Reading Challenge and because we recently bought a copy of the film adaptation). I will plan to read The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne in April (assuming I can get at copy), and maybe others.

    This is wonderful. All the information about Brian Moore, laying it out where he lived when and all the things he did. I may be interested in the biography also. I read a biography of Ross Macdonald in 2020 and enjoyed it immensely (partly because he lived in Santa Barbara).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I missed this until today. I’ve got a half-dozen or so Moores including one I haven’t read: The Color of Blood. I should read that!
    My edition is spelled American-style, even though it’s a McClelland & Stewart paperback. The biography does say he was living in California at the time…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the sound of this initiative and have noticed I can get a number of them from Germany as well, I was amazed to see how many were available in German translation, so Barbara’s comment makes sense. With all the problems of product crossing borders, I can only source from within Europe, so was delighted to find a stash of his novels in Germany! I wish the biography was available as an ebook at least.

    I think writer’s like Brian Moore, who called himself “the stateless wanderer” can fall between the cracks, not being strongly affiliated with a particular nationality/country, one of the reasons for falling out of print, all the more reason that he’s a great candidate for a group of Reader Angel’s to resurrect interest in his work.


  12. A wonderful way to celebrate a great writer. And Brian Moore was great. Until his death, he was my favourite living writer. I’ve read all his books, including the seven pulp novels, and Canada (the non-fiction work commissioned by Time-Life). In fact, I began my blog, The Dusty Bookcase, on the tenth anniversary of his passing with a review of his true first novel, the pulp Wreath for a Redhead (aka Sailor’s Leave).

    Despite winning two Governor Generals Awards, I don’t think Moore received the recognition he deserves in my native Canada – or elsewhere, really. Here’s hoping this celebration of his centenary changes that!

    I often think of Moore as a publisher’s nightmare. Each new novel was good, but was more than not unlike the one before. How to market? Is it any wonder that fan favourites are so different? The three Moore novels I most recommend are (in order):

    I Am Mary Dunne
    The Luck of Ginger Coffey
    An Answer from Limbo

    (And, if interested, the pulp novel I most recommend is Intent to Kill.)

    I also recommend Denis Sampson’s 1999 biography Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist.

    Thank you for this, Cathy!


    • It’s great to hear from you Brian – I think Lizzy SIddall had mentioned your blog to me, so to be fair, you’ve done a lot of the ground work here! I hadnt’t heard of that biography – thank you, I will check it out for sure!


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