Dublin Press Re-Issues Paradise Alley

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John D. Sheridan’s classic 1945 novel ‘Paradise Alley’ has been published in a new edition.

East Wall based publisher, the Seven Towers Agency has re-issued the classic story of poverty and politics in a Docklands slum in the early 20th Century. Told from the point of view of a school teacher, the events of the novel take place during the pivotal months of the 1913 Lockout. Long out of print, the new edition represents a neglected voice in the city’s literature and history. In its day, ‘Paradise Alley’ was regarded as the direct predecessor of James Plunkett’s ‘Strumpet City’. Given its extended absence from the shelves of bookshops everywhere (even Amazon.com only has listings for second-hand first editions), this printing has a new introduction detailing the historical context of the story and providing documentary information on the author and the setting.

John D. Sheridan was an author of considerable renown in his day, probably best known for his regular column in the Irish Independent. A collection of these were issued in 1979, the year before his death, based on selections made by Gay Byrne who was an admirer. These saw print as ‘I Have Been Busy With Words: The Best of John D. Sheridan’. He also published a number of novels and poetry collections and a biography of the influential poet James Clarence Mangan. Alongside these achievements, Sheridan taught for six years at the National School on East Wall Road (now St. Joseph’s Co-Ed National School). His experiences there became the basis for ‘Paradise Alley’.
I wanted to know how Seven Towers had come across the book and what made them want to publish it? Sarah Lundberg, Managing Director of the Seven Towers Agency is co-writer of the introductory essay with historian Joe Mooney.

“Two former pupils of St Joseph’s School, Rita L’Estrange and Charlie O’Leary, were sharing their memories of the school with us. Charlie remembers Sheridan having been in his class briefly in infants and he told us about the book and that it was written about the school. So we investigated and found this to be the case. It was published as part of the celebration of East Wall in connection with Pride of Place 2012, an all-island celebration and competition that East Wall had won, selected by Dublin City Council.”

Was Paradise Alley well regarded at the time of its original release?
“It seems to have received only limited publicity, although it was reprinted on both sides of the Atlantic more than once so that would indicate it was favourably received. After ‘Strumpet City’ was published, some critics compared the two and said that ‘Strumpet City’ owed a debt to Sheridan. Contemporaries of his seemed to appreciate it too – Paddy Crosby, for instance, quoted it in his famous book ‘Around the Corner’.”

Has the Seven Towers edition done well? And are there any plans for more historical publications? “It has done well, and continues to do well. We’re looking at publishing more titles, either non-fiction, local history or out-of-print books. Our emphasis will be on local history, or that of an area, including an oral history of people still living. 2013 will see the publication of a short book on the Schoolboy Strike, as part of our Road to the Lockout event series. In September 1911, the pupils of St Joseph’s staged a strike. They demanded an end to caning, shorter school hours and free books and they had a chant to that effect. There was even a picket line.”
And lastly, what do you think the book has to offer a reader today?

“Well firstly, it is very well written so it’s simply enjoyable. There’s a little bit of nostalgia in there too. Secondly, it’s a very accurate depiction of the times and it’s always good for the current generation to know where they came from and how we got here.”