Books by Randy Lee Eickhoff

RANDY LEE EICKHOFF is one of only three veterans from a specially-trained unit of twenty-seven to return from the Vietnam War. He spent the first six months of the war with the Montagnards in the Vietnamese highlands, parachuting in with his team on speci

Released: July 1, 2004

"A good portrait of an age and a place as well as of a man, briskly narrated and engaging."
Eickhoff (The Red Branch Tales, 2003, etc.) lets Wild Bill Hickok tell his side of things. Read full book review >
THE RED BRANCH TALES by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: March 1, 2003

"Eickhoff's translations are fluid and easy, but this is a rarefied work that will appeal almost solely to scholars and serious Celtophiles."
New translations by veteran Celtic scholar Eickhoff (The Destruction of the Inn, 2001, etc.) of more than 30 early Irish tales and fragments. Read full book review >
THEN CAME CHRISTMAS by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"Nicely written—but talk about a Christmas carol."
Spellbinding translator of the Irish saga of the Ulster Cycle, Eickhoff also writes novels whose plots knot until they sweat (Fallon's Wake, 2000). Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

"Sprawling and wonderful, without a single hint of Irish sentimentality. (Notes, appendices, footnotes, and some verse translations side by side with the original eighth-century verse.) "
Fourth volume of Eickhoff's Ulster Cycle, begun with The Raid (1997). This installment is an informal translation of the Irish classic Togail Bruidne Dá Derga, now inflated with extra detail, sexual nuances, and booming voices in sometimes bawdy dialogue. Prose passages are often given wings by alternating with Eickhoff's rhymed, clear-spoken modern verse (terrific verse that may remind some of Seamus Heaney's brookwater Anglo-Saxon in his recent Beowulf). These mystical eruptions, which occur during druidic or visionary moments, suggest in the author's view that the inn destroyed is not a real inn but actually belongs in the Otherworld. Read full book review >
FALLON'S WAKE by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Three years ago IRA assassin Tomas Fallon retired from the killing business and settled into a small cottage on Long Woman's Grave. One rainy day two armed men arrive at his door. He disarms them handily and has them lead him to his beleaguered old IRA boss, Seamus MacCauley, who tells him of the Peace Accord about to be signed tomorrow but also shows him photos of dead children, including MacCauley's niece, tortured to death in a drug-traffic slaying. MacCauley wants Fallon to take out the smugglers. When three men from the rival Ulster Defense League try to assassinate him for all the UDL widows he piled up earlier, yet are themselves killed by the bomb meant for him, Fallon sees he won—t have a personal peace accord. Still, putting himself up against international criminals might bring one kind of peace and dissolve the dead he keeps under ice in his soul—if he's not betrayed. Eickhoff's cool, clear, unsentimental style keeps his plot knotted until it sweats. The Sorrows, the third volume in his marvelous trilogy The Ulster Cycle, about Cuchulain (The Raid, 1997, and The Feast, p. 255), will appear in March 2000. Read full book review >
THE FEAST by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: March 15, 1999

Historical storyteller Eickhoff turns out tight, compellingly grand novels, most recently the story of Cóchulainn, the greatest hero of Irish literature (The Raid, 1997), and, with coauthor Leonard C. Lewis, a masterful retelling of the life of Big Jim Bowie (Bowie, 1998). Now he returns to the Boy-Warrior Cóchulainn and picks up where The Raid left off. Like The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Raid and The Feast spring from bardic oral traditions dating back to 800 b.c., the Irish sagas having later been transcribed by monks. Eickhoff's recensions of the Ulster Cycle are taken from an 11th-century transcription containing the main stories of the cycle, including "Cattle Raid of Cooley" and "Bricriu's Feast" and telling of Iron Age Celtic culture as Cóchulainn's warriors fight for their rightful land. The best-known tales (many were lost) are about Cóchulainn's father, Conchobar, while others bear hints of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; the trickster Bricriu echoes the Norse trickster Loki. Eickhoff's translation from a nearly dead language offers a window into the past and reveals to Ireland today the values of its progenitors. Coming clearly through Eickhoff's his rolling periods is a raw sensuality suggesting that Irishmen in the dim past, like those today, could talk up a fearfully heady storm of words streaming with nose-catching rose-oil, all the while allowing for plenty of tugging and tumbling into rumpled sheets. A fine retelling of an ancient Irish saga. Read full book review >
BOWIE by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Masterful, realistic retelling of the Jim Bowie legend by Texans Eickhoff and Lewis. In his present effort with Lewis, Eickhoff (who retold the Cuchulainn legend in last year's The Raid) rebuilds the Bowie story in a brilliantly conceived series of interviews that captures the tone of frontier speech with what seems dead-on accuracy. Of Scottish ancestors who rode with Rob Roy, Big Jim Bowie (1790—1836) lent himself to dime-novel fabulization as an archetypal frontier hero only somewhat less fabulous than the Northwest's Paul Bunyan. Bowie's adventures include riding alligators in the swamps, hunting wild cattle with a knife, duels, Indian fights, lost treasure, and the designing of the Bowie knife (steel like a mirror, bronze the color of lightning). Before his death at the Alamo, he fulfilled one of his late wife's last requests, that he free his slaves. Thus the opening interview is with 98-year-old Black Sam, who tells of his 20 years with Bowie. This is done in black English as rich as Nigger Jim's and even more phonetically precise. The voice of Bowie's mother, Elve Ap-Catesby Jones Bowie, is captured with equal resourcefulness as she says of her son's death, —I—ll wager no wounds were found in his back.— Other interviewees are his brother, John Jones Bowie, the Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest, Sam Houston, and Caiaphas K. Ham, who fought with Bowie during the Texas War for Independence and stuck by him during his darkest depression and slide into alcoholism following the deaths of his wife and children. Going by one report, Bowie, sick and unable to rise, was slain in his bed, though a second report adds that he slew two Mexicans with his pistols and more with his knife before being killed. Grand and compelling. Read full book review >
THE RAID by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: March 17, 1997

The American author of a thriller set in Ireland (The Gombeen Man, 1992) retells the greatest Irish tale of them all, the mythical Tain—the greatest tale in the sense that, as with the Iliad and the Odyssey in Greek literature, all Irish literature descends from it. Also known as the Tain Bo Cualigne, and, in English, as The Cattle Raid of Cooley, the epic concerns the rise of a hero, Cuchulainn, whose forebears were gods, and who even as a child was a mighty warrior. The story opens with a comic argument between the king and queen of Connacht, a powerful province in ancient Ireland. As the two lie in bed after making love, they take an elaborate inventory of their holdings, which are absolutely equal except that King Ailill owns a massive bull with mythic procreative powers. Queen Maeve, jealous, learns of another such bull in the weak neighboring province of Ulster and musters her armies to capture him. Adventures galore take place on the march, and, in epic style, soldiers declaim on their prowess in battle and in bed (The Raid is remarkably graphic in its depictions both of killing and of lust). Although Eickhoff renders some passages in verse, for the most part he tries to give the great epic the form of a modern novel. It's episodic all the same, rather like one of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories. The chief barbarian here, of course, is mighty Cuchulainn, who with strength, valor, and magic almost single-handedly defends Ulster from the invading Connachtmen, saving the mythic bull and securing his own immortality. As Eickhoff points out in his fine introduction, ``Sinn Fein'' means ``ourselves alone.'' Against the invading British, that is. A seamless blend of scholarship and storytelling, though perhaps too specialized for a wide American audience. Read full book review >
THE GOMBEEN MAN by Randy Lee Eickhoff
Released: May 1, 1992

A second novel from Eickhoff (A Hand to Execute, 1987), this one about an American reporter who allows himself to be sucked into the shadowy politics of the IRA. Pulitzer Prize-winner Con Edwards got his first close look at The Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970's when the IRA's campaign of violence was at its bloodiest and British countermeasures were most repressive. Provided entree into the IRA by Conor Larkin, a poet and academician who was himself once an IRA warrior, Edwards found himself on the front lines of the undeclared civil war in Belfast and was even swept into a British prison along with Maeve Nolan, an attractive Catholic partisan. The brief prison spell was long enough to do in Edwards's journalistic objectivity. He was angry enough to participate in the successful effort to spring Maeve, who was held and brutalized for months by the British. At the end of the decade, Edwards returns for the funeral of the murdered Conor Larkin and takes up again with Maeve, Larkin's widow. The two begin a search to find Larkin's murderers and their motive—a search that takes them straight back to the tough men of the IRA and the realization that there is a traitor at the top of the organization, someone whose victims include the hope of peace for the island. Tight, unsentimental, and menacing Irish thriller by a thoroughly skillful American. Read full book review >