The biographer of Brendan Behan and the poet Oliver St. John Gogarty turns his congenial literary talents to that most drama-filled decade--the years immediately before and after the Easter Rising, when Ireland was ""changed utterly"" by the ballad singers and the gunmen. It is a pleasing, popular account, not the sort of thing scholars will wrangle over, studded with the poetic observations of Yeats, James Stephens, O'Casey, AE and Lady Gregory--all those who witnessed the bitter exaltation of this most romantic of nationalist wars. O'Connor eschews controversies and tactfully stops his story before the fraternal bloodletting of the Civil War. Indeed, he makes the stupidity of the British a key element in the success of the Irish rebels. The book will not replace Dorothy Macardle's The Irish Republic, still the standard source for these years of strife. Nor does it achieve that passionate fusion of art and politics which made William Irwin Thompson's The Imagination of an Insurrection (1972, paper) such an original work. But O'Connor provides appealing, highly personalized renditions of all the major episodes in the ten-year struggle--the pathos of James Connolly's execution, Casement's speech from the dock, Michael Collins leading the English a merry dance as he forged the first modern guerrilla army, and Yeats' letter of warning to Lord Haldane urging him to heed ""the extravagance of emotion which few Englishmen, accustomed to more objective habits of thought, can understand."" As true now as it was then.