THE ZEAL OF THE CONVERT: The Life of Erskine Childers by Burke Wilkinson

THE ZEAL OF THE CONVERT: The Life of Erskine Childers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Published in 1976 in England, this is the first American publication of Wilkinson's vivid life of the Irish-loving English soldier-writer-traitor--or patriot--martyred by an Irish Free State firing squad in 1922 for his opposition to the division of Ireland. Neither Catholic nor practicing Protestant, though born (1870) into a Protestant family, Childers made Republicansim his great mystique and reason for being. His clear-minded, direct speech, while he was a clerk in the House of Commons and gradually became convinced of the need for Irish Home Rule, was shocking in its zeal, foresight and lack of anger. While visiting Boston, Childers met Molly Osgood, an invalid, whom he married and who became both his great love and--some said--his goad. After a year of soldiering on the veldt, Childers began a successful publishing career. His several books include a two-million-copy bestseller, The Riddle of the Sands, an exuberant classic of seafaring adventure and suspense about the beauty and mystery of the Frisian Islands. Today the author's legend--an English traitor gun-running for the Irish rebels and spending his last years on the run--lends a fabulous touch to his still-in-print cult novel. During the idyllic first decade of marriage, the Childers took up yachting--and eventually running guns from Belgium to Catholic rebels in the South of Ireland. After serving England in WW I, Childers found Home Rule dead and joined the Sinn Fein in Dublin to fight for Republicanism. He fought for the IRA in the civil war following the creation of the Irish Free State, and--ill, despairing, exhausted--was captured by the Irish Free State Government, court-martialed as a rebel and saboteur, and--purposefully misunderstood by the Anglo-Irish--shot for owning a pistol. Ironically, Childers' oldest son was elected president of Ireland in 1973, defeating the nephew of the man who had hunted down his father. Compelling, and quite moving in its final pages, this life also gives the reader some light into Ireland's present disastrous state.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Second Chance