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Developer Harry Crosbie is like Mark Twain, says Pulitzer winner

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High Praise: Pulitzer prize-winning author Richard Ford has hailed a book of short stories written by Harry Crosbie, pictured

High Praise: Pulitzer prize-winning author Richard Ford has hailed a book of short stories written by Harry Crosbie, pictured

High Praise: Pulitzer prize-winning author Richard Ford has hailed a book of short stories written by Harry Crosbie, pictured

Property developer Harry Crosbie has been compared to Mark Twain by a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist, after the Dubliner penned a book of short stories about life in Dublin in the 1960s.

American author Richard Ford heaped praise on Crosbie's first book, Undernose Farm, a collection of funny and poignant tales told from the perspective of a teenage boy working in Dublin's docklands.

Ford, whose novel Independence Day won a Pulitzer in 1996, said: "It'd be self-congratulating to say that if Crosbie the writer didn't exist we'd have to invent him. It'd also be hopeless because we couldn't do it. We couldn't manufacture a writer who knows all the weird, grainy and hilarious stuff Crosbie knows, and magically combines that with the civilised urge to set it all down for others' delectation."

Ford added: "Mark Twain was that sort of writer. Ring Lardner was. Nelson Algren... It's heartening to know Crosbie's is not yet a dying art."

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Crosbie said he began writing to pass time in lockdown: "I was stuck at home and bored and I hadn't enough to do and I don't like not working, so I said I would write a story just for fun. I loved it and it came pretty naturally, so I wrote another. Eventually, I showed them to publisher Anthony Farrell in Lilliput Press and he said 'they're really, really good' and that if I wrote a couple more he would have them published.

"They are written from the heart. They are the best I can do. But I hope there's a little bit of fun in there and a lot of old Dublin that people can recognise."

The book includes stories such as Eighteen and a half about a boy of "18 going on 12", says Crosbie.

"It's not me - I never touched drugs, you know that of course, but it's a funny story."

He also describes another tale, Give us Barabbas, as a "multi-layered joke" that centres on a charismatic man who worked in the docklands who was also "a complete toerag". Crosbie's favourite story, Tug, is a throwback to his days as a messenger for the captain of the local tug boats.

On his style of prose, he said: "I was afraid that it was very basic. I don't use big words and I was afraid people would think I might be a bit thick because it seemed to me to be so simple compared to other people's work, but my friend in Lilliput said 'that's not true, it just looks simple but it isn't'.

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"Whatever about the writing, the little hardback book is beautifully made and would make a lovely Christmas present. The entire proceeds will go to the Peter McVerry Trust.

"Due to Covid, it's only on sale in Cafe Bar H and on Lilliput's official website."

Meanwhile, Booker Prize-winning author John Banville has called Crosbie's tales "wonderfully direct and vivid". He said: "They are by turns rambunctious and touching, clear-eyed and accepting, warm though never sentimental, and frequently hilarious." He added: "Harry Crosbie has done his native city, and its natives, more than proud."

On dedicating the book to his wife Rita, Crosbie joked: "I did it because I love her - and if I didn't I'd be in the spare room."

He added that the response has encouraged him to put pen to paper again. "Now I've discovered I can write, I'm going to sit down and write a book next year." On whether it will be autobiographical, he said: "I couldn't possibly comment at this moment."


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