Akron native’s novel depicts
his family life in ‘Irish Scam’
J.D. McNamee’s book The Irish Scam is billed as a novel, but the chapters on growing up in Akron in the 1940s and ’50s clearly represent the author’s experiences. As a note in the preface reads, “there is a little bit of truth in fiction and a little bit of fiction in truth.”
In the Akron-set chapters, the narrator tells of his early family life near the Goodrich plant (though his father had a wartime job at Goodyear), where the street kids would scrounge change for the arcade at Summit Beach and wait for the ice man’s horse and wagon, picking up ice chips on hot summer days. “Dad” was a chronic alcoholic, but got sober by the time the family moved to Annadale Avenue, after the war’s end.
The alternating chapters, which follow one of the many trips to Ireland taken by the narrator and two of his college friends, may lean toward blarney. It’s 1979 and the boys — Mac, Shakey and the narrator — aren’t prepared for the tension they sense when crossing the border into Northern Ireland.
Their goals are simply to find pubs and drink in them, which proves easy enough. At the very first establishment they enter, they encounter a barman who trades drink for stories, and a customer whose basset hound subsists on Guinness.
The boys make such an impression that they are offered the amazing opportunity to win a “little-known, much-coveted award,” the Publican Pass: It will entitle them to free food, drink and lodgings anywhere in the country for the entire summer. All they have to do is pull off a world-class scam that will have all of Ireland talking.
A tense encounter with an English soldier in Ulster has the definite ring of truth. The “Irish Scam,” who knows? McNamee continues his Akron chapters with Central High School, where the football coach informed him he was on the team, his “single most life-changing event.” Many students never finished high school, aware that good-paying rubber company jobs awaited them, and McNamee credits his college education and eventual doctorate to his coach.
Though the descriptions of teenage life in Akron’s brick-streeted past are nostalgic pleasure, the payoff is McNamee’s tribute to the lifelong friendships he made in school.
The Irish Scam (222 pages, softcover) costs $13.99 from online retailers. J.D. McNamee now lives in Las Vegas.
A guide to lawyers
“It’s a certainty that someday in your life you will need the services of a lawyer.” Whether that’s true or not, retired attorney Tom Twyford thinks there are a lot of lousy lawyers out there, and his book Legal Ease: Your Essential Guide to Lawyers, Shysters and Ambulance Chasers is designed to help you understand how the profession works and how to avoid mistakes when dealing with a lawyer.
Including many very entertaining anecdotes, the frank and accessible guide includes chapters like “Why Most Cases Settle” (“Judges do not like trials. Judges love settlements”), and explanations of fees, retainers, small claims and representing oneself.
Legal Ease (165 pages, softcover) costs $7.99 from online retailers. Twyford wrote a 2009 memoir called The Son of a Boilermaker, about growing up in Steubenville.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere) — British author Sophie Hannah reads from and signs Kind of Cruel, seventh in her series of psychological thrillers featuring married police officers Charlotte “Charlie” Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, 7 p.m. Monday.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — Humorist and radio host Michael Perry talks about his book Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace, about an 82-year-old farmer who has an interstate highway running through his front yard, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Mogadore branch, 144 S. Cleveland Ave.) — Retired Kent State University professor David Ewbank talks about and signs his entertaining literary collection Fairy Tales for Adults, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive) — Tom Batiuk of Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean appears after the meeting of the Friends of the Strongsville Branch Library (membership $8, available at door), 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood branch, 25501 Shaker Blvd.) — Deanna R. Adams, author of Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story and nonfiction books about Cleveland’s music heritage, reads from and signs her work at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Hugo Award-winning author Geoffrey Landis, co-editor of Dwarf Stars, the annual collection of short poetry published by the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and contributors Holly Jensen, Dan Smith, J.E. Stanley and Mary A. Turzillo read from their work, 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday; award-winning poets Phil Metres (A Concordance of Leaves) and Philip Terman (Among the Scribes) read from their work at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — R.K. Avery of Macedonia signs her novel Not My Mother’s Son, about a man devoted to finding missing children who is arrested for murder, 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.