Patrick McGinley Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Each of Patrick McGinley’s novels explores the fortunes of modern Irish characters as they struggle with the burden of Ireland’s historical past and its always uncertain future. In most of the novels, rural Donegal provides the setting for an investigation not only of crime but also, and more important, of local language, customs, and folklore. McGinley’s intimate knowledge and appreciation of the Irish landscape and how it has profoundly influenced the lives of its inhabitants stand as his greatest strengths. His darkly comic vision and ironic manipulations of the conventions of the classic detective story lend a distinctive quality to his fictions. McGinley’s characters are much more than stock figures, and they speak in a ribald, original language that is captivating and unmistakably Irish.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Patrick McGinley is known primarily for his long fiction.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

From the outset, Patrick McGinley’s fiction enjoyed an enthusiastic reception from reviewers, particularly in the United States, where critics, inadequately acquainted with some of his background material, misleadingly drew attention to the work’s Irishness. Reviews in England and Ireland, though less generous, were generally favorable, if somewhat resistant to McGinley’s prolificity. McGinley’s first novel, Bogmail, was nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Novel of 1981, an award presented by the Mystery Writers of America.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Brown, Richard E. “Patrick McGinley’s Novels of Detection.” Colby Quarterly 33 (September, 1997): 209-222. Discusses McGinley’s mystery novels as parodies of the detective novel.

Cahalan, James M. The Irish Novel: A Critical History. Boston: Twayne, 1988. The concluding chapter of this study is a survey of modern Irish fiction, which provides a good sense of McGinley’s context. There are also stimulating, though necessarily brief, asides on McGinley’s works up to and including The Red Men.

Clissmann, Anne. Flann O’Brien: A Critical Introduction to His Writings. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1975. Chapters 2 and 3 of this work offer a useful means of assessing the imaginative terrain on which much of McGinley’s fiction rests.

Kenner, Hugh. “A Deep and Lasting Mayonnaise.” The New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1985, p. 20. A review of The Trick of the Ga Bolga by a very influential commentator on Irish literary themes. Many of McGinley’s interests and orientations are succinctly brought to the fore.

Knowles, Nancy. “Empty Rhetoric: Argument by Credibility in Patrick McGinley’s Bogmail.” English Language Notes 39 (March, 2002): 79-87. Comments on the postmodern, post-structuralist nature of McGinley’s representation of language as “empty,” an endless chain of signifiers chasing an elusive signified.

McGinley, Patrick. Interview by Jean W. Ross. In Contemporary Authors, edited by Susan M. Trosky. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. A wide-ranging response by McGinley to questions concerning his background, life as a writer, and writing methods.

Shea, Thomas F. “Patrick McGinley’s Appropriation of Cuchulainn: The Trick of the Ga Bolga (1985).” New Hibernia Review 5, no. 3 (Fall, 2001): 114-127. Looks at McGinley’s use of ancient Irish legend, employing analysis of changes in the original typescripts to discuss the evolution of McGinley’s novel and his creative process.

Shea, Thomas F. “Patrick McGinley’s Impressions of Flann O’Brien: The Devil’s Diary and At Swim-Two-Birds.” Twentieth Century Literature 40 (Summer, 1994): 272-281. Taking a cue from Hugo McSharry, the novelist-character in the work, Shea examines McGinley’s novel as a palimpsest, a parchment partially erased yet retaining traces of the original inscriptions, with the echoes of other writers, particularly Flann O’Brien.