Nuala Anne McGrail is almost more than any poor mortal man can handle without losing his sanity: her beauty causes shortness of breath in men of all ages, she's strong, she's smart, she's witty, she sings like an angel, and--to top it all off--she's psychic, or fey as they say in the Old Country.
But our man Dermot Michael Coyne, "accidental millionaire," part-time writer, and full-time worshiper of Nuala, seems to be bearing up pretty well in as much as Herself has consented to marry him.
Before that blissful day arrives, another one of Nuala's "spells" sends the pair on a hunt to find out what really happened to Al Capone's famous rival, Jimmy "Sweet Rolls" Sullivan. And as they've found in previous adventures, historic mysteries can often be too current for safety, and the dead should be left buried--wherever they are.
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Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.
Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.
Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.
Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.
Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.
1 "THERE'S SOMETHING wrong with that grave," Nuala Anne McGrail informed me. She was pointing an accusing right hand at a large monument with the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Mother presiding over a grave on which the family name "Sullivan" was carved. I had just helped her off the ground after she had made a sign of the cross to indicate that our period of devotion was over. That she accepted my help was typical of her present mood; normally she would have disdained my assistance and bounded up on her own. Nuala was the bounding kind of young woman. "Wrong?" I asked, dreading another manifestation of my affianced's notorious psychic intuitions. "Who was this man James Sullivan who died in 1927?" she demanded. It was a bleak Sunday in mid-September. Mother Nature had forgotten there ever was such a thing as summer and was settling in for an early and brief autumn, which she would follow with her favorite season in Chicago--endless winter. The lawns of Mount Carmel cemetery were already covered with a carpet of leaves. A chill northeast wind was shaking the trees and adding to the carpet. The dank smell of rain was in the air. A perfect day for a visit to a cemetery--and a perfectday for the dark mood into which the beauteous Nuala seemed to have sunk. "He was a bootlegger, Nuala. And a very successful one at that. The Italians called him Sweet Rolls Sullivan because he owned a bakery right across from the Cathedral. Where the parking lot is now." "Whatever in the world was a bootlegger, Dermot Michael?" Looking like a teenager, she was dressed in the standard utility uniform of young women--jeans, white Nike running shoes, and a dark blue sweatshirt, the last named in this instance representing one of my alma maters, Marquette University (from which at the end of my four years of college I did not depart with a degree). She wore no makeup and her long black hair was tied back in a brisk ponytail. None of these utilitarian measures affected in the least her radiant good looks. "A bootlegger," I explained, "was a man who smuggled whiskey." "To escape the tariffs?" She frowned at the offending gravestone. My beloved was the kind of beautiful woman at whom everyone turned to look, even in a cemetery. She was tall and her body was that of a lithe woman athlete. Her pale skin and glowing blue eyes hinted at an ancient Celtic goddess as did the twinkling of bells over the bogs in her voice. The first time I saw her, I thought of such womanly Celtic deities and came to learn that on occasion she could be at least as imperious as Brigid or Sionna or Bionna or one of those gorgeous and fearsome women. Naturally I promptly fell in love with her. It turned out that, although she had dismissed me the year before in O'Neill's pub down the street from Trinity College as a friggin' rich Yank, she had also fallen in love with me. By the way, if you want to pronounce her name correctly,it sounds like "Noola" with the double "o" stretched out and sounding like you had a bit of Dublin fog in your throat. "No, it was Prohibition time." Her frown deepened. "Well, then, whatever was Prohibition?" Ah, the innocence of the young. "There was a time, back in the nineteen twenties, when the Protestants in this country passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the possession or sale of alcoholic beverages." "You're having me on, Dermot," she insisted, huddling close, her arm around my waist. "There never was such a thing as prohibition in this country." When the Irish say "never" like that they are not so much denying the existence of the reality in question as they are expressing astonishment that such a reality could ever be. Naturally, I put my arm around her and held her tightly. In a couple of weeks this woman would be mine--and I would be hers--and I looked forward with passionate eagerness to that union. In all its manifestations. She was shivering as though it were December instead of mid-September. It wasn't that cold. "It's true," I said. "Obviously it didn't work. It was a foolish law, which almost everyone violated. The saloons were closed, but speakeasies as we called them opened everywhere. Jazz music came to Chicago to entertain the flappers and their dates while they drank bootlegged booze. The bootleggers made tons of money and of course risked their lives in wars with one another." "The Untouchables were real people then? I thought it was just a film." Naturally, being Irish, she pronounced that last word as "fillum." "Organized crime as we now have it in this country was the result of Prohibition." "This poor man was born in 1898," she said, cuddling even closer to me. "He lived only twenty-nine years." "The Italians were the most ruthless of all the bootleggers. They killed off everyone else. Killer Sullivan down there killed some of them, but they got him eventually." I knew these things only because my parents had told me about them when we passed the Sullivan grave site on our infrequent visits to the family plot at Mount Carmel. "His wife isn't buried here?" she asked. The gravestone told of one Marie Kavanaugh who had been born in 1908, but it gave no date of death. "She's still alive, I guess. She'd be in her late eighties now. They'd been married only a year and a half. I think she had a kid. I don't know whether the kid survives." "Almost seventy years of widowhood ... Dermot Michael, don't you ever do that to me." "I'm not a bootlegger," I said, resting my hand against her breast. She sighed contentedly. "Who killed the poor man?" "Capone." "Who was he?" "Nuala Anne, when you hear the name of Chicago of whom do you think?" "Michael Jordan," she said promptly, going through the required motion of a jump shot. "Who else?" I didn't say, "whom else?" I had learned a few things about women while courting this one. Probably not enough. "Well, before that, everyone said 'Al Capone' and made like they were firing an automatic weapon. He was the king of the bootleggers, the most successfulbecause he was the most brutal. A violent and vicious Sicilian.1" "Was he the one the Untouchables sent to prison because he didn't pay his taxes?" "He was." "Whatever happened to him?" "He had contracted syphilis before he went to prison. He died in his middle forties. His brain was so diseased at the end that he would sit in front of a tennis net and lob balls into it." She shivered again. "What horrible men!" "The drug gangs make them look like saints." "Tis true," she said with her monumental West of Ireland sigh. Since our engagement I had begun to wonder whether I had won myself a changeling. Normally an exuberant, not to say mercurial, and a contentious woman, Nuala had become quiet, serious and docile. "Tis a sacrament, now isn't it, Dermot Michael? And we should be serious about it." So that was why we had spent Friday and Saturday and much of Sunday at a retreat house in one of the western suburbs, praying, reflecting, and talking about our marriage. Nuala's relationship to the Deity was unusual. She "half" didn't believe in Him and professed to think that it was highly unlikely that any deity would care about someone as useless as she was. On the other hand she went to Mass almost every day, in case her agnosticism was wrong. Since our engagement, she had begun to tilt in the direction of belief. The signal of thistilt was her reference to God with the womanly pronoun. "Well, hasn't She acted like a good mother to me, Dermot Michael, and Herself sending a gorgeous fella like you to take care of me and love me and maybe fock me once a month or so?" "It's likely to be more frequent than that, Nuala Anne." "That will be as may be," she said with a giggle and a pat on my arm. I must say a word here about Nuala's use of obscenity and scatology. Like all the other Irish, who are superbly skilled at such usage, she meant no harm by it. It was merely one more exercise in Irish poetry and playfulness. And their own language having no such four-letter words! She never used any of the Anglo-Saxon words in the presence of my parents or, heaven save us all, in the presence of her parents or the little bishop. My brother George the Priest was a borderline case. In this story I'll use the verb "to frig" as a substitute for the most favorite of the Irish four-letter words. Much of the time Nuala herself would use the participle "friggin'" as part of her struggle to clean up her language so that she would sound like a "friggin' proper Yank." The reader can choose which times the word is my surrogate and which times it is hers. On some occasions, however, I will revert to the Anglo-Saxon vernacular when it is necessary to convey the full sense of the conversation. "I knew, Dermot," she had told me in the chapel at the retreat house, "the first moment you sat down across from me in O'Neill's pub that you were the nicest, sweetest, most tender young fella I would ever meet, and yourself a big handsome hunk besides. I said to meself that there's one like me own da and you'd better not let him get away. There were a couple of times when I thought you might get away, but you never did. She wouldn't let you." Nuala was a conniver and schemer from day one. But that was all right. So was Ma, as we called my grandmother. I knew that I was supposed to reply to her well-rehearsed candor, but I had no time for preparation. So I had to wing it. Well, there's no point in even pretending to be a writer if you can't wing it. "Nuala, my love, there was no chance of my ever getting away once I looked into those deep blue eyes o...
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Book Description Tor Books, 1998. Mass-market paperback. Book Condition: New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 384 p. Nuala Anne McGrail Novels (Paperback). Audience: General/trade. Bookseller Inventory # Alibris_0015053
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