An Irish Village

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Running with crows: a new novel based on the life of William Mitchell.

William Mitchell’s is not an instantly recognisable name; he was, in fact, the only Black and Tan executed for murder during the Irish War of Independence. The victim was Robert Dixon of Milltown, Dunlavin. Running with crows: the life and death of a Black and Tan is a recently-published novel by D. J. Kelly, which follows Mitchell’s life from his boyhood in Dublin’s infamous Monto, to his soldiering in the already-decaying British Raj and on to the horrors of the trenches of World War One, before joining the Black and Tans and returning to an enormously-changed Ireland.

Kelly evidently did much research into the period spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She skilfully recreates the atmosphere of the time, and her descriptions are utterly believable and not easily forgotten. She has also created very human, well-rounded characters – neither saints nor demons – and their actions are always understandable in the context of the story. It is a good story, very well crafted, and the reader cannot but feel a certain amount of sympathy for Mitchell, as his life story unfurls on the pages. This novel works very well at the human as well as the historical level. Mitchell was a man of his times, reacting to events of his times, in the best way he knew. It is suggested that his execution was actually a miscarriage of justice, as another man may have been responsible for the Milltown murder – but I will not give away the plot. I will, however, heartily recommend this book.

Running with crows is an excellently written novel, fast-paced and with a compelling storyline. It must be remembered that it is a historical novel rather than a history book – and as a historical novel, it works very well and deserves a wide readership. The book is an attractive and competitively-priced paperback of 284 pages and is available online at I congratulate the author and wish it every success.