Today we talk about Jack The almost true story of the Molly Maguires, a book by Jaclyn Maria Fowler published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Jaclyn Maria Fowler, to get to know her better, where she found the inspiration to write her book Jack The almost true story of the Molly Maguires, as well as what she wants to communicate to the readers with her work.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- Where did you find the inspiration to write this story?
The story that shaped and molded and impacted my life began almost 100 years before my birth in the same county and little anthracite towns where I grew up. The story had already shaped my father’s life and his father’s life before him. In fact, it had long had an effect on the lives of the many citizens of the coal regions even if they no longer could recall the inciting drama. The emotion remained and held sway over their lives. As the daughter of Irish Catholics and the granddaughter of miners, my life story became entangled with the men of the Molly Maguires. I was born in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, almost a hundred years after Jack Kehoe had lived in the same little towns where I grew up and went to school. The story of the Molly Maguires was always there, just under the surface, but left relatively untold. The fear of speaking up had been passed from generation to generation; it is still very much alive today. My father, also named Jack, was sensitive to the fear and looked for its genesis. He found it in the organizations he joined—the Elks Club and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, for example—where he met the sons and the grandsons of those accused of being Molly Maguires. Once my father found the story’s thread, he followed its trail like a man on a mission. To right the wrongs of the past, he believed the story needed to be told in all its sad detail. The story would also help release the descendants of the men who were wronged by the powerful; knowing and telling the story would, he believed, slowly replace generational fear with understanding. “Remember,” he told me, and together, we explored the physical spaces of the men who were known as the Molly Maguires to gain some type of spiritual and emotional release. As I wrote the book, I spent months and months going through the old court transcripts in the Schuylkill County courthouse, calling home to tell my father of each exciting discovery. When the folks in the courthouse knew me well enough, they brought out the rarely seen physical objects of the Molly Maguire past, including a gun used in a murder and the ropes that hanged the accused men, each neatly folder and labelled with the unfortunate wearer’s name. My connection to the Molly Maguire story is the frame for my book. It shows the generational connection of the story to the lives of those who live in the areas where the men accused of being Molly Maguires once lived. It is a tribute to my father—Jack—who helped free me from the fear born and bred in the little towns where I grew up, in the little towns where Jack Kehoe and lived and loved, worked and died.
- What are the crucial themes of your work?
At my father’s insistence that we remember the way it was, I began a lifelong journey to find the truth. This mixed-genre book is the result of years of research, storytelling, treasure-hunting, and the love of a father who had been branded by the ugliness of another’s past. Jack: The Almost True Story of the Molly Maguires is an homage to both my father, Jack, and to the “King of the Molly Maguires,” Jack Kehoe. One of the main themes of the book is how people work together to improve their lives; thus, labor unions have a starring role. In the case of the men who were part of the Molly Maguire story, they came together to build a new life. Many of the miners were immigrants, and they moved from barely eking out a living in the brutal anthracite mines to building an association that would fight for workers’ rights. In the late 1800s, a fledgeling union—The Workingman’s Benevolent Association—was founded in Schuylkill County. Begun by an Irish immigrant, it was a triumph. At least at first. The founder’s immigration status and country of origin and the other Irish Catholic immigrant labor organizers colored all Irish Catholic immigrants in the eyes of the rich and powerful of industrial America. While some band together to build better lives, there are others who work to tear them apart through dissension and division. Thus, injustice is another theme that runs through the book, especially the injustice meted out on the underserved and poor by the rich and powerful. The mythical Molly Maguires was a rag-tag group of mostly unaffiliated Irish transplant miners in 19th century Pennsylvania. To crush the fledgling labor unions they began, the power structure—coal barons and railroad magnates mostly—branded the Irish miners as villains, rogues, domestic terrorists. The money and influence of the powered elite brought about the demise of many innocent—or mostly innocent—immigrants and their labor unions. They used fear to scare citizens into compliance. Lives were ruined. Families were broken, and the land was scarred with division and hate. Generational trauma is, therefore, another of the themes. If we were savvy consumers of the world around us, we would notice, almost immediately, that time is not accountable to the constraints we place on it. In fact, the past is not relegated to the past, and the present does not hold dominion over its own supposed boundaries. Instead time moves unashamedly, undeterred back and forth; the epochs of the past crash into and interact with those of the present. As we live with the assumption that time behaves as we expect it to, we often miss the past’s intrusion into our present, we often miss its influence on our emotions and feelings, on the choices we make, on the associations we enter into, on the lives we lead. Our naiveté renders us ineffectual at shaping our own destinies, and we miss abundant opportunities to make significant changes to the direction of our lives. Writing the book about the Molly Maguires was my attempt to wrest back control of the narrative of my own life.
- What do you want to communicate to readers with this work?
This work has always been a labor of love that honors my father and his desire for justice, especially for those who came before him. It is a reminder of the cost of ugly and hateful rhetoric. Words are not without consequence, in other words. In the late 19th century in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it was the words of railroad magnates and mine owners that provoked anger and distrust against immigrants and their children, especially recently arrived Catholic immigrants from famine-ravaged Ireland. Using their newspaper mouthpieces, the men of means demonized the group, turning popular opinion against them. The conviviality through shared experiences of working-class neighbours broke down with the relentless pressure from the top, and neighbors began to suspect each other of foul deeds without evidence. It was then when the ugly rhetoric was followed by action. The men of means broke the backs of the young labor unions, and to take attention away from their vile need to crush any movement that might infringe upon their power and money, they refocused the population’s attention with a series of trials—spectacles, really—where human lives hung in the balance. In today’s society, we see the demonization of one group or another. In fact, today’s powerful use this type of hateful rhetoric to hold onto political power or firm up financial gain. It is an old story, one used to solidify status by pitting those without means against each other. Divide the majority to dissipate their potential power, in other words. Divide the majority to concentrate power and riches in the hands of the minority. We see it happening today despite the lessons from the past. It is important, therefore, that we pay attention to words. They can and do harm real people. Jack: The Almost True Story of the Molly Maguires is a reminder for us all.
- How was your publishing experience?
Although I have yet to see the book in print, the experience has been quite good. I was supported and listened to throughout the process. For example, when I offered an alternative to the cover, it was accepted with enthusiasm. In fact, I was a true partner in the process.
- Are you planning to write more books?
Absolutely. Writing is my passion. In fact, I have two completed self-published books: It is Myself that I Remake and No One Radiates Love Alone. I also have two completed manuscripts and another manuscript that is halfway finished, and I am just beginning the process of finding a publisher. The first completed manuscript is a historical novel entitled Today’s Rain Makes Tomorrow’s Whiskey. It is a well-researched book about Michael Collins, one of the chief architects of Irish independence from the British Empire. Collins carried out a guerrilla war against British agents and Irish informers from 1918-1922 when he was a delegate to the Peace Treaty negotiations in London; in fact, he faced off against Lloyd George and Winston Churchill and won Free State status for Ireland. Unfortunately, for some of his former colleagues, it wasn’t enough and Collins was killed by the men he trained and counted among his friends. To bring an authentic voice and critical eyes to the book about a hero of Ireland, I moved to the area in Ireland where he was born for almost 3 months as I wrote the book. The second completed manuscript is entitled 10,000 Things. It is a memoir in linked stories about my time living, working, and loving in the Middle East. At home, we were dealing with the rise of Trump, and it affected my every day as I worked in Dubai and lived in the little northern hamlet of Ras al Khaimah.
Europe Books thanks the author, Jaclyn Maria Fowler, once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside her on the editorial path that led to the publication of her book Jack The almost true story of the Molly Maguires. We wish her the best of luck for her future works.
To you, my readers, I hope the story here told will fascinate and intrigue you page after page, chapter after chapter; that your curiosity will be satisfied line after line. At the same time, it will give you food for thoughts to reflect upon and take inspiration from.
So, my dear reader, all I have to say is to enjoy your reading!