A KILLER tracking down the famous Camino de Santiago and kidnapping pilgrims for horrific ends, is the central character in a new novel written by Ennis man Anthony Galvin.
Author, actor and children’s entertainer, Anthony has a rich and varied life experience to draw upon for a series of detective novels set in distant and glamorous places. Already well known for his appearances which delight children across the country, the Cork resident has also spent over 20 winters in the Finnish Arctic, working closely with none other than Santa Claus. While detective writing may seem like a kind of departure from his “daily work”, Anthony sees it as an exploration of other aspects of his creative impulses. And this is certainly not his first foray into publishing. The gregarious man Banner has amassed a series of factual books, many of which focus on crime and history.
“About eight to ten years ago, I published a book that got me an agent,” he explained. “I have written a number of factual books and I really love the writing.” So much so that he is currently undertaking a writer’s challenge that involves accumulating a massive 50,000 words during the month of November. “It’s a national novel writing challenge and I have a friend who’s already recorded 30,000,” he said. “I haven’t hit my 50,000 yet, but I will.”
A rich imagination as well as a love of travel seem to be some of the key ingredients of The Truck Killer. The novel is part of the Eliot Locke series in which Anthony’s unlikely hero – a trained assassin – finds himself on the right side of the law hunting down a serial killer. The only condition is that he must bring the dreaded Camino Killer back alive.
Like Eliot, Anthony describes himself as “a committed atheist”, but the attraction of one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe captivates him nonetheless. “My friend Dermot Crosby and I take hiking vacations from time to time and have walked the French and Portuguese parts of the trail. I love the food, the company, the art, the scenery and the architecture. Every time I travel now, I am looking for a setting for my novels. Because of my knowledge of the Arctic in winter, I was able to use it in my writing. My job has helped me get to know all kinds of different people and I guess that’s something I bring to my books.
One of his next novels – which does not yet have a name – will be set in Moscow, a place that is particularly close to his heart. “I was traveling to Moscow in the fall of 2019, I met a wonderful woman from Dublin and now we are an item,” he said.
A stint in journalism also sharpened Anthony’s eye for storylines and characters. His account of the notorious Limerick murders, Blood in the Streets: A Deadly Limerick Tale, is not only a bestseller, but one of the most stolen Irish books of all time.
“I met a number of criminals in my day and I guess I got to see various aspects of their personalities,” he explained. “I am fascinated by what drives people to do what they do. My parents’ library would have had stories that included real killings from the 1800s. I found that intriguing because when people kill they are at their most extreme level. I guess that’s why I write detective novels and not romances. When I write about crooks, I really aim to make them more rounded characters and not just one-dimensional. “
The desire to write is certainly strong for Anthony. The first volume of his latest series has just been released. Entitled Dead or alive, it also explores the motivations of long-time criminals and those who pursue them. “Certainly in my early teens I knew what I would write, whatever I did for a living,” he said. “At one point, I thought about becoming an astronaut. I was a science nerd and did a degree in physics.
Anthony credits his late English teacher for inspiring the love of English. “At St Flannan’s College Hugh O’Dowd had a great influence,” he said. “I would have loved to have thanked him for that in person. He realized that I could write. After the Inter Cert, I took all the science subjects again and went back down to pass the English. Hugh walked into the passing class, took me out, and kicked me into his honorary English class. He actually gave me a homework waiver and made me write a weekly essay instead. He was truly a special man and made English fascinating. We were probably the only school to study paradise Lost. It wasn’t because it was on the program, but because it was beautiful, he said. His goal was to educate us, not just what was on the program. He made me a writer.
Another highly regarded and influential St Flannan’s teacher at this time was a man who would become Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh. “He was teaching math and had an absolute passion for it,” Anthony said. “The man loved math, and I had no ability for the subject, but I ended up loving him.”
This year has given Anthony more time to focus on his novels, as restrictions associated with the pandemic have impacted many schools and places where he would normally perform. “In the old days, being an artist was my job and writing was a hobby,” he noted. “Now writing is my job and entertaining is a hobby. “
To cope with a fairly busy release schedule that will see Anthony release a new title every two months for the current series, some discipline is clearly needed. “I tend to start writing around 9 pm and my first drafts are always done on an electric paperless typewriter,” he explained. “There are no distractions that way and I am not falling into the Google hole.”
With such travel experience, which includes an Arctic expedition undertaken two years ago, it is likely that Bill Bryson could have a new rival one of these fine days. “Travel writing is definitely on the agenda,” he said. “A lot of writing in this genre is very serious. I like what Bill Bryson does, because he makes it fun. I would like to bring the lighter side.
A fascination with history continues to inspire Anthony’s creative side, and on the day of our interview, he’s not just writing a play, but he’s hand-sewing a costume for the upcoming project.
This time his inspiration is the march of Dónal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, who on New Years Eve 1602 led 1000 women, men and children from the Beara Peninsula to Cork north of Leitrim in an attempt to join the clans North. and survive the onslaught of English forces.
“It was after the Battle of Kinsale,” Anthony explained, “and of the 1,000 people, only 35 survived.” Anthony captured the epic journey in a solo piece, titled In pursuit of the last prince. “He was the only Gaelic leader not to bow to the English. He was never forgiven and never forgiven. Next New Years Eve, subject to restrictions, I hope to walk from Glengarriff to Leitrim and perform the play at venues along the route.
The Camino Killer is slated to launch on December 5th.