Lurgan-born Jack Leathem published a new book this week, continuing the magnificent adventures of Michael Dawson.
Released on Tuesday, The Beltane is the third instalment of Jack’s exciting series - entwining history and mystery to create an enthralling read.
“This has quite a historical aspect to it,” Jack explains. “The first book - The Four Tasks of Proteus - was set in a fantasy world, while the second - Blacker’s Wood - was set around this area and in Tandragee. In this latest book, the plot takes place around Newcastle and the Mournes.”
Having worked as a civil servant in various locations across the UK, Jack has spent his life encountering intriguing characters and stories which have helped to shape the novels he now writes.
“After studying at Lurgan College, I did my three years’ teaching at Stranmillis College,” Jack shares. “I then studied Economics at Queen’s University in Belfast - a subject as far away from literature as you could get!”
Jack’s broad spectrum of experience has served him well in the literary world and equipped him to adopt several genres:
“I had a thriller published in 2007 - it was called ‘Betrayal’ and went straight to Kindle. I’ve been writing for a long time, and it’s almost a bonus that the books are being published.”
The latest book to be published, The Beltane, follows 12 year old Michael Dawson and his friend, Squirt, as they spend a week by the Mournes. Michael is staying with his uncle Joe, but his trip takes an intriguing twist when he learns a dark family secret that dates back to 1649. A number of Irishmen who fought alongside Oliver Cromwell had acquired land from the slain Magennis brothers after the battle of Clonmel but, before the execution, the brothers cursed the Irishmen who had benefited from their land. When it is revealed that Michael’s uncle Joe is a direct descendant of the cursed family, Michael and Squirt must intervene to save Joe’s life.
“The appeal of this book is that anyone can read it, though it may be more suited to young adults,” Jack notes. Jack, himself, has always enjoyed reading, and credits his parents for encouraging his literary passion:
“I remember the first two books I ever read - they were Treasure Island and The Wind in the Willows. My father used to read them to us.”
Now living in Waringstown with his wife Maureen, Jack still plays a key role in Lurgan life: “I’m now the patron at Lurgan Rugby Football and Cricket Club - I haven’t lost my roots here.”
The Beltane can be purchased online at Amazon, and instore at Waterstones.