Robert Buckley of Marion has parlayed retirement into a pretty good career as a writer.
“The Saga of Martin Shannon” (Irish Enterprises, 247 pages, $15) is the former advertising executive’s sixth book since entering his writer’s phase with “The Slave Tag” in 2011. This is his fourth novel; two of his books have chronicled his travels as a retiree.
But all six self-published books share a common trait. Buckley is a fine storyteller. He crafts characters a reader cares about — even when the main character is Robert Buckley world traveler. He’s grown as an author in the course of writing six books, constructing a more complete novel format now than he did in his earlier work. But the storytelling ability was there from the start, and it’s continued to flourish.
“The Saga of Martin Shannon” begins in post-potato famine Ireland, where 16-year-old Martin is poised to join the long list of youngsters shipped off to America by their parents in pursuit of a brighter future. He’s accompanied on the 1860 journey by Brennan Brogan, 21, and Brennan’s sister Mary, 15.
Brennan doesn’t survive the trip, so it becomes Martin’s responsibility to safely negotiate the rough passage and arrival in New York with Mary and wee lass Lily, who they’ve taken under their wings. They manage to make it to Chicago and settle in with Mary’s relatives while planning the last stage of the trek to Dubuque, Iowa, where Mary’s brother lives.
Life goes well in Dubuque until Martin is compelled to enlist in the 8th Iowa Volunteer Infantry for a six-month stint in the Civil War. Six months stretch to more, and Martin’s war experience — and more notably post-war experience — prove to be the meat of Buckley’s novel. He plots a well-crafted narrative that whisks the reader along, although he stretches the credulity of artistic license with a Voodoo element of the proceedings.
But nonetheless, Buckley offers his readers another most satisfying experience. It’s a quick read that offers a firm grasp on history and a delightful spin on the immigration experience.
The book is available as an ebook or in print format at amazon.com. Copies are available at Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids or from the author (autographed, firstname.lastname@example.org).