Hamilton, Hugo 1953-

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Hamilton, Hugo 1953-


Born January 28, 1953, in Dublin, Ireland; son of Sean (an engineer) and Irmgard O'Urmoltaigh.


Home—County Dublin, Ireland. Agent—Charles Walker, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.


Freelance journalist in Dublin, Ireland; worked in the music business; University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania, lecturer in Irish literature, 1994-96; University of York, York, England, writer in residence, 1998.


Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, 1992.


Surrogate City, Faber (Boston, MA), 1990.

The Last Shot (novel), Faber (Boston, MA), 1991, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992, W.F. Howes (Leicester, England), 2006.

The Love Test, Faber (Boston, MA), 1995.

Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow, Faber (Boston, MA), 1996.

Headbanger, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1996.

Sad Bastard, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1998.

The Speckled People (memoir), Fourth Estate (London, England), 2003.

The Harbor Boys, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

The Sailor in the Wardrobe, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2006.

Contributor of stories to periodicals, including New Irish Writing and Irish Times.


Irish-born writer Hugo Hamilton began his career as a journalist, and has also worked in the music business, and as a lecturer in Irish literature and writing. His work is heavily influenced by his childhood in Dublin, where he grew up following World War II, the son of a German mother and Irish father, who instilled in him a hatred for Hitler and a love of the Irish language, respectively. In one of his earlier books, The Last Shot, Hamilton addresses the father/son dynamic, writing about a grown man searching for his father, who was lost during the war. The book tells two stories in alternating chapters, offering readers the story of the war-time romance of Bertha Sommer and Franz Kern, fleeing Czechoslovakia in 1945 shortly before the Russian invasion, and the story of their son, now a grown man, attempting to locate Franz many years later. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly acknowledged the commonality of this type of tale, but added that "rarely is it executed with the polish and depth exhibited here." The reviewer went on to call the book "a welcome hybrid: a page-turner that doesn't stint on literary ambition."

Hamilton introduces readers to Pat Coyne in his novel, Headbanger. Pat works as a policeman in Dublin, assigned to an uninspiring patrol where he deals primarily with low-level street thugs. The book follows his misadventures as he sets out to bust a pair of brothers involved in the drug trade, using his off-duty time to investigate. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "Hamilton's intimate approach to storytelling … brings readers deep inside Coyne's skewed world."

Sad Bastard continues the story of Pat Coyne, a man clearly plagued by misfortune. Newly separated from his wife, with son, Jimmy, prone to getting in trouble with the law, Coyne is also off work due to injuries sustained while on duty as a Dublin Garda. He occupies himself with trying to clear his son's name in relation to a murder investigation—a crime Jimmy seems unconcerned with—and harassing his ex in hopes of her taking him back. Kate Ayers, writing for Bookreporter.com, called the book "a melancholy look at dark Irish humor," and regarding Coyne's actions, added: "I guarantee you'll be nodding in agreement at some point, despite your best efforts to condemn most of what he does." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews opined: "It's the quirks of character … that prove most memorable."

In The Speckled People, a memoir, Hamilton offers readers a glimpse into his life growing up in Dublin in the 1950s. One overriding characteristic of his family life was his father's insistence that the entire family speak Irish in the home, effectively banning the use of English. Because his mother was German, Hamilton was raised knowing himself to be one of the "speckled people," meaning he was not of pure Irish descent. This, added to the anti-German sentiment following World War II, made him very aware of his background, and resulted in his frequent bullying at the hands of the neighborhood children. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "By turns lyrical and elegiac, this memoir is an absorbing record of a unique childhood and a vanishing heritage." A contributor for the Philadelphia Inquirer observed that "in telling the story of his childhood in the way that he has, Hugo Hamilton has told as well the story of all children, surrounded by people larger and more powerful than they, desperate to understand and perplexed often to the point of tears when those they look to for enlightenment grow cross with them."

Harbor Boys serves as a continuation of Hamilton's memoirs. In this book he addresses his teen years, still focusing on the disparity between his parents, but also looking at the religious strife in Ireland as he grew up, and, on a more personal note, tells of his cousin who disappeared while visiting them. Bob Cannon, in a review for Entertainment Weekly, found the book to be "a universal tale of a teenager's restlessness." A contributor for Publishers Weekly opined that parts of the book were a bit heavy, but remarked that "at his best, Hamilton writes with a wonderfully evocative feeling for character and landscape."



Hamilton, Hugo, The Speckled People, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2003.

Hamilton, Hugo, The Harbor Boys, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.


Biography, spring, 2003, Kate O'Mara, review of The Speckled People, p. 361; summer, 2006, Anakana Schofield, review of The Sailor in the Wardrobe, p. 521.

Booklist, June 1, 1992, Jane Jurgens, review of The Last Shot, p. 1745; May 1, 2003, June Sawyers, review of The Speckled People, p. 1566; October 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of The Harbor Boys, p. 18.

Entertainment Weekly, December 1, 2006, Bob Cannon, review of The Harbor Boys, p. 89.

Europe Intelligence Wire, January 28, 2006, "More Memories from a Speckled Childhood."

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of Sad Bastard, p. 1066; March 15, 2003, review of The Speckled People, p. 441; October 15, 2006, review of The Harbor Boys, p. 1056.

Library Journal, May 15, 1992, Brian Kenney, review of The Last Shot, p. 120; July 1, 2003, Denise J. Stankovics, review of The Speckled People, p. 96.

London Review of Books, March 23, 2006, "My Father Says," p. 26.

New Statesman & Society, February 24, 1995, review of The Love Test, p. 56.

New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1992, Tova Reich, review of The Last Shot, p. 37; November 4, 2001, Sia Michel, review of Sad Bastard, p. 32; June 8, 2003, "Lederhosen and Aran Sweaters," p. 11; December 7, 2003, review of The Speckled People, p. 80.

Philadelphia Inquirer, June 10, 2003, review of The Speckled People.

Publishers Weekly, March 23, 1992, review of The Last Shot, p. 59; May 7, 2001, review of Headbanger, p. 222; September 3, 2001, review of Sad Bastard, p. 64; April 21, 2003, review of The Speckled People, p. 51; September 18, 2006, review of Harbor Boys, p. 44.

Spectator, January 20, 1996, Patrick Skene Catling, review of Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow, p. 32; February 11, 2006, "Coming to Terms with the Old Man," p. 39.

Times Educational Supplement, October 4, 1991, review of The Last Shot, p. 30.

Times Literary Supplement, August 9, 1991, Michael Hofmann, review of The Last Shot, p. 25; January 20, 1995, Kathy O'Shaughnessy, review of The Love Test, p. 21; February 9, 1996, David Flusfeder, review of Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow, p. 24; March 21, 1997, Edward McBride, review of Headbanger, p. 23; September 26, 1997, "Finbar's Hotel," p. 23; October 9, 1998, C. Dallat, review of Sad Bastard, p. 25; February 14, 2003, "Irish Spoken Here," p. 9; February 10, 2006, "Mottled Fish," p. 29.

World of Hibernia, summer, 1997, Des Traynor, review of Headbanger.


BookLoons,http://bookloons.com/ (July 31, 2007), Mary Ann Smyth, review of The Speckled People.

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (July 31, 2007), Kate Ayers, review of Sad Bastard.

Clare Library,http://www.clarelibrary.ie/ (July 31, 2007), review of The Speckled People.

Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (January 25, 2003), Hermione Lee, "A Tale of Two Tongues," review of The Speckled People.

Northern River Echoes,http://www.echonews.com/ (June 3, 2003), Jeremy Fenton, "Word on Books" review of The Speckled People.

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