Martin, James Conroyd
Martin, James Conroyd
Education: Graduated from St. Ambrose University, 1969, and DePaul University.
Home—Chicago, IL. Office—Marian Catholic High School, 700 Ashland Ave., Chicago Heights, IL 60411-2073. E-mail—[email protected]
Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, IL, teacher and chair of English department.
Society of Midland Authors.
Push Not the River, self-published, 2001, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Against a Crimson Sky (sequel to Push Not the River,), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Push Not the River was published in Poland.
James Conroyd Martin, a high school English teacher, is the author of the critically acclaimed historical novel Push Not the River and its sequel Against a Crimson Sky. Success did not come easily, however; Martin spent more than two decades researching and writing Push Not the River before self-publishing the work in 2001. The idea for the novel came to the author in the mid-1970s, when a friend, John Stelnicki, convinced Martin to look at a diary that he had translated from the Polish; the diary belonged to one of Stelnicki's ancestors, Countess Anna Maria Berezowska. "With every page I was drawn back two hundred years into her incredibly exciting life," Martin told an interviewer on the Family Life Abroad Web site. "The obstacles in her personal life were as mythical as those facing Poland at that time, and so her story became a kind of metaphor for the country's story. It was only later, in my research, that I came to realize how phenomenal it was that the years of her personal struggles coincided so perfectly with the tumultuous years of the Third of May Constitution, one of Europe's first attempts at democracy."
Set against the backdrop of Poland's tumultuous political climate in the late eighteenth century, Push Not the River is a fictional account of Countess Anna's life. At the age of seventeen, Anna is orphaned and sent to live at the country estate of her aunt and uncle. There she meets and falls in love with a neighbor, Jan Stelnicki, earning the wrath of her manipulative cousin, Zofia, who has designs on Stelnicki. After Anna is brutally raped and becomes pregnant, she is forced into a loveless arranged marriage, separating her from Jan just as civil unrest threatens to tear the nation apart. "It was just amazing that Anna's own personal crises came at one of the most important crisis points in the Commonwealth of Poland," Martin told Suite101.com interviewer Wendy J. Dunn. "She ends her diary just as the country faces dissolution at the hands of its neighbors. From the start, besides the passing of a country's way of life, I saw in Anna's diary parallels to Gone with the Wind." The novel received generally strong reviews. Push Not the River "holds readers because of the cast of well-developed characters," observed Library Journal critic Kathy Piehl.
Against a Crimson Sky continues the story of Anna, Jan, and Zofia following Russia's invasion of Poland in 1794. While Anna and Jan reunite, marry, and raise a family, Zofia plots to secure herself a position of power among the aristocracy. When Jan leaves to fight for his country's independence with Napoleon's Polish allied forces, Anna joins Zofia in Warsaw. "Polish history buffs will be riveted," observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews, and a contributor in Publishers Weekly noted that "fans of historical romance will find much to enjoy in this sprawling epic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Against a Crimson Sky, p. 488.
Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Kathy Piehl, review of Push Not the River, p. 92; June 1, 2006, Kathy Piehl, review of Against a Crimson Sky, p. 108.
Publishers Weekly, August 4, 2003, review of Push Not the River, p. 55; May 1, 2006, review of Against a Crimson Sky, p. 338.
James Conroyd Martin Home Page,http://jamescmartin.com (December 15, 2006).
Family Life Abroad,http://www.familylifeabroad.com/interviewMartin.html (December 15, 2006), interview with James Conroyd Martin.
Suite101.com,http://www.suite101.com/ (December 15, 2006), Wendy J. Dunn, "James Conroyd Martin, Author of Push Not the River, Talks at Tudor England!"