Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle
Born (1958-05-08) 8 May 1958
Dublin, Ireland
Occupation Novelist, dramatist, short story writer, screenwriter, teacher
Nationality Irish
Alma mater University College Dublin (UCD)
Subject Working-class Dublin
Notable works The Barrytown Trilogy, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, The Giggler Treatment, A Star Called Henry

Roddy Doyle (8 May 1958 is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. He was the author of ten novels for adults, eight books for children, seven plays and screenplays, and dozens of short stories. Several of his books have been made into films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. Doyle's work is set primarily in Ireland, especially working-class Dublin, and is notable for its heavy use of dialogue written in slang and Irish English dialect. Doyle was awarded the Booker Prize in 1993 for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Personal life and history

Doyle was born in Dublin and grew up in Kilbarrack, in a middle-class family.[1] His mother, Ita Bolger Doyle, was a first cousin of the short story writer Maeve Brennan.[2] Doyle graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College Dublin. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming a full-time writer in 1993.[3] His personal notes and work books reside at the National Library of Ireland.[4]

In addition to teaching, Doyle, along with Seán Love,[5] established a creative writing centre, "Fighting Words", which opened in Dublin in January 2009. It was inspired by a visit to his friend Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project in San Francisco.[6] He has also engaged in local causes, including signing a petition supporting journalist Suzanne Breen, who faced gaol for refusing to divulge her sources in court,[7] and joining a protest against an attempt by Dublin City Council to construct 9 ft-high barriers which would interfere with one of his favourite views.[8][9][10][11]

Doyle is an atheist.[12]


Doyle's writing is marked by heavy use of dialogue between characters, with little description or exposition.[13] His work is largely set in Ireland, with a focus on the lives of working-class Dubliners. Themes range from domestic and personal concerns to larger questions of Irish history.

Novels for adults

Doyle's first three novels, The Commitments (1987), The Snapper (1990) and The Van (1991) comprise The Barrytown Trilogy, a trilogy centred on the Rabbitte family. All three novels were made into successful films.

The Commitments is about a group of Dublin teenagers, led by Jimmy Rabbitte Jr., who decide to form a soul band in the tradition of Wilson Pickett. The novel was made into a film in 1991. The Snapper, made into a film in 1993, focuses on Jimmy's sister, Sharon, who becomes pregnant. She is determined to have the child but refuses to reveal the father's identity to her family. In The Van, which was shortlisted for the 1991 Booker Prize and made into a film in 1996, Jimmy Sr. is laid off, as is his friend Bimbo; the two buy a used fish and chips van and they go into business for themselves.

In 1993, Doyle published Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, winner of the 1993 Man Booker Prize, which showed the world as described, understood and misunderstood by a ten-year-old Dubliner living in 1968.

Doyle's next novel dealt with darker themes. The Woman Who Walked into Doors, published in 1996, is the story of a battered wife, narrated by the victim Paula Spencer; despite her husband's increasingly violent behaviour, she defends him, using the classic excuse "I walked into a door" to explain her bruises. Ten years later, the protagonist returned in Paula Spencer, published in 2006.

Doyle's most recent trilogy of adult novels is The Last Roundup series, which follows the adventures of protagonist Henry Smart through several decades. A Star Called Henry (published 1999) is the first book in the series, and tells the story of Henry Smart, an IRA assassin and 1916 Easter Rebellion fighter, from his birth in Dublin to his adulthood when he becomes a father. Oh, Play That Thing! (2004) continues Henry's story in 1924 America, beginning in the Lower East Side of New York City, where he catches the attention of local mobsters by hiring kids to carry his sandwich boards. He also goes to Chicago where he becomes a business partner with Louis Armstrong. The title is taken from a phrase that is shouted in one of Armstrong's songs, "Dippermouth Blues". In the final novel in the trilogy, The Dead Republic (published 2010), Henry collaborates on writing the script for a Hollywood film. He returns to Ireland and is offered work as the caretaker in a school, when circumstances lead to him re-establishing his link with the IRA.

Doyle's most recent books are the novella Two Pints (2012); The Guts (2013), which continues the story of the Rabbitte family from the Barrytown Trilogy, focusing on a 48-year-old Jimmy Rabbite and his diagnosis of bowel cancer[14] and Two More Pints (2014).

Novels for children

Doyle has also written many novels for children, including the "Rover Adventures" series,[15] which includes The Giggler Treatment (2000), Rover Saves Christmas (2001), and The Meanwhile Adventures (2004).

Other children's books include Not Just for Christmas (1999), Wilderness (2007), Her Mother's Face (2008), and A Greyhound of a Girl (2011).

Plays, screenplays, short stories and non-fiction

Doyle is also a prolific dramatist, composing four plays and two screenplays. His plays with the Passion Machine Theatre company include Brownbread (1987) and War (1989), directed by Paul Mercier with set and costume design by Anne Gately. designed by Later plays include The Woman Who Walked into Doors (2003); and a rewrite of The Playboy of the Western World (2007) with Bisi Adigun.

Screenplays include the television screenplay for Family (1994), which was a BBC/RTÉ serial and the forerunner of the 1996 novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors. Doyle also authored When Brendan Met Trudy (2000), which is a romance about a timid schoolteacher (Brendan) and a spunky thief (Trudy).

Doyle has written many short stories, several of which have been published in The New Yorker; they have also been compiled in two collections. The Deportees and Other Stories was published in 2007, while the collection Bullfighting was published in 2011. Doyle's story "New Boy" was adapted into a 2008 Academy Award-nominated short film directed by Steph Green.[16]

Rory and Ita (2002) is a work of non-fiction about Doyle's parents, based on interviews with them.[1]

The Commitments was adapted by Doyle for a manager stage show which began in the West End in 2013.[17]

Awards and honours

In popular culture

In the television series Father Ted, the character Father Dougal Maguire's unusual sudden use of (mild) profanities is blamed on his having "been reading those Roddy Doyle books again."


Short story collections
Uncollected short stories
  • "Recuperation" (2003)[21]
  • "The Slave"[22]
  • "Teaching" (2007)[23]
  • "The Dog" (2007)[24]
  • "Bullfighting" (2008)[25]
  • "The Child" (2004)[26]
  • "Sleep" (2008).[27]
  • "The Bandstand" (2009)[28]
  • "Ash" (2010)[29]
  • "Brilliant" (2011)[30]

  • Rory and Ita (2002) — About Doyle's parents.
  • The Second Half (2014) - memoirs of Roy Keane[31]
Children's books
  • The "Rover Adventures" series:
  • The Giggler Treatment (2000)
  • Rover Saves Christmas (2001)
  • The Meanwhile Adventures (2004)
  • Not Just for Christmas (1999)
  • Wilderness (2007)
  • Her Mother's Face (2008)
  • A Greyhound of a Girl


  • Brilliant


  1. 1 2 Sbrockey, Karen (Summer 1999). "Something of a hero: An interview with Roddy Doyle". Literary Review. 42 (4): 537–552.
  2. Angela Bourke, Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker, 2004, Counterpoint Books, New York.
  3. "The Times & The Sunday Times".
  4. Telford, Lyndsey (21 December 2011). "Seamus Heaney declutters home and donates personal notes to National Library". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  5. "The Work - Fighting Words Dublin".
  6. Fighting Words web site
  7. John Pilger and Roddy Doyle back journalist over Real IRA interviews. The Guardian (London). 8 June 2009.
  8. O'Regan, Mark. Roddy joins chorus of anger over flood barrier. Irish Independent. 17 October 2011.
  9. Nihill, Cian. Over 3,000 attend flood defence plan protest at Clontarf. The Irish Times. 17 October 2011.
  10. Clontarf residents protest over flood wall plans. 16 October 2011.
  11. Murphy, Cormac. 5,000 turn out with Roddy Doyle to fight 9ft flood wall. Evening Herald. 17 October 2011.
  12. Chilton, Martin. "Roddy Doyle interview". The Daily Telegraph. 22 September 2011. The 53-year-old Dubliner, who will be the headline performer at the start of the 10-day Telegraph Bath Festival of Children's Literature, said: "I'm an atheist so I suppose that was part of the challenge of writing about a ghost. Strictly speaking, I don't believe in anything.
  13. "Our experience of Barrytown and the people that live there is constructed through the interplay of language, as Doyle's texts consist primarily of dialogue between various characters with a minimum of narrative exposition." Matt McGuire (Spring 2006). "Dialect(ic) Nationalism?: The fiction of James Kelman and Roddy Doyle". Scottish Studies Review. 7 (1): 80–94.
  14. Tait, Theo (3 August 2013). "Still singing the old songs". The Guardian Review. London. p. 5.
  15. Roddy Doyle. (2012). In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from
  16. "New Boy". 27 February 2009 via IMDb.
  17. Brown, Mark (23 April 2013). "The Commitments West End". The Guardian. London.
  18. "Royal Society of Literature: People". Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  19. Roddy Doyle’s ‘The Guts’ named novel of the year Irish Times, 2013-11-27.
  20. Dundee, University of. "University To Honour Leading Figures : News".
  21. The New Yorker, 15 December 2003.Recuperation online text" (15 December 2003)
  22. Middle-aged man reads Cold Mountain and obsesses over a dead rat.
  23. Reflections of a spent, alcoholic teacher. The New Yorker, 2 April 2007. Teaching online text (2 April 2007)
  24. A man ponders the gradual erosion of his marriage. New Yorker, 5 November 2007.The Dog online text
  25. Four middle-aged friends from Ireland take a week's vacation in Spain and reflect on life. New Yorker, 28 April 2008. "Bullfighting online text"
  26. An insomniac is constantly plagued by intrusive visions of a boy. McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, 2004.
  27. A man admires his wife while she is sleeping, reflecting also on his life with her. The New Yorker, 20 October 2008, The Sunday Times, 15 February 2009."Sleep at the New Yorker" (20 October 2008), The Sunday Times online text
  28. A homeless Polish immigrant in Dublin comes to terms with money and his family. "San Francisco Panorama," 8 December 2009. Also, it was a work in progress published in monthly installments in Dublin immigrant magazine Metro Éireann, and recently Dublin immigrant magazine "Metro Eireann" web site
  29. "The New Yorker", 24 May 2010 online text
  30. March 2011 Brilliant written by Roddy Doyle for St. Patrick’s Festival Parade 2011 & Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Full text on Doyle's website (pdf)
  31. "Roddy Doyle: Keane was fantastic to work with right down to the proof-reading". The Score ( 2014-09-16. Retrieved 2014-10-09.

Further reading

External links

Works by Doyle
"The Photograph" (16 October 2006)
"The Joke" (29 November 2004)
Interviews and reviews
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