John Desmond Author Talk

Tuesday, October 227:00—8:30 PMGround Floor Community / Meeting RoomMain Branch401 Merrimack St., Lowell, MA, 01852

About the Book:

The number of evictions in Balinmore, Ireland is on the rise. Eamonn McDonagh feels that he must resist the English landlord who is responsible for the misery inflicted on the Irish people in his town, so he forms a secret society known as "The Black Thorn." He warns his oppressor that violence will erupt if he continues with the evictions, which he does, starting with the eviction of Eamonn's sister. Watching all the violence that ensues is McDonagh's ten year old son, Joseph, who is caught between the gentle example of his local priest and the violent actions of his father. So begins the story of "The Black Thorn." It is a tale that starts in Ireland in 1846 at the start of the potato blight. It takes Joseph McDonagh through the An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) and eventually, by way of one of the many "Coffin Ships," to America and into its vicious Civil War. It ends in the Schuylkill coal region of Pennsylvania in 1867 where Joseph is arrested and put on trial for the murder of a brutal mine boss, --- a murder that he didn't commit.

About the Author:

John Desmond was born in the old mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts. He spent time in the "Acre" section of that city where his mother's family lived. The "Acre" was a slum originally established as a neighborhood for Irish immigrants. As a young boy, he saw many poor people struggle to make ends meet, and, as a result, developed an empathy for the working man and woman who did the best they could to provide for their families.

Desmond attended a Catholic elementary school and then the city's public school system, graduating from Lowell High school in 1969. Not being able to afford high tuitions, Desmond is a product of the Massachusetts state college system and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History and a Master's degree in Education. He was later accepted into and completed two graduate studies at Harvard University. 

He taught History for thirty four years at Billerica Memorial High School in Massachusetts before trying his hand at writing. 

As a teacher, Desmond joined the local teachers' union and got involved in contract negotiations. It was during that time that he encountered an anti-union mentality that was disturbing to him, and which seems to have intensified in the present time. 

He also became alarmed at the animosity that has developed toward immigrants in this country. "It seems to me that many people of the United States need to be more aware of their history," said Desmond. "If they look back into our past, they will be reminded of the inhumane treatment that was visited upon immigrants and laborers in this country, possibly their own ancestors. We are making the same ugly mistakes today that we made in the 19th century. By looking at who we were, we can see who we are and, hopefully, bring about positive change. Immigrants and unions have made wonderful contributions to this society. Many people need to be shown what life was like for the average man, woman, and child in this country before our ancestors brought about all the reforms and benefits that we enjoy and take for granted today. This is why I wrote "The Black Thorn." 

Early reviews of "The Black Thorn" on Amazon have been excellent. Readers have commented on its relevance to today's ongoing social and political challenges, its readability, and its engaging, entertaining, story telling style. "The Black Thorn" has been praised for its historical accuracy, and compared by one reviewer to John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." 

Currently, Desmond lives in Andover, Massachusetts with his wife Cindy. He has two sons, John and Jeff, and five grandchildren. "The Black Thorn" is Desmond's first novel. 


Join us for an author talk, with Q&A afterwards. Limited books will be available for purchase with an author signing at the end of the evening. E-Book and paperback copies are available for purchase on as well as physical copies are for sale at the Andover Book Store on Main Street in Andover. 

Capacity: 54 of 60 spaces available.

Note: Registering more attendees than spaces available will automatically place your attendees on this event's wait list.

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