Everyone has heard about the notorious crime families of Boston, but it turns out there’s much more to those stories–rooting all the way back to Ireland itself! Author D.L. McDermott shares some insight about the Irish folklore that inspired her Cold Iron series.
Working class Irish Boston. You think you know it from the movies: The Departed, The Town, Gone Baby Gone, Black Mass. Charlestown and Southie. Two rough and tumble peninsulas at opposite ends of genteel, historic Boston. But you only know half the story.
Back in the nineties, when those neighborhoods were just being gentrified, my husband and I tried to buy a house in Southie. I called six brokers and left messages, using my married name. I waited a week without a single call back. A guy from the loading dock at work told me to try again, only this time, to leave my maiden name: McDermott.
I got six calls back the same day, and spent a week being driven around Southie, looking at ramshackle Victorian houses with courtly old Irishmen in tweed caps. They plied me with questions trying to figure out if I was related to the McDermotts who owned the car dealership in Quincy or to those who ran the bar down the street.
If you’ve ever gone someplace you didn’t speak the language, where you were obviously an outsider, and just known the locals were talking about you, that’s Charlestown and Southie. You get the feeling that there is a hidden, secret world behind closed doors.
Spend some time in those neighborhoods and you might start to notice a few things. There’s no number 13 on most streets. When someone spills salt, he throws a pinch over his shoulder to ward off bad luck. The locals walk around, not under ladders.
And even among themselves, they never, ever talk about the fairies. Instead they say The Good Neighbors, The Fair Folk, The Beautiful People, because they aren’t talking about Tinkerbell.
They’re talking about the Aes Sidhe. The People of the Mounds. Tricky, beautiful, nearly immortal beings from myth and legend. The Lords and Ladies who abduct mortals, steal children, make treacherous bargains, and can only be killed by cold iron. The Fae.
Belief in the Fae was so strong in Ireland a hundred years ago that a middle class artisan in Tipperary named Michael Cleary became convinced that his high-strung wife had been abducted by fairies, and that the woman who slept in his bed every night was just a substitute—a magically animated stump of wood.
And it wasn’t only Michael Cleary who believed this. Bridget Cleary’s own father and six neighbors held her captive for two days. They tortured her, trying to drive the fairy spirit out and force the Sidhe to release the real Bridget. When that didn’t work, they set her on fire.
After they killed her, Michael camped out for three nights on the local fairy mound to wait for his wife’s return.
Michael Cleary was sentenced to twenty years hard labor and released in 1910, when he emigrated. Along with millions of other Irish immigrants, he brought his 19th century superstitions to twentieth century America.
But what if it wasn’t all superstition? At his trial, Michael Cleary insisted that he could prove the thing he burned wasn’t the real Bridget, because the corpse was three inches taller than his wife. His claim was never investigated.
What if Michael Cleary and the Irish were right all along and a race of supernatural creatures, ageless, amoral, beautiful and cruel, live alongside us in a secret, fragile state of truce?
That’s the idea behind the COLD IRON series. In it, the Irish crime families of the New World are really warring clans of Fae, and the heroines range from ordinary women to extraordinary descendants of the ancient enemies of the Sidhe, the Druids.
The latest installment features the leader of the Charlestown Fae and a very special Boston schoolteacher…
BLADE DANCE, the fourth installment of the Cold Iron Series, is on sale today from Pocket Star!