Joy Martin is an Irish journalist and author. Born in Limerick, where she was educated at Laurel Hill Convent, her father was an English Protestant and her mother an Irish Catholic. As Ireland’s Assistant Land Commissioner, her great grandfather, John George O’Brien Kelly, a lawyer and agriculturalist, brokered the deal which gave tenants the right to purchase land over a 30-year period, turning him into a national hero. The O’Brien Kellys owned most of the land on the boundaries of Limerick and Clare and three Georgian manors, Moylish House, Clonmacken House and Fedamore House.
‘Living in a cottage on my grandfather’s land, I played in these houses as a child so, inevitably, tales of secret passages leading down to the river, illicit love affairs, murder, conspiracy and ghosts on the stairs found their way into my novels.’
Her first short story was published when she was still at school. She trained as a journalist on a local paper, The Limerick Weekly Echo, and subsequently worked as a reporter on The Evening Press, in Dublin, the Rand Daily Mail, in Johannesburg and for BBC Home News and World Service. While working for the Rand Daily Mail, she wrote Twelve Shades of Black, a series of interviews with men and women living in the rundown townships outside Johannesburg. The book incurred the wrath of pro-apartheid whites, but won a runner-up prize in the South African Literary Awards. A second book, Myth and Magic, explored the correlation between the sculpture and religious beliefs of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.
Her first novel, A Wrong to Sweeten, was commissioned by Weidenfeld and Nicolson on the basis of a precis and a draft of three chapters. The paperback rights were bought by Grafton Books, an imprint of HarperCollins and the book was launched as a lead title.
Her novels, both historical and contemporary, explore the theme of inherited evil and its capacity to weaken and corrupt the next generation. Personal wrongs are set against a background of political strife. In A Wrong to Sweeten, the story of a struggle within a family to lay claim to a great estate runs parallel to the Irish Land Wars of the 1880s. The Image of Laura, in which the discovery of a handcrafted desk threatens to expose the secret life of a famous woman photographer, dates back to the start of the Second World War and the brutality of the Nazi regime.
In Seeking Clemency a woman returns to Ireland after an absence of 30 years. Re-visiting the Georgian manor house in which she lived as a child, shards of memory begin to come back, leading to a painful discovery. A novel about suppressed memory set on the shores of Lough Derg.
Being Hanna – the novel she has just finished writing – not only tells the personal story of a young Swedish woman who is struggling to find herself in an alien environment, but also the effects of living in Cape Town during apartheid.
Joy Martin’s books are meticulously researched. Her prose is direct and uncomplicated and the imagery vivid, whether she is describing a hidden room in a Georgian house, a horse which has been trained to kill, fighting cockerels, or shards of memory which have been suppressed. Her protagonists are feisty women. She has little sympathy for victims. Her compassion is reserved for children; for gay men and women and for under-privileged people of all races and colours.
Joy Martin has two sons and three step-children. She lives with her husband in south-west France.
BOOKS BY JOY MARTIN
Now being republished by Endeavour Press UK on Amazon and available as paperbacks and ebooks.
- A Wrong to Sweeten
- A Heritage of Wrong
- Ulick’s Daughter
- The Moon is Red in April
- The Image of Laura
- Seeking Clemency
- Twelve Shades of Black