The cold case of the century

We are fiercely proud of Michael Collins here in Cork but just how far does the big man’s legacy travel beyond Irish borders?

French author Eric Marty first came to Ireland for its beautiful landscapes and to bask in the warmth and kindness of the Irish people. It didn’t take long, however, for the former journalist’s interest to be piqued by our country’s turbulent history.

In line with the centennial of Collins’ assassination, Eric has just released a novel telling the fictional story of Detective Brendan Murphy, a Dublin cop who is asked to reopen the investigation into the Corkman’s death, a century after the fatal bullet was fired.

“We came to Ireland for its landscapes and then we came back for its incredible history. I stayed there about 25 times before the pandemic. I feel at home in Ireland. Over time, I became interested in the period of the War of Independence and the Civil War and inevitably in one of its outstanding figures, Michael Collins,” says Eric.

He continues: “I used to say that his life is a novel. He was an incredible character. I was passionate about Neil Jordan's movie (‘Micheal Collins’) and then the biography written in France by Pierre Joannon. The way he gave his soul to Ireland is something that impressed me. In all modesty and like Liam Neeson, I can say that he is my hero.”

France’s history is not short of its own figures of rebellion and resistance and Eric says he can think of at least one example of a French fighter comparable to Collins in his life’s deeds.

“I would say Jean Moulin if I have to quote someone who marked the history of my country. If he had not been shot by the Germans, he might have had a national destiny after the war,” says Eric.

Jean Moulin was a French civil servant who served as the first President of the National Council of the Resistance during World War II before being tortured and killed by the German Gestapo. He is considered one of the heroes of the French Resistance.

Eric’s new book, ‘Cold Case à Béal na mBlah’, is based on real facts and extensive research carried out by the author.

“Murphy wanted a cold case and he was offered the cold case of the century: the reopening of the investigation into the death of Michael Collins. Once the surprise passes, he gets down to the task with his outspokenness and his humour. The book, I must point out, is written in the form of dialogues,” explains Eric.

And what if Collins had lived? How different a country would Ireland be today if the bullet had missed its mark and a young and determined Collins had continued in his quest for a united Ireland?

Eric says: “He would have been the true craftsman of the republic because it was his ultimate goal. Would he have had the vocation to become president? I do not know. In my opinion, it would have overshadowed Eamon de Valera, which was probably already the case before he was assassinated.”

Having worked for 26 years as a journalist with a focus on sports in his hometown of Narbonne in southern France, Eric is now channelling all of his passion into his novels.

Just last year he published his novel ‘Fitzroy Avenue’, telling of John-William Scott, a young boy killed when British forced stormed Croke Park and opened fire at the stands.

“I was overwhelmed by the story of this young boy who was killed on Bloody Sunday in Croke Park in 1920. I wondered how I could, in my own way, pay him tribute. My novel ‘Fitzroy Avenue', published in 2021, is dedicated to him. I must admit that I am quite proud to have done so,” Eric says.