Peter Cunningham

1947- (occas. pseud. “Peter Lauder” and later “Peter Wilben”); b. Dublin, son of architect and gs. of an Australian called McIntyre who married his m. gm. in Ireland, 1919; brought up in Waterford city; educ. Waterpark School, Glenstal Abbey School, and UCD (English); worked as accountant and commodities trader in Dublin; runner on New York stock-market, and food-trader in Paris; commodities broker in London; played piano in restaurants; farmer; sugar-importer in Ireland; submitted a story written on holidays in Portugal to David Marcus’s ‘New Irish Writing’ (The Irish Press), 1979; Noble Lord (1983), a thriller, written on holidays, and published pseudonymously as Peter Lauder;
further thrillers All Risks Mortality (1987), The Snow Bees (q.d.), The Bear’s Requiem (1989), and Hostile Bid (1991) - all for Michael Joseph; suffered the death of a son and namesake in road accident, 1990; wrote Who Trespass Against Us (1993), in which high-ranking British civil servant loses a daughter to an IRA bomb; followed by Tapes of the River Delta (1995, pb. 1996) and Flesh and Blood (1996); moved to Harvill; Consequences of the Heart (1998), part of the Monument series of historical novels set in 20th c. Waterford; published by Harvill; acts as Irish Independent columnist;
issued The Taoiseach (2003), with title-character Harry Messenger based on Charles Haughey; issued The Sea and the Silence (2008), the story of a loveless marriage and a secret in a declining Anglo-Irish family in the Monument series and winner of Prix de l’Europe in 2013; Capital Sins (2010), a satirical novel about the Irish financial collapse; winner of the Cecil Day-Lewis Bursary Award, 2011; he lives in Co. Kildare, nr. Prosperous; married to Carol, a Jungian analyst, with whom six children; he suffered the loss of a son; member of Aosdána; The Trout (2016), a novel of clerical sexual abuse and evil hiding in plain sight, was launched by Thomas McCarthy in Hodges Figgis on 31 Aug. 2016. DIW

There is a Peter Cunningham website - online.

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Fiction, All Risks Mortality (London: Michael Joseph, 1987), 303pp., and Do. (London: Sphere 1988), 339pp. [also Magna Big Print 1989]; The Bear’s Requiem (London: Michael Joseph 1989), 336pp.; Hostile Bid (London: Michael Joseph 1991), 320pp.; Who Trespass Against Us (London: Centuary 1993); Consequences of the Heart (1998), 310p.; The Taoiseach [Power at Whatever the Cost] ([London]: Hodder Headline Ireland 2003), 368pp.; The Sea and the Silence (Dublin: New Island Press 2008), 250pp.; Capital Sins (Dublin: New Island 2010), q.pp.; [Many in the Joe Grace Thriller Series.]

Historical series: The Sea and The Silence, Tapes of the River Delta, Consequences of the Heart and Love in One Edition - a chronicle of early-20th century family lives in Monument, a fictional counterpart of Waterford.

Miscellaneous, ‘Tales for the Fireside’, review of David Marcus, ed., Irish Christmas Stories (Bloomsbury 1995); Interview in Books Ireland, Feb. 1999; review of Patrick Quigley, Borderlands, and John F. Deane, Free Range [prose], in Irish Times (2 July 1994); ‘One for the Road, Peter Cunningham watched some Cork road bowlers in action’ (Irish Times, 15 Aug. 1995); ‘Rogue genes: Unlocking a family secret’, in Dublin Review (Autumn 2007), q.p. [personal history].

Also ‘You see a loophole, we Irish see an opportunity: The Emerald Isle uses such incentives to create jobs and obtain an edge, writes Peter Cunningham’, in Financial Times [NY] (14 Oct. 2014) - see attached.

Contrib. “Irishman’s Diary” [on General O’Duffy], in The Irish Times (28 Jan. 2006) [concerning murder of postman Larry Griffin at Stradbally, 25 Dec. 1929, and questionable role of the Irish Garda, under O’Duffy.]

Also Sister Caravaggio (Dublin: Liberties Press 2014) - a ‘crime caper’ with Maeve Binchy, Neil Doherty, Cormac Millar, Eilis Ní Dhuibhne, Mary O’Donnell and Peter Sheridan, devised by Cunningham. [Trans. into Turkish in 2017.]

The Trout: Fishing for the truth of clerical abuse’, in The Irish Times (18 Aug. 2016)
‘I decided to tell the story of a monstrous crime that takes place, almost casually, at a time of suppressed consciousness in Ireland’
‘[...] As adults, we all know the moments when we suddenly smell something, or taste something, or see or hear something, and for the tiniest second a memory floats up from our deep unconscious. It’s like a spark from a deep, deep cave. But we can’t grasp it, can’t keep it – and then it’s gone, just as our dreams defy our attempts to hold on to them. We are left with a feeling that we have just encountered something which we know intimately – that is part of us – and yet we don’t know what it is. We know it, yet we don’t know it.
In some cases – and this is what happens in The Trout – that tiny memory is so strong that it governs us. It can even terrify us. Alex, a man in late middle age, has been assailed by such flashes of memory all his adult life. His memory is horrifying. Alex thinks that as a young boy he murdered someone. But he does not know who, or why, or when.
Denying that what we see is actually happening.
I decided to tell the story of a monstrous crime that takes place, almost casually, at a time of suppressed consciousness in Ireland. I set The Trout in the beautiful hinterland of my own south-east, in the midst of rivers and hills, streams and valleys I know so well, in a simple place populated by good people whose knowledge – whose consciousness of the truth – lies submerged deep beneath the surface. It remains there for decades, until one day, against all the odds, it bursts upwards out of the depths and into the daylight, where it hangs, dazzling, refusing to be ignored any more, like a beautiful, shimmering trout.
(Available online; accessed 18.11.2016.)

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Kevin Myers, ‘Irishman’s Diary’ (Irish Times, 10 Aug. 1995), treats of Cunningham under subheadings, ‘Fine Novelist’, ‘largely Ignored’, ‘Completely Fictional’ and remarks, Tales of the River Delta [1995] is true to the reality of Waterford’.


... His fiction is distinguished by its fusing of political material with psychological realism and a lyrical sensitivity to place and people. ...

—Available online; accessed 18.11.2016.

Gregory Dart, review of Peter Cunningham, Love in One Edition (Harvill), 295pp.; concerns Kaiser, orphan of mysterious origin and currently maintenance man at Monument Gazette, in an Irish villages, the scene of love and obssession; co-narrator Jasmin, a young archivist who finds evidence linking him with the fate of the Penders, owners of the paper; her research brings up past crimes in Monument; Kaiser finally prints a rogue issue of the paper in an attempt to set the record straight; Quotes, ‘Thrust back upon only the sum of my own net resources, I discovered a dislike for myself which I assumed had always been there but which now, its hiding palce stripped bare by circumstances, was starkly obvious. I gorged on narcotics and palyed with the idea of the last great engorgement; but a residual sense of duty, it must have been for I can think of nothing else, held me back. I began wondering if I might have been better off never having met Jasmine, a thought that provoked a fresh spiral of despair, for my life seemed to be a succession of tragedies and the fact that love had once played a big part in it now seemed a cruel fabrication.’ Remarks: ‘as a thriller it works rather well … unforuntate preference for describing rather than demonstrating most evident in depiction of the two major characters’; ‘stilted’ language and ‘strange lack of conviction’; uninterested in the way the characters and their stories ‘express themselves in small town life.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 16 March 2001, p.23.)

Mary Leland, review of Peter Cunningham, Love in One Edition (Harvill), in The Irish Times (24 March 2001): the novel is set in Monument [Co. Waterford], in which Jasmine falls in love with the half-deaf handyman Kaiser and engages on excavation of his social past; ingredients include mental hospital as both refuge and penitentiary, close-mouthed local knowingness and conflict with the newspaper proprietor Boss Pender; reviewer crticises stylistic vagaries and complex time-frame but concedes that ‘once the clues to this cryptic crossword are understood and the lexicon established, the difficulties are forgiven and the tale is all.’

Sue Leonard, reviewing The Taoiseach, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2004), quotes: ‘People’s eyes shone for Taoiseach Messenger. Even those who would rather eat dirt than vote for him underwent a change in his presence. Women melted and their husband’s eyes shone. […] they had been willingly seduced by power, many of them without even knowing it.’ (Leonard, p.14.)

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Sue Leonard, reviewing Capital Sins, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2010): ‘Take one builder; a man so obsessed with the acquisition of - well, everything really - that he has ceased to enjoy anything that his wealth brings. Give him a violently temperamental trophy wife; an alcoholic father in law, who just happens to be Minister for Infrastructural Development; ally him with a megalomaniac banker, and wait for the structure to implode. It’s 2006, and the height of the boom. Albert Barr is constructing Goose Point; Dublin’s biggest and most extreme development to date. It’s billed as a paradise, but there are problems; the land starts to flood and more millions must be poured in. This causes the hypochondriac builder headaches (he thinks he has a brain tumour) but thanks to his friends in high places, it’s nothing that he can’t get bulldozed through.’ Leonard cites characters Fergus O’Dowd, Head of Risk (who gets the last laugh); Medbh Marie, Barr’s wife, Dr Erik Chester, the head of the bank, the feature-writer Lee Care - an ultimate empathic character working for Eddy and struggling to come up to his Eddy’s expectations, helped by his therapist, Gwen. (p.177.)

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Consequences of the Heart (1998): set in Monument, an Irish port dominated by two families, the Churches and the Santrys; triangular relationship involving admiration of Chud Church and Jack Santry for Rosa Bensley, the bookie’s beautiful daughter; acts of violence of which the real culprit it not revealed until the end of the novel [review].

Capital Sins (2010): Albert Barrr is constructing Goose Point, the biggest Dublin development to date, but the land is flooding; his tempermental trophy wife Medbh Marie is daughter of the Minister of Infrastructural developments but he has hypochrondriacal headaches and thinks it is a tumour; includes spoof of investment bankers and tabloid editors including Fergus O’Dowd, head of risks at the bank. (See review by Sue Leonard in Books Ireland, Sept. 2010 - as supra.)

Daddy, Daddy: Peter Cunningham writes that his father Redmond participated in the Normandy landing on 6 June 1944, aged 27 and serving as a captain and commander of a modified Sherman tank at Sword Beach, Ouistreham, nr. Caen. His tank was hit by German fire, he commandeered another and cleared mines to make a path through the sand dunes under heavy fire, bring the remnants of his squadron off the beach, disabling a number of German guns, and taking 90 German prisoners. He was awarded the Military Cross, the only Irishman to have won the award in that day. ‘Although he often returned to France, he never revisited Sword Beach. He died on December 1st, 1999.’ (See Cunningham, ‘Retracing my father’s footsteps’, in The Irish Times, 6 June 2009.)

The Irish Times - on 28 Jan. 2012, the Dublin newspaper printed an apology for slanderous remarks made about Cunningham in the following form:

The Trout (2016): Alex [Smyth] and Kay began their relationship many years ago in Ireland. His father, a well-respected doctor, is immensely proud of him until the day Alex meets Kay, a meeting which changes Alex’s life and his relationship with his father forever. Rejected by his father and his friends, Alex and Kay eventually settle in Canada to lead a normal family life. Normal life, however, is only a thin veneer covering a world of childhood secrets and lies and a letter arriving out of the blue triggers a long-buried guilt in Alex, leading him to risk all to track down its secrets. In a spellbinding story of one man’s search for the crucial secret locked in his memory since childhood, The Trout bursts up through the conventions and falsehoods of the past and hangs, beautiful and shimmering, in the clear and vital light of truth. (Sandstone Press website notice - available online; accessed 18.11.2016.)

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