At the end of Oh, Play That Thing, the second volume of Roddy Doyle's trilogy about Henry Smart, Henry, his leg severed in an accident with a railway boxcar, crawls into the Utah desert to die - only to be discovered by John Ford, who's there shooting his latest Western. Ford recognizes a fellow Irish rebel and determines to turn Henry's story into a film. He appoints him 'IRA consultant' on his new film, The Quiet Man.
The Dead Republic opens in 1951. Henry is returning to Ireland for the first time since his escape in 1922. With him are the stars of Ford's film, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and the famous director himself, 'Pappy', who in series of intense, highly charged meetings has tried to suck the soul out of Henry and turn it into Hollywood gold-dust.
Ten years later Henry is in Dublin, working in Barrytown as a school janitor, feared a little by the teachers but loved by the boys, who call him 'Hoppy Henry' on account of his wooden leg. When Henry is caught in a bomb blast, that wooden leg gets left behind in the debris. He wakes in hospital to find himself a hero: the old IRA veteran who's lost his leg to a UVF bomb. It doesn't take long before the Provos come calling. They need men like Henry. They wheel him out at funerals and rallies, a heroic veteran of 1916. Henry is to find he will have other uses too, when the peace process begins in deadly secrecy.
In three brilliant novels, A Star Called Henry, Oh, Play That Thing and The Dead Republic, Roddy Doyle has told the whole history of Ireland in the twentieth century.
And in the person of his hero, he has created one of the great characters of modern fiction.